The Super-Rich Get Richer: Forbes 400 Are All Billionaires

By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 22, 2006

It's not news that Bill Gates is the richest person in America, according to Forbes magazine's annual list of the nation's 400 richest people, released yesterday. He has been for 13 years. Barring a second Stone Age in which computers are good only for hurling at other cavemen, Gates will always be rich.

The news is: On this list, $999 million is chump change.

For the first time, all 400 Gotbucks on the Forbes tally are billionaires, from Gates (worth $53 billion) down to the bottom, Los Angeles semiconductor magnate Sehat Sutardja ($1 billion).

It's not just the accumulated wealth that draws attention to the list; it's the eye-popping numbers that show the speed with which wealth is gained -- and lost -- at the dawn of this millennium. For instance, according to Forbes:

· Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson (No. 3, $20.5 billion) has made $1 million per hour over the past two years.

· Google Inc. founders Sergey Brin (No. 12, $14.1 billion) and Larry Page (No. 13, $14 billion) have each made $13 million per day over the past two years.

· Martha Stewart dropped off the list after losing nearly $400 million over the past year.

Forbes has been publishing the much-ballyhooed list -- which relies on research and estimates and rounds net worth to the nearest $100 million -- since 1982. The inaugural list contained only 13 billionaires. Even after the technology crash at the beginning of the century, a three-year war and a jumpy economy, the wealth accumulation among the richest Americans continues unabated and has risen to historic proportions, even if measured by an arbitrarily arrived-at number (400, the number of swells who could fit into the Victorian New York ballroom of Caroline Astor).

"It is a really big deal that it's all billionaires," said Forbes associate editor Matthew Miller, who edited the list and led the team that spent a year compiling it. "It shows economic growth and, as this magazine is a fan of capitalism, it shows progress."

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