Forbes has released its latest list of the "Richest 400" in the country. For the first time in the magazine's rankings, all on the list are billionaires.
How does the South fare? Nine of the top 25 are based in the South, although if it wasn't for heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, the region would only have one (Dell in Texas) of the top 10 elites of our times. Here's how the list starts:
1 William Henry Gates III -- Medina, WA Microsoft
2 Warren Edward Buffett -- Omaha, NE Berkshire Hathaway
3 Sheldon Adelson -- Las Vegas, NV casinos, hotels
4 Lawrence Joseph Ellison -- Redwood City, CA Oracle
5 Paul Gardner Allen -- Seattle, WA Microsoft, investments
6 Jim C Walton -- Bentonville, AR Wal-Mart
7 Christy Walton & family -- Jackson, WY Wal-Mart inheritance
7 S Robson Walton -- Bentonville, AR Wal-Mart
9 Michael Dell -- Austin, TX Dell
9 Alice L Walton --Fort Worth, TX Wal-Mart
11 Helen R Walton -- Bentonville, AR Wal-Mart
12 Sergey Brin -- Palo Alto, CA Google
13 Larry E Page -- San Francisco, CA Google
14 Jack Crawford Taylor & family -- S t Louis, MO Enterprise Rent-A-Car
15 Steven Anthony Ballmer -- Bellevue, WA Microsoft
16 Abigail Johnson -- Boston, MA Fidelity
17 Barbara Cox Anthony -- Honolulu, HI Cox Enterprises
17 Anne Cox Chambers -- Atlanta, GA Cox Enterprises
19 Charles De Ganahl Koch -- Wichita, KS oil, commodities
19 David Hamilton Koch 1-- New York, NY oil, commodities
21 Forrest Edward Mars Jr -- McLean, VA candy
21 Jacqueline Mars -- Bedminster, NJ candy
21 John Franklyn Mars -- Arlington, VA candy
24 Carl Icahn -- New York, NY leveraged buyouts
25 John Werner Kluge -- Palm Beach, FL Metromedia
It's a good thing they're all billionaires; Forbes helpfully notes that "the cost of living extremely well" has increased 7% over the last year, with costs of fur coats, silk dresses, facelifts, and especially silverware (who knew?) especially on the rise, putting great strains on the budgets of our national tycoons.
Meanwhile, how is the rest of America faring? First there are the growing ranks of the poor:
Poverty is alive and well in the world's richest nation, according to a recent report by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Law and Social Policy.
The nation's poverty rate rose to 12.6 percent in 2005, up from 11.3 percent in 2000. Now, one in eight Americans and more than one in every six children lives in poverty, and more than one in every six children.
A total of 37 million Americans are poor, up 5 million from 2000. [...]
The picture is particularly bleak for African Americans, 24.7 percent of whom lived in poverty in 2005, compared to 22.5 percent in 2000. Nearly one in three black children under 18 years of age is poor, compared to 18.5 percent nationwide.
The United States ranked second behind Mexico of the world's wealthiest countries with the highest childhood poverty rates, according to UNICEF's Child Poverty in Rich Countries report for 2005.
And then there's the struggling working and middle class:
The vast working and middle classes in America have not fared well over the last six years and, in fact, have not fared well since 1973 (excepting about five years in the 1990s). [...]
- The median family's income has fallen by 2.9 percent from 2000 to 2004. Aside from the very rapid growth of the late 1990s (up 11 percent), median family income growth has been very modest, rising just 6 percent from 1979 to 1995.
- Middle income married-couple families with children did a bit better, seeing incomes rise by 10 percent from 1979 to 1995, jump 13 percent in the late 1990s before falling 2.6 percent thereafter. Meanwhile, the hours worked in these families grew 18 percent from 1979-2004, so overall incomes grew just slightly faster than hours worked over 25 years.
- The CBO reports even more pessimistic trends, with middle incomes rising just 8.6 percent from 1979 to 2003. Note that productivity grew 62 percent over this time period, so middle-class income growth barely exceeded the growth in hours worked (from more wives working and working more weeks and hours per week) and fell far behind the pace at which the pie grew. Yet, the incomes of the upper 1 percent grew by 111 percent. Populism anybody?
Populism -- now there is something Southerners can get behind.