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back to article Bill Gates again world's richest, tops in US for 20th straight year

Bill Gates has regained his title as World's Richest Human, and has also been named the US's wealthiest person for the 20th consecutive year. According to Forbes' annual survey of the 400 top members of the silk-stockinged class, Gates elbowed Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim off the summit of Mt. Moola, posting a net worth …

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If the old saw, "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer" * comes to mind as you read this, your observation is well substantiated by Forbes' survey.

Apart from the second part of it, of course, which isn't substantiated at all.

Congrats to those who mastered the system the rest of us set up. I aspire to your position, rather than merely envy it over a pint glass.

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Anonymous Coward

Aspire?

Money is like a snow ball, after you achieve critical mass, you have to be some kind of special idiot to NOT make more of it with the minimum of effort.

I admire the breakthroughs and early success, but just how much money do these people NEED?

At least BG is doing something philanthropic, while people like Abramovich just buy yet another huge ship (I think he now has the top 3 largest privately owned "yachts" in the world).

Oh I like them rich guys that want to fire things into space. High 5 to them. No Branson, that's DOESN'T include you. That's not space, it's just sniffing the letterbox of where space lives on a plane powered by your lit farts.

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still better at making it than giving it away

Bill's not doing a very good job of giving it away is he. Not saying I'd do a better job though! I like to think he'll live up to his word, perhaps he'll end up giving 95% away but still remain the richest man. Ie not quite what I thought, marketing words!

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JDX
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Re: still better at making it than giving it away

Maybe he's making it faster than he can give it away...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Aspire?

I have decided that you don't NEED any of yours. Hand it all over to me, because I know better than you how it should be spent, as I am your better.

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Re: still better at making it than giving it away

Giving away that much isn't so easy. If he lives another 30 years, Bill could give away 6 million pounds every day and still not reach that 95% target.

That's like buying a brand new Vauxhall Vectra every 4 and a half minutes.

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Re: still better at making it than giving it away

He (and his wife Melinda) might not be giving away the money as fast as he's earning it, but whenever I've noticed how it's being spent, they seem to be doing quite a good job.

They've spent, I think, on mosquito nets for malaria and on childhood diarrhea in Africa, both, I'd say quite effective...

And I think I noticed that Melinda was putting money / effort into the most effective way of reducing the misery of malnutrition - and that is contraception. Most governments don't seem able to cross into that particular taboo territory.

And then... if you say they aren't giving away their money effectively, perhaps you'd like to suggest some one who's achieving more through their charity.

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Anonymous Coward

"Bill's not doing a very good job of giving it away is he"

You don't think that maybe the comment relates to the amount given in his will?

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Thumb Up

Re: still better at making it than giving it away

He's doing a pretty good of trying though:

Through the Gates Foundation: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/ he is spearheading the campaign to eradicate Polio from the planet. That's a pretty good use of billions of dollars, IMHO.

This is a must read, if you are in any way interested in philanthropy: http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/

I used to despise Gates, and Microsoft. Now it's just one of them. You can probably guess which.

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TWB

Re: still better at making it than giving it away

'That's like buying a brand new Vauxhall Vectra every 4 and a half minutes.' - sound like something Alan Partridge might say - I like it.

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>Apart from the second part of it, of course, which isn't substantiated at all.

Don't talk crap. It's embarrassing.

Here, have some facts:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/06/speedup-americans-working-harder-charts

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commie fail

How you can in the same post say "don't talk crap" and then cite Mother Jones, which is all crap, is quite confusing.

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Re: still better at making it than giving it away

"That's like buying a brand new Vauxhall Vectra every 4 and a half minutes"

As the Vectra has been out of production since 2009, I am pretty sure most billionaires will have upgraded to the Insignia by now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: still better at making it than giving it away

He's doing a lot more through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation than most in his position, or in any other position.

I think it goes beyond just associating his name with a worthy cause - his work to fight malaria is exemplary.

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I'm sensing a lot of butthurt over the notion that wealthy people in capitalist nations might be regarded as successful, rather than scumbags.

FTR, not exactly wealthy myself, but I see that as one more challenge among many, not a perpetual state.

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Re: still better at making it than giving it away

That's because like many of these "charities", he's only giving away the minimal amount so he can keep his "charity" tax shelter status.

It's all about tax shelters... that's all these charities are.

