Who Wants to Third Degree a Billionaire?

By D.A. Forbes

We don't begrudge folks for making money. Even a lot of it. But money travels a long way in some places and a little in others. A million bucks in New York City is chump change. A million in Beatrice, Nebraska is sweet, sweet music. Kinda makes sense. Beatrice doesn't have the Museum of Modern Art, nor do they have millions of high-octane inhabitants packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes (Sting quote).

What's interesting, however, is that Nebraska as a whole harbors almost 38,000 millionaire households.  Go cornhuskers! Not sure if any of them are in Beatrice; nonetheless, who would've thunk it?

Photo courtesy of Michael Nigro

Photo courtesy of Michael Nigro

Nebraska's neighbors are faring even better. Kansas has 56,000 millionaire households. Iowa 64,000. Missouri 110,000. Maybe Missourians should change their slogan from "The Show Me State"  to "Show Me the Money State."

Or maybe not.

And that's because, there are 33 others states with a higher percentage of millionaires per capita. In fact, America hosts over 10 million millionaire households, and not including real estate assets.  And, we've doubled our millionaire households since 1996, regardless of that little thing called the Great Recession.

If you get in your car and drive about 14 hours due east to Bethesda, Maryland, chances are you're going to bump into a millionaire wherever you go. In fact, Maryland gets the crown for the most millionaire households per capita at just under 7 percent. Maryland also happens to be a hop, skip and a jump from a diminutive district whose name might ring a bell. Washington D.C. The place where history lives and compromise dies.

Funny thing is, the dearth of compromise within that spherical space on that famous hill has not affected enrollment in the millionaire's club. In fact, partisanship has been an absolute boon, especially for both sides of the Beltway aisle.

Guess you can say it's a matter of "firsts." Here's what we mean.

Income inequality is at its worst since the Great Depression, the time when folks stood in bread lines for blocks. Today, the adjusted poverty rate in D.C. hovers around 23%. Yes, 23%. So while you District residents stand in lines for coffee or a bagel, take a look forward and backward. Chances are you're looking at a bunch of poor people. Most remarkably, however, is that for the very first time, the bottom 90% of wage earners fights for less than 50% of all pretax income while the top 1% pockets a whopping 22.5%, according to a Pew Research Center study. 

But here's the real kicker. Amid all of our current income doom and gloom, for the very first time, the majority of Congress is now represented by charter members of the millionaires club. The folks for whom we punch ballots every two to four years, the ones we implore to give us, as Obama puts it, "a fair shake," are the ones that use our donations for a limo ride to the country club after a pit stop at the bank. As most folks try to figure out where the hell their money disappeared to, Capitol Hill has capital oozing from its pores.  And btw the wealth of one - ONE - member of Congress equals that of 18 U.S. households.

And don't think for a moment that elephants outweigh donkeys. Truth is, Democrats have a slight edge over Republicans in net worth.

Most Americans watched in horror as the walls of Wall Street came tumbling down and directly onto the backs of the Average Joe or Jill - the economic ruins dubbed The Great Recession. Homes lost. Jobs lost. Marriages lost. Even lives lost from the angst that overcomes the heartiest among us. But how is it that only seven years removed, the richest have not only become whole again but whole plus a whole lot more, while the rest continue to wither on the dormant vine?

America has more millionaires than the next nine countries combined. According to Forbes, The 400 wealthiest Americans are worth just over $2 trillion, roughly equivalent to the GDP of Russia. This is yet another first. Their average net worth is $5 billion, $800 million more than the year prior. And yep, that's another first. All tolled, there are more than 1,300 U.S. billionaires, each deciding which one of his 20 bathrooms and 30 classic cars to try on for size.

Photo courtesy of Michael Nigro

Photo courtesy of Michael Nigro

There are more than 46 million citizens living in poverty. But no matter how many times we hear the words "income inequality," we heave a heavy sigh and write another check to the billion dollar utility company or the billion dollar insurance company or the billion dollar lending company or the billion dollar retail company or the billion dollar medical company.

It is widely perceived that the founding fathers sought some semblance of balance, of fairness. But they themselves were the chosen ones, the men of means. Throughout our history, and with very few exceptions, the most pervasive of rules has been established to protect and preserve a pecking order, a survival of the fittest, and by fittest we don't mean physically.

We don't advocate violence. But we do fantasize about cold-cocking a billionaire or two or twenty or.... Anyway, in that spirit, this will be the launchpad for a recurring spot we'd like to call "Who Wants to Third Degree a Billionaire" wherein we shall do a little due diligence on a well-heeled jack-off whose boot rests firmly across the larynx of the under-moneyed.

There is no fair play.
There is no fair pay.
There is no middle class.
There is no end in sight for the stricken mass.
Rich people win.
Over and over and over again.