SINGAPORE (May 6): In Beverly Hills, the chicken Caesar salad costs US$25.95 ($35.35). Stephen Schwarzman, with a net worth of US$14.3 billion, could buy one for all 329 million people in the US today — and then do so again tomorrow for 222 million of them.

The wealth on display at the annual Davos-style conference organised by Michael Milken, once of junk-bond fame, is capturing a moment in our age of growing inequality. For the first time in Milken Institute Global Conference’s two-decade-plus history, Schwarzman and the other billionaires and mere multimillionaires here find themselves confronting uncomfortable questions about the source of their wealth: modern American capitalism itself.

It is not a huge surprise that billionaires find themselves on the hot seat this year. It is, after all, the first Milken conference following the rise of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described socialist who has rocketed to national fame. Senator Bernie Sanders, who also holds socialist views, is running for president. Lawmakers are grilling bank chiefs over the gap between the tens of millions they take home and the fraction made by their rank and file. And national debates are raging over access to healthcare, affordable housing and university degrees free of crushing debt.

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