The minimum net worth to get on this year's Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans was $1 billion. Damn, I just missed.
At the top of the list was Bill Gates (again, sigh, borrrringgg) with $54 billion, followed by Warren Buffett with $45 billion, and Oracle's Larry Ellison with $27 billion. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg's net worth of $6.9 billion landed him the No. 35 spot (higher than Steve Jobs -- and making his $100 million pledge to Newark schools look a little more like pocket change than a major gift).
Here is what a billion bucks looks like all stacked up (in 100s):
The gap between the wealthiest Americans and middle- and working-class Americans has more than tripled in the past three decades, according to a June 25 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. New data show that the gaps in after-tax income between the richest 1% of Americans and the middle and poorest parts of the population in 2007 was the highest it's been in 80 years, while the share of income going to the middle one-fifth of Americans shrank to its lowest level ever. And while you gaze longingly at that pile, consider this (yeah, it's poster art, but worth a read):
If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world.
If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.
If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week.
If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation, you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.
If you can read this, you are more fortunate than the 3 billion people in the world who cannot read at all.
To which I think we should add that if you have a job, you are more fortunate than the 9.6% of Americans who are out of work -- a 26-year high. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News forecast that joblessness will stay near that level for the rest of the year.
Here is a cityscape from China that kind of sums it up:
Take heart if you missed the cut on the Forbes list. There is always next year.