The rich are preparing to gather in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum annual meeting, which USA Today calls the “summit conference for the 1 percent.” In advance of that meeting, which begins on January 21, Oxfam has some sobering news for the other 99 percent of us: By 2016, that one percent of the world’s richest will own more than the remaining 99 percent combined.
That’s a sobering bit of information. And here’s more. The New York Times says that currently, the 80 richest people in the world own $1.9 trillion in assets. That is almost the same as the 3.5 billion people who are in the bottom half of income in the world. Just a year ago, it took the richest 85 people to equal the wealth of the bottom half, so in just a short time, wealth has become even more concentrated. Even more staggering is that in 2010, it took the richest 388 people to equal the wealth of the bottom half.
According to the “Huffington Post,” 35 of those top 80 are Americans. The combined wealth of those individuals is $941 billion. Almost all of the world’s richest people are involved in things like the oil and gas industry, health care, financial services, etc, and the “Huffington Post” says they “paid fortunes to lobbyists to maintain or increase their riches.”
It may come as no surprise to you that the United States is one of the leaders in wealth inequality. According to The Street, the U.S. ranks number seven. We are a more unequal society in terms of wealth than all of our western allies, trailing only Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Turkey, and Russia.
Oxfam will speak for the 99 percent.
Here are some staggering facts about wealth inequality, provided by Oxfam.
- The richest 1 per cent have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44 per cent in 2009 to 48 per cent in 2014.
- 46 percent of the remaining wealth is owned by the top 20 percent of the world’s population.
- The remaining 80 percent of the population controls only 5.5 percent of the wealth.
- The richest one percent have an average wealth of $2.7 million per adult. The poorest 80 percent have an average wealth of $3,851 per adult.
- More than a billion people attempt to live on $1.25 a day.
Oxfam will have a seat at the table this year in Davos. Winnie Byanyima, executive director of the organization, will co-chair the World Economic Forum. “She will use her position to call for urgent action to stem the rising tide of inequality and push for progress towards a global deal on climate change,” according to the Oxfam website.
Oxfam has a seven-point plan they are urging governments to adopt.
- Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals.
- Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education.
- Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth.
- Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers.
- Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal.
- Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum income guarantee.
- Agree a global goal to tackle inequality.
While that plan might get a sympathetic ear in some areas of the world, it will likely be ignored in the U.S., where Republicans will certainly be unwilling to address a single one of those issues. In America, at least, there seems to be no end to the greed of the one percent, who control far more wealth than they could ever possibly spend, yet who appear to be living their lives in a competition to pile up the most money. For those people, at least, “E pluribus unum” appears to have been replaced with “He who dies with the most toys, wins.”
Image via Luxuiaz.com