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Anonymous Coward

I guess that.....

Quantitative Easing cash got sucked right up by the 400.....

Oh let's all just give up and go live in caves, it was easier then.....

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Joke

Is it because of Ballmer

The Stock Jumped after Ballmer quit. Did this push him to number 1?

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Re: Is it because of Ballmer

All that proves is that what he has isn't real money - actual cash in the bank - but fake money that depends on the apparent worth of the shares he has in different companies.

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If it makes you feel any better

It is impossible to have a billion dollars without that fact in some way helping others.

If you buy something, you boost employment.

Ditto if you invest it.

If you rake it into a huge pile of cash and set fire to it, you reduce inflation.

Feel better now?

No, me neither.

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Re: If it makes you feel any better

What if you just hide it under the bed?

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Coat

Re: If it makes you feel any better

@Martin Budden

{What if you just hide it under the bed?}

Somebody would get paid a quite a lot of money to construct the extensions on the bed legs, the ladder to climb up into bed, and the safety rail around the mattress to stop you falling out.

A billion dollars is 10,000,000 $100 notes, so assuming that you have a kingsize bed (You are, after all, a billionaire), a very rough calculation suggests that the pile would be about 10 feet high...

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Re: If it makes you feel any better

Also it would be a sizeable interest free loan to the <host nation's> national bank too, helping to reduce the deficit.

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Happy

Re: If it makes you feel any better

What if you just hide it under the bed?

You would need to buy a ladder...

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JDX
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It is impossible to have a billion dollars without that fact in some way helping others.

Perhaps true but if we assume that $1bn existed already, concentrating it in one person's bank account is probably the least beneficial option.

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Re: If it makes you feel any better

What if Bill starts by reducing prices of tired old Windows and Office? Think of all the OEMs, consumers, etc. that would benefit. Talk about helping the masses...

Don't you just love wealthy people... Lets dupe consumer and corporations into over paying for lightly refreshed products. Lets use anti-competitive practices to establish market dominance. Then in the end, smile with a used-car salesman's smile as they reluctantly give it all away...

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Gav

Re: It is impossible to have a billion dollars without that fact in some way helping others.

It's a massive misunderstanding to think these trillions could ever exist in actual liquid cash. It's all estimates of the value of assets, and that value is only as much as anyone is prepared to pay, which is in turn reliant on how much is getting sold.

If the "400 upper-crustaceans" attempted to sell their assets, in order to give anyone on the planet three hundred bucks, who would they sell it to? Who has $2.02 trillion to spare? No-one. But that's not a concern, because as soon as they started selling their assets, the value of them would plummet. The market becomes flooded, everyone is wondering why you are selling, economies crash, the actual trillions of dollars become worth far less than they were the day before, everyone loses in the resulting chaos.

The fact is these guys are only "worth" $2.02 trillion as long as they never, ever, try to realise their worth. Which is not to say they aren't very rich indeed in a material sense. But the actual figures bandied about are little better than guesses and estimates of a scenario that could never happen.

Apart from that; if you give everyone in the world $300, inflation immediately makes everything cost $300 more. You only make people richer by creating assets (products, services, skills), not by converting them into cash.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It is impossible to have a billion dollars without that fact in some way helping others.

Actually, Gav, China has a pile of foreign currency 150% of that. They currently have $3.4 trillion in reserves, primarily US Dollars.

So yes... there is someone who could buy what the "upper-crustaceans" have to sell.

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Re: It is impossible to have a billion dollars without that fact in some way helping others.

"Perhaps true but if we assume that $1bn existed already, concentrating it in one person's bank account is probably the least beneficial option."

However if the billion was earned on the free market (no state involvement or corporate welfare) then that billion would have been traded to the rich person in return for goods/services/expertise of at least the same value or more. The benefits have already been realised.

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Re: It is impossible to have a billion dollars without that fact in some way helping others.

@JDX: "if we assume that $1bn existed already"

It didn't. Wealth is neither static nor inevitable, it is created by human planning, coordination, and productivity.

Take Jeff Bezos, to pick one of the top 400 at random - he built a practical system for selling and delivering products pretty much anywhere in the USA in 2 days flat, employing thousands in regional distribution centres and growing a field of new small business entrepreneurs in the process. That was pretty darned beneficial.

Or, if I read your comment correctly, we could do something MORE beneficial - the government could take it to bail out Bank of America from their financial mis-management. Again.

