World Economy

2,325 Billionaires Globally Worth $7.3t Wealth

2,325 Billionaires Globally Worth $7.3t Wealth2,325 Billionaires Globally Worth $7.3t Wealth

The wealth of the world’s billionaires now stands at $7.3 trillion, an increase of 12 percent from last year, according to a new report released Thursday by Wealth-X and UBS. There are a record 2,325 billionaires in the world, up from 2,170 in 2013 and 1,360 in 2009, the first year following the financial collapse.

Billionaires make up .000033 percent of the world’s population, or to put in another way, there are about three million people for every one billionaire. Yet this exceedingly small social layer possesses about 4.5 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the population, or 3.5 billion people, World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) reported Friday.

Some other comparisons help put these figures in perspective. The combined Gross Domestic Product (the total value of all goods and services produced in a single year) for Sierra Leone and Liberia, presently wracked by an Ebola epidemic that could kill tens or even hundreds of thousands of people, is just under $7 billion—one one-thousandth of the wealth of 2,325 individuals.

The city of Detroit, Michigan, where workers are seeing their pensions slashed and their water service shutoff as part of bankruptcy proceedings, has a budget deficit of some $330 million, which could be covered twenty thousand times over by the world’s billionaires.

 Finance, Banking, Investment on Top

The stock market and finance capital are the driving forces behind the wealth of the world’s billionaires. The top industry for billionaires, according to Wealth-X, is “finance, banking and investment,” which accounts for close to 20 percent of the total billionaire population, followed by industrial conglomerates at 12 percent and real estate at 7 percent. More than one in six billionaires reside in the financial capitals of New York, Moscow, Hong Kong and London.

Behind these figures lies a social relationship essential to the functioning of the capitalist system. The corporate and financial aristocracy has benefited from a massive redistribution of wealth, aided and abetted by the major capitalist states and central banks. It is not just that enormous wealth stands side by side with enormous poverty, but the one is the direct product of the other.

American capitalism is at the center of both the world economic crisis and the social counter-revolution organized by the ruling class. Since 2008, under the direction of the Obama administration, the resources of both the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve have been opened up to Wall Street, which has engaged in an unprecedented orgy of speculation. Bank bailouts and “quantitative easing” in the US have been paralleled by similar measures internationally, particularly in Europe.

Six years later, stock markets continue to post record highs. On Thursday, both benchmark US indices — the Standard & Poor’s 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average — closed above previous highs. The latest surge came after the Federal Chairman Janet Yellen said the central bank would keep interest rates at nearly zero (i.e., provide banks with essentially free cash) for a “considerable time.”

As a result, American billionaires have seen their number grow by 57 over the past year. The country is home to the largest number of billionaires in the world (571), nearly 25 percent of the total global billionaire population and three times more than any other country.