Russian Oligarchs' Fortunes Dwindle To Mere Billions

Bailout, anyone?

Every day we read some new sad story about the awful global recession. It's causing massive instability and protests in the developing world, and Japan is more doomed than at any point since the 70s -- which is saying something, because that span of time includes the famous "lost decade," in which the Japanese economy did virtually nothing but sit and whimper pitifully for ten years.

Things are looking even worse in Russia, where the very same handful of oil and natural-resource barons who were making literally tens of billions of dollars every year and spending their fortunes on elaborately tacky re-dos of formerly tasteful English manor homes now must content themselves with making just plain old billions of dollars.

To give you a sense of the devastation these impoverished plutocrats face, consider this: in 2007, the ten richest men in Russia were worth an estimated $221 billion; in 2008, that number fell to $75.9 billion. One man alone has lost nearly 90 percent of his fortune.

Given the vital role these people play in the Russian economy, the global economy, and the London luxury real estate market, these people may be too big to fail. Global citizens, unite! If we can spare a few trillion for American banks, and a couple paltry billion for American taxpayers, surely we can throw a few rubles toward these wealthy Russians who are singlehandedly trying to keep their own economies afloat.

The economist and Russian scholar Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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