At $115.7 billion, the Walton family remains the face of the 1% in America

This week, Forbes released its annual billionaires issue. Predictably, the Waltons, whose wealth is derived almost exclusively from their holdings in Walmart, rank among the richest people on the planet. Six of them appear on the Forbes Billionaires list, and they are collectively worth $115.7 billion. Sam Walton’s heirs rank among the top 20 richest people on the planet and his brother Bud’s children are further down the list—but still miles above the rest of us:

#11: Christy Walton, $28.2b
#14: Jim Walton, $26.7b
#16: Alice Walton, $26.3b
#17: Rob Walton, $26.1b
#276: Ann Walton Kroenke, $4.5b
#346: Nancy Walton Laurie, $3.9b

While the media slices and dices the list (Christy and Alice are the richest women in the U.S.; Alice is among the list’s divorced billionaires), it’s hard to understand what all that money really means.

The contrast between average Americans and the Waltons is starkest at the very company almost all of the Waltons’ wealth comes from, Walmart. The average Walmart worker makes $8.81 an hour. At that rate, it would take a Walmart Associate working Wamart’s definition of full-time more than 7 million years to earn as much wealth as the Walton family has.

To put it another way, the Waltons’ wealth is greater than each of the following, according to a post on Mother Jones: the amount spent by the federal government last year on food stamps, the entire 2012 budget of the state of California, and the combined 2012 budget shortfalls of all fifty states.

Christy Walton is the richest Walton and the richest woman in America. Her wealth of $28.2 billion could cover childcare costs for more than 3.6 million kids this year.[1] Alternatively, it could put over 300,000 kids through four years of college.[2]

These figures might seem farfetched, but really, it’s because the Waltons are the face of inequality in America (in case you needed another Forbes list to prove it).


[1] Based on 2010 average cost of child care center program for four-year-olds, available here.

[2] Based on in-state tuition figures, available here.

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