Global charity Oxfam have released a report outlining in tangible terms just how staggeringly Grand Canyon-esque the ever-widening gap between rich and poor is. The report, entitled Working For The Few: Political Capture and Economic Inequality, claims that the wealth of “The 1%” amounts to approximately $110 trillion (I didn’t have the space or time to type out all the zeros), which is 65 times as much as the poorest half of the world, and that seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years. The most shocking statistic, however, is that the world’s richest 85 individuals own more wealth than the poorest 3.5 billion citizens on Earth – that’s half the world – combined.
This alarming reveal of the extent of global economic disparity has been released just as the economic leaders of the world meet at the World Economic Forum at the luxury ski resort of Davos in Switzerland. Oxfam points the finger of blame for the economic state of things squarely at a corrupt political process which favours the super-, mega- and ultra-rich, and points out that the effects of economic disparity on the poor go far beyond not being able to buy a new flatscreen:
Extreme economic inequality is damaging and worrying for many reasons: it is morally questionable; it can have negative impacts on economic growth and poverty reduction; and it can multiply social problems. It compounds other inequalities, such as those between women and men. In many countries, extreme economic inequality is worrying because of the pernicious impact that wealth concentrations can have on equal political representation. When wealth captures government policymaking, the rules bend to favor the rich, often to the detriment of everyone else.
The consequences include the erosion of democratic governance, the pulling apart of social cohesion, and the vanishing of equal opportunities for all. Unless bold political solutions are instituted to curb the influence of wealth on politics, governments will work for the interests of the rich, while economic and political inequalities continue to rise. As US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, ‘We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both.’
The Occupy Movement was sparked in 2011 by a growing recognition of facts and figures like these, but was criticised for not having a clear set of aims or goals. Oxfam, on the other hand, have a specific set of changes they want made, asking those gathered at Davos for the World Economic Forum who “have the power to turn around the rapid increase in inequality” (ie. those with shit-tonnes of money) to pledge that they will:
• Not dodge taxes in their own countries or in countries where they invest and operate, by using tax havens;
• Not use their economic wealth to seek political favors that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens;
• Make public all the investments in companies and trusts for which they are the ultimate beneficial owners;
• Support progressive taxation on wealth and income;
• Challenge governments to use their tax revenue to provide universal health care, education and social protection for citizens;
• Demand a living wage in all the companies they own or control;
• Challenge other economic elites to join them in these pledges.
Must be funny, in a rich man’s world.
Via The Guardian