When Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars sang about how much they wanted to be billionaires, mostly they were interested in living the good life for themselves. Actual billionaires in the United States have found avenues for their money that accomplish much more. Given the vast amount of wealth they control and their outsized role in the American political process, the extremely rich have access to corridors of power in America the rest of us can only dream of.
Right now, the gap between rich and poor is so big that just 1.5% of billionaires’ wealth could, quite literally, change the world. It could get every child into school and deliver health services for the world’s poorest people.
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The list is a part of Brookings Institution Governance Studies Director Darrell West’s forthcoming book Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust. The book argues that the wealthy are more politically engaged than the general public. Research has found that 99 percent of the top 1% of wealth holders vote in presidential elections, nearly double the rate of the general public. This is likely due to the fact that the super wealthy know that political engagement matters, and being involved in politics yields results. While the general public is busy turning a cynical eye to elections, seeing little difference between Democrats and Republicans, the ultra rich are buying up our government and influencing domestic and foreign affairs.
Moscow once again topped the annual list of billionaire-replete cities with 84 billionaires, up from 78 last year.
These super-rich individuals also have a net worth of more than $366 billion and include Russian steel tycoons Vladimir Lisin and Alexei Mordashov, and Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club.
Meanwhile, income disparity is becoming a big problem with 18.1 million people, nearly 13% of the Russian population, living below the national poverty line.
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