Tuesday, July 23, 2019

An Irrelevant Economic Factoid

Quite possibly the most irrelevant factoid is about American billionaires.  I think I first heard a version of this around the time that Occasional Cortex was saying there should be no billionaires; that the existence of billionaires is somehow immoral - as if by amassing their fortunes they somehow took food out of someone's mouth.  The factoid is that:
Three US billionaires are now collectively worth more than the 160 million Americans in the bottom half of the wealth distribution. ... few of the bottom 160 million hold any stocks or bonds.
It's not that the factoid isn't true; I'll accept it at face value.  It's just that it's totally meaningless.  To borrow an observation from Daniel C. Jensen, writing for FEE (the Foundation for Economic Education): 
If you know a couple of basic facts about the United States population, you know it's not worth quoting. It might be a fact, but it's so meaningless that it’s actually deceitful.
First off, the bottom half of the US population is about 160 million, but that includes children who legally have few assets, and young adults in the starting years of their careers (as well as their starting years of adulthood).  Few young adults and even fewer children have much of a stock portfolio.

That 50% also includes young adults who are in prolonged college; people going for medical doctor, lawyer or Ph.D. degrees.  It includes prisoners, the disabled and other groups dealing with challenges (whether the consequences of their decisions, or the misfortunes and vicissitudes of life. 

Like most hate and envy directed at "the rich", or "income inequality", this is just intended to rile up the masses to revolt, or more specifically, vote for more Democrats.  According to the data here, if we took the combined net worth of the 20 richest billionaires in America - not their income, their entire net worth, reducing them to living on food stamps - we get $1.04 Trillion.  That would run the federal budget for about three months.  Or they could give every man, woman and child in the US about $3250.  And when that's gone, there's no more.  According to Forbes, the net worth of all the billionaires in the world is $8.7 Trillion.  Of course, American Democrats have no claim at all on any of this money, whether they're US citizens or not, but even if they somehow took that, again reducing every billionaire in the world to living on food stamps, they have enough to run the country for two years.  But that $8.7 T pales in comparison to the $22.5 T debt and $125 T unfunded liabilities.  And that pales in comparison with what they want to spend in "free tuition", "medicare for all", and all the other crazy campaign promises they keep spreading. 

All the money in the world isn't enough to pay for what they want.

The three billionaires they talk about: Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett. 


  1. Yup. There is never enough money to pay for all of the Free Stuff (which is part of my post for tomorrow).

  2. Their wealth exists as claims on functioning businesses. Who would buy those claims if billionaires were suddenly illegal? Doesn't that put the buyers at risk of becoming billionaires? If there is no market for those claims, i.e. equities, then they have no value and billionaires stop being billionaires on paper.

    The problem of liquidating a very large position in a company is much like a hippo trying to pry itself out of a bathtub. It seems easy until the hippo loses the buoyancy of the water. As the hippo goes up, the water goes down.

    Further, if equities become gray, that is some what illegal, then who will supply funding for developing technologies? Governments tend to be poor at that kind of thing. Look at Japan, for instance.

    1. Absolutely right! The "billionaires" don't make salaries of billions of dollars; their wealth is in equities spread around the economy making millions of lives better. Silly little twits like AOC have this idea that billionaires are just like her, except for a much bigger paycheck. That's not how it works.

      If someone tried to confiscate the net worth of the billionaires they'd plunge the world into the worst depression in history. Flood the stock market with equities for sale, drive down prices and economic collapse comes instantly.