How billionaires control the world: Darrell West

Milanee Kapadia

What a difference a day makes: Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is now reportedly worth more than $26 billion after the U.S. listing of his company, Alibaba (BABA).

According to Wealth-X, a Singapore-based research firm and Swiss bank UBS, the global population of those worth more than a billion dollars has now reached a record 2,325 -- up 7% from 2013. The combined wealth of these billionaires grew last year by 12% to a staggering $7.3 trillion. That’s higher than the combined market capitalization of all the companies in Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI).

The new book “Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust” notes that all that wealth is giving billionaires extraordinary influence over elections, public policy and governance. “Bloomberg is putting $50 million into fighting the NRA and the issue of gun violence,” Author Darrell M. West tells Yahoo Finance. “Tom Steyer is very concerned about climate change. Bill Gates is actively trying to eradicate polio.”

Billionaires like the Koch brothers – Charles and David—are “not representative of ordinary Americans,” says West. Noted for their support of primarily Republican candidates, the brothers pledged $60 million to defeat President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012. They are estimated to spend $290 million during this year’s midterm elections. West expects the Koch brothers and other wealthy individuals will pour hundreds of millions into the 2016 presidential campaign.

The typical billionaire has about $3.1 billion, is male, around 63 years old and owns four properties-- each worth an average of more than $23.5 million. Many have run for office in countries around the world and have been successful in getting elected. The problem is once they get there, “There are almost always charges of corruption, and conflict of interest and serving their own business interests,” says West.

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