The United States economy is in a state of near-recession, with slow growth prospects and over nine percent of the people in the country are unemployed. However, there remains a collective group of people who rake in a sizable salary each year and extreme bonus checks on top of that. According to Forbes, these are the top three wealthiest Americans:

1. Bill Gates, Net worth: $56 billion

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, 55, stepped down from his role as CEO to dedicate most of his time to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He is still the main stockholder and non-executive chairman at Microsoft and is ranked as the wealthiest man in America and second richest in the world.

2. Warren Buffett, Net worth: $50 billion

Self-made billionaire, Warren Buffett, made his fortune when he founded his company Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett, 80, remains on the board as the CEO and Berkshire Hathaway is ranked as the 8th biggest public company in the world.

3. Larry Ellison, Net worth: $39.5 billion

Larry Ellison, 67, is the co-founder and CEO of Oracle Corporation, a major enterprise software company. In 2010, “The Wall Street Journal” reported that Ellison was the best-paid executive in the previous decade, with a payout of $1.84 billion.

The United States just went through a scare of having to default on our loans. Luckily, that was avoided, but the country is still deeply in debt – approximately $14,638,053,883,411. Individual states are also facing budget problems and these are the top three states with the largest predicted budget shortfalls for the 2012 fiscal year, which began in July.

1. California, $21,300 million

2. Illinois, $17,000 million

3. New Jersey, $10,500 million

Each of the men in the top three of Forbes wealthiest American’s list donates a large percentage of their fortune to charities every year. All three of them signed “The Giving Pledge,” started by Gates and Buffett. This pledge calls for the wealthiest people in America to give the majority of their money to philanthropic and charitable organizations, either during their lifetimes or after their passing.

Looking at the amounts of money Gates, Buffet, and Ellison have, it speaks volumes to see that these individuals could pay off the debts of entire states alone and still have money left over. But giving money to these sorts of causes is most likely not what these men had in mind when they promised to donate their cash.

Sean TR is an author for and enjoys writing about the business, economics, and social sciences as well as philosophy. You can follow him on Twitter at @SeanTR

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