In 2023: The Ludicrous Amount of Wealth of the U.S. Wealthiest Shot Up

In 2023, we learned from the government that poverty and homelessness both increased in 2022. In 2023, there is also evidence of a massive surge in the already enormous wealth held by the wealthiest among us.

On the last day of the year, one can read in the Guardian an article with the headline “Smiles all round as financial markets end 2023 on an unexpected high,” and be informed that “the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite jumped by about 45%, led by the “Magnificent Seven” – Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia and Tesla,” and that these companies’ stocks “are up 74% this year compared with 12% for the rest of the world’s companies.”

Major beneficiaries from this “unexpected high” in stock prices include many of the world’s wealthiest. In 2023, they managed to add to their already bloated holdings after “suffering” declines in 2022. According to the Bloomberg billionaires index, the 10 wealthiest U.S. citizens saw their wealth shoot up over 53% from where it stood in 2022, reaching $1,373.4 Billion. Most of the ten are associated with one of the “magnificent seven” companies: Page and Brin with Alphabet, Bezos with Amazon, Zuckerberg with Meta, Gates and Ballmer with Microsoft, and Musk with Tesla.[1]

U.S is Number One—in Billionaires Worth Over $100 Billion

The Bloomberg billionaires index indicates that U.S. billionaires hold 9 of the top 10 positions of the wealthiest people in the world.  All 11 of the world’s wealthiest were worth over $100 billion at the end of the year. The two non-U.S. citizens were Bernard Arnault from France whose wealth came to $179 billion (up $17 billion for the year) and Carlos Slim of Mexico at $105 billion (up $31 billion for the year).

Bloomberg’s index place 15 U.S. citizens as being among the world’s 25 wealthiest. As of the end of the year, the total wealth of the wealthiest 15 U.S. citizens came to $1,716.2 Billion rising by $498.4 Billion for the year. Eliminating the “poorest” two of the fifteen, the Kochs, who were the only ones among the fifteen who lost money during the year, leave the remaining wealthiest thirteen experiencing an increase in their wealth of over $503.57 Billion in a single year.

For the wealthiest, there has been some continuity and stability. In 2023, the same wealthiest nine U.S. citizens were also among the world’s 10 wealthiest at the end of 2020.

The overall trend is that the wealth of the wealthiest 10 has become much greater. However, it constantly fluctuates up and down as can be seen in where it stood at the end of each year in the table below that is derived from Bloomberg figures. It declined significantly in 2022 only to come roaring back in 2023 when it reached a new high.

The wealthiest 10 U.S. citizens have holdings whose value is far above where they stood at the end of 2019, just before the outbreak of the pandemic. The difference between their holdings now and at the end of 2019 comes to $677 Billion, up over 97% in 4 years showing that they benefitted mightily during the misery of the Covid pandemic.

The numbers in this table look small but are in the billions which can make them difficult to fully grasp. Professional baseball player Shohei Ohtani recently signed the biggest contract in the history of sports. He is to be paid for ten years $70 million/year (though much is being deferred). That comes to $.07 billion/year. Were this $.07 billion wealth and not income, it would not register in the table unless it was rounded up to $.1 billion.

An individual whose current yearly earnings are about four times the poverty level for a single person, $60,000, would have to work for over 1,100 years to earn what Ohtani is being paid in just one year. To earn the current wealth of Musk, Ohtani would have to play baseball for more than 3,200 years. As good a ballplayer as he is, this is something he presumably is not capable of doing. However, he’s lucky compared to the person making $60,000/year. That person would have to work for more than an impossible    3.8 million years to earn an amount equal to Musk’s current wealth.  In fact, the increase in Musk’s wealth in 2023 was so great that in an average three-day period during the year, it went up over $750 million, an amount more the Ohtani will earn playing baseball for ten years.

Change Coming?

Given all of the problems in the world, no sane society would allow for such great fortunes to be held by single individuals like Musk.  Why do these conditions continue?

Obviously, the conditions described here have much to do with the disproportionate amount of power the wealthy exercise in our so-called democracy. While not all wealthy capitalists are as powerful as their wealth might suggest, they and the rest of the U.S. ruling class have recently shown that they have sufficient power to maintain enough control over the state and society to enable them to accumulate more wealth and power. Their power is helped by the weakness of the working class and social movements for justice, the attention many people must give to difficulties they face getting by in their day-to-day lives, the appeal of widespread misinformation and demagoguery, and people being manipulated and distracted.

Will 2024 be a year of more of the same or will it be one in which people say enough? Will they get themselves organized and demand and fight for a massive shift in power that results in a major redistribution of wealth resulting in it being used to meet basic needs for housing, food, clean water, medical care, an education, and a healthy environment for the people of the world?


[1] Most attended finishing schools for the ruling class, either an Ivy League college or Ivy League like colleges,  Stanford and the University of Chicago: Gates, Balmer and Zuckerberg Harvard, Brin and Page Stanford, Bezos Princeton, Buffet Columbia, Ellison University of Chicago.


Rick Baum teaches Political Science at City College of San Francisco. He is a member of AFT 2121.