No, overall, I'll take Bezos' wealth creation efforts over more bailouts and other exasperatingly foolish government spending any day of the week, and not begrudge him the profits.

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Re: It is impossible to have a billion dollars without that fact in some way helping others.

"if the billion was earned on the free market (no state involvement or corporate welfare"

=

If the billion was earned by my team of pet unicorns.

Because both ideas are complete fantasy.

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Re: It is impossible to have a billion dollars without that fact in some way helping others.

You just summed up the stock market very clearly and succinctly. Have a beer on me :-)

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Poor Getting Less Poor

Increased social mobility, access to education, improved healthcare technologies, safer and more plentiful food, more efficient systems for transport and distribution, so on and so forth....how does the author imagine the poor getting poorer?

Furthermore, what business is it of your's how much your neighbor makes? None has been taken from you. Go out and create your own wealth.

Envy is the domain of the perpetual loser.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor Getting Less Poor

May I disagree: the belief that the rich deserve their dominance over those whose labor has given them their riches is the "domain of the perpetual loser."

Increased social mobility? Not in the last generation.

Access to education? Free or low-cost in decades past, now crushingly expensive at the higher levels and downright shitty in early years.

Improved healthcare technologies? Not if the Republicans succeed in crippling Obamacare.

More plentiful food? Mmmmm.... Highly subsidized obesity-inducing high-fructose corn syrup, yum, yum.

More efficient transport? Where? In what cities? At what per-fare rates? And where it does exist – even if expensive – it transports workers to below living-wage jobs. That's what you're referring to, eh?

Señor, you're being sold a bill of goods, and you're blindly buying it. You're being ripped off by the rich and powerful. Wake up and smell the bullshit.

Five hundred years ago, you would have made a great serf, Señor "I don't always drink beer".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor Getting Less Poor

Statements of the fact:

* Blue collar is gone. It is mostly Mccerfs now, none of which earns (in terms of their salary's buying power) anything even remotely near the salaries the blue collars used to get.

* White collar is mostly gone. The engineering strata that operated the industries together with the blue collars is no more. Average factory engineer from 50 years ago used to have enough buying power to afford house staff. No more. Average white collar worker today ends his month in the red.

* We have a thin layer of "privileged" white collar in the financial industry (this one is doing slightly better than their granddads) and some white collar in IT, biotech,etc which is undergoing the same disintegration process as manufacturing.

The end result is what destroyed more than one empire of old - a severely stratified sosciety where the cerfs barely scrape a living while the few priviliged sip the drink du jour on the upper deck of yacht while paying no taxes either.

The _LACK_ of workforce mobility of the blue collar was actually a big social stability factor. We have removed it and we will pay for it one day. Dearly. Though if you look at Detroit or the north of the UK we may have started to pay for it already.

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Re: Poor Getting Less Poor

In America there isn't a good enough social safety net to stop the poor from getting poorer.

However, in most Northern European countries health and welfare systems provide enough support so that those at the bottom are not consumed by the struggle to simply put food on the table. This struggle has been shown to severely impare cognative function in other areas of life. Once your basic needs are covered, it is possible for those with aptitude to escape the poverty trap (while those without aptitude are more humanely treated).

The sad thing is that the cost of putting a proper social safety net in place in America is tiny compared to one war in Iraq, or one year of infiltrating encryption standards and spying on the rest of the planet.

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Unhappy

Food for thought

It is easy to point a finger at the rich but they are not the only ones to blame. Sure I live below the poverty level but at least I have a roof over my head and food to eat. The soda I get at the convenience store, that money could probably feed a starving family elsewhere in the world for a day. Or how about when I buy new clothes instead of visiting the thrift store? My point is that while I am poor, I am still selfish. The only difference is I affect few instead of many, but that doesn't make me any better. I want to think that I would share billions if I had it, but until I do I won't know for sure.</rant>

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JDX
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Re: Food for thought

If you can afford food, housing and new cloths, plus (I assume) a computer and/or smartphone, by what metric are you under the poverty line?

Genuine question, not an attack.

