It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
The world's rich continue to pocket wealth in the wake of the Great Recession. The unveiling of Forbes' annual Billionaires List this week shows that there are a record 1,826 individuals worth $1 billion or more in the world, an increase of 290 billionaires compared to last year. Their total wealth is $7.05 trillion, up from $6.4 trillion in 2014.
At the same time, working and middle class folks in Los Angeles have been treading water, often paying half their income for rent in a town where it takes more than $90,000 a year in household income to purchase a median home.
The recent Supplemental Poverty Measure conducted by the U.S. Census found that about 1 in 4 Californians is technically poor and that the state has the highest percentage of people living in poverty in the nation.
So it was a little surprising to see that California is made of gold when it comes to Forbes' annual list: This year the Golden State counted 131 residents worth $1 billion or more. If California was a nation, we'd rank third in the world, behind the United States and China, in billionaire populations.
L.A.-bred Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel, 24, is “the youngest billionaire on the planet,” Forbes says. He's said to be worth $1.5 billion.
Other area billionaires we spotted on the list include:
L.A.-born Orange County real estate magnate Donald Bren ($15.2 billion), part-time resident Rupert Murdoch ($13.9), medical device tycoon Patrick Soon-Shiong ($12.2), Tesla founder Elon Musk ($12), philanthropist Eli Broad ($7.2), Hollywood music man David Geffen ($6.9), Public Storage's Tamara Gustavson ($4.3), Steven Spielberg ($3.6), Power Ranger Haim Saban ($3.5), part-time Southern Californian Oprah Winfrey ($3), native, grocery tycoon and friend of Bill Clinton Ron Burkle ($2.6), born-again junk bond king Michael Milken ($2.5), tech beard Henry Nicholas III ($1.7), and online retailer Fred Chang ($1).
Not all of those folks are here full-time, and we're sure we missed a few people who live here at least some of the time.
The point is, there's a lot of money in the Golden State and in Southern California, yet the gap between rich and poor has rarely been greater. The continued success of the ultra-rich has not trickled down to benefit working Californians.
There are, of course, efforts to shore up the poor with a rising minimum wage that some want to see reach $15 an hour, which still wouldn't get you a median-priced apartment in L.A.
State Sen. Mark Leno tomorrow will chair a hearing of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee that will examine child poverty in California. Yeah, in a state with so much wealth, we have to deal with child poverty, like some kind of crazy developing nation.
Nearly one in four California children lives in poverty, an unacceptable fact that illustrates the work we have yet to do on this critically important social issue. We know growing up poor has devastating impacts on families, communities and the economy. Children living in poverty are less likely to graduate and more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system. We must work together to find solutions to ensure that every child is equipped with the basic needs he or she needs to live a successful, productive life.