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Re: Food for thought

For food I purchase bags beans and rice and cook them in a crock pot then for flavor add tomato soup. That is what I eat almost every day. My roach/bed bug infested apartment is old and not maintained, rent is cheap. As for my computer, it was purchased it in 2008. Shoes (no vehicle so they get a lot of use) and pants (2 pairs) need to be replaced every 6 months - 1 year. As for the metric, in the US, the poverty line is $11,490 (if I am incorrect then I apologize) and I will be about $1,000 - $2,000 short of that by end of the year. So does that answer your question? http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/13poverty.cfm#thresholds

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Headmaster

check

cheque

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Re: check

Not in Merkin, it ain't.

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Coat

It's time

It's time for a discount on Windows.

Corollary: piracy is a non-event, obviously!

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Re: It's time

Recession is quite clearly non-event too.

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When a huge amount of money gets printed and pumped into the system

it's no surprise that it ends up in the bank accounts of the rich and politically connected.

Looking at asset price inflation over the last 10 years, it's probable that in real spending terms the rich haven't got very much richer but the poor have got very much poorer (in a lot of the third world, where the effect is most noticable because so many people spend half or more of their income on food, food prices are rising far faster than incomes and hunger is getting worse).

We're fairly used to money being stable in the west for the last 30 years and so we're not really prepared for the long term effects of quantitative easing (apart from the rich and politically connected, who have people to advise them on these things and have been busily buying up prime real estate assets at spiralling prices), but the diminishing value of money will become apparent sooner or later and I expect minor social unrest at the very least. In the one place where quantitative easing has explicitly been ruled out (the EU) the social unrest has come sooner rather than later and isn't going to go away any time soon.

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Re: When a huge amount of money gets printed and pumped into the system

I don't think Warren Buffet is heavily into real estate. If you had a reasonably diversified stock portfolio, it would have risen by about 20% in the last year. To what extent this is the result of QE is a matter for debate.

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Bill & Burgers

OK, as a former Microsoft Research employee, I can't let terrible inaccuracy this stand. Dick's Is in Seattle, Billg and his buddies ate at Burger Master. Today most burger fans eat at Five Guys or Wibbley's.

When I was still at AT&T Bell Labs in the 1980s, the company met with Microsoft to discuss some business conflict (I think it involved Cingular, or some satellite cellular scheme, but I don't recall the details now). AT&T rented a room in one of New York City's most exclusive restaurants, and billg and some other Microsoft execs joined them. When the waiter came to take Bill's order, he said, "I don't see anything on this menu I like, but I noticed there's a Burger King across the street. Would you bring me a whopper with cheese?". The waiter was unfazed, but the AT&T execs were completely floored. True story...my boss Arun Netravali was there at that dinner meeting and told me about it.

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Anonymous Coward

He's obviously not giving enough of it away.

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Headmaster

It is Wunderkind, not wünderkind

I'll let you off starting this German noun with a capital, but I really don't think we need a metal umlaut here.

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Look at the numbers

You might want to reflect on the actual numbers. 2 trillion, if you could somehow magically transform it into cash, would cover the current US deficit for only three years. It would only cover two thirds of the current US federal budget. Given 60% + plus of the budget is Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, it's hard to escape two conclusions: one, you cannot fund it by just taxing the "rich", they don't have enough money, and two, the huge majority of federal budget goes on the less well off.

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Re: Look at the numbers

>>Given 60% + plus of the budget is Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security,

But it's not, it's 45% http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/44172-Baseline2.pdf you're probably bundling all the other mandatory payments such as interest on the national debt (hardly the fault of the poor?)

>>it's hard to escape two conclusions: one, you cannot fund it by just taxing the "rich"

Just by taxing the rich? the key point is that you can't magic money from nowhere, if "the rich" have more money than actually exists, something is desperately wrong, something like $220bn is just interest payments, and interest is "magic money", if you charge 10% interest then that 10% has to come from somewhere, it it will go to the person who has the money, the money must have been created somewhere along the line.

>>they don't have enough money, and two, the huge majority of federal budget goes on the less well off.

Where do you think money that pays for Social Security comes from? typically from the workers and companies they have worked for (a total of around 12.4% salary equivalent) - they have paid this in, and they will get some of it back (and your yearly statement confirms the amount), note, there is a cap after which the contribution stops being taken - i.e. when you earl a lot you keep more of it, does this make sense? and if this cap was removed the social security system would pay for itself - http://www.aging.senate.gov/crs/ss9.pdf (so yes, in this case taxing the rich fairly WOULD solve the problem).

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