Oxfam Report: The world’s richest 85 people have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the population

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Growing income inequality is not just prevalent in the world's richest country, the United States. but is a global phenomenon.

The humanitarian organization Oxfam International has released a new research report, Working for the Few: Political capture and economic inequality, which finds that:

Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population, and seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years. The World Economic Forum has identified economic inequality as a major risk to human progress, impacting social stability within countries and threatening security on a global scale.

This massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a real threat to inclusive political and economic systems, and compounds other inequalities – such as those between women and men. Left unchecked, political institutions are undermined and governments overwhelmingly serve the interests of economic elites – to the detriment of ordinary people.

In this paper, Oxfam shows how extreme inequality is not inevitable, with examples of policies from around the world which have reduced inequality and developed more representative politics, benefiting all, both rich and poor. Oxfam calls on leaders at the 2014 World Economic Forum at Davos to make the commitments needed to counter the growing tide of inequality.

The 85 richest people are actually a small part of the wealthiest 1%, which owns 46% of the world's wealth. The 85 richest people own about 0.7% of the world's wealth, which is the same as the bottom half of the population.

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McClatchy News reports, World's richest 85 people have as much as half of globe’s population, Oxfam reports:

OxfamThe world’s richest 85 people control the same amount of wealth as half the world’s population, according to a report issued Monday by the British-based anti-poverty charity Oxfam.

That means the world’s poorest 3.55 billion people must live on what the richest 85 possess. Another way to look at it: Each of the wealthiest 85 has access to the same resources as do about 42 million of the world’s poor, a number equal to the populations of Canada, Kentucky and Kansas, taken together.

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The report says 210 people joined the ranks of billionaires last year, bringing to around 1,400 the people who hold that status.

The report also said that while the recent financial crisis was an enormous burden on the world’s poor, it ended up being a huge benefit to the rich elite. The very wealthiest people on Earth collected 95 percent of the post-crisis growth, the report said.

The report said that the trend is more pronounced in the United States than in other nations, but hardly limited to the U.S. It said that in only two countries, Colombia and the Netherlands, had the share of income received by the wealthiest 1 percent not increased between 1980 and 2012.

In the United States, China and Portugal, the report said, the wealthiest 1 percent had seen its share of income more than double in the same period.

Continuing, World's richest 85 people have as much as bottom half the population:

“To give an indication of the scale of wealth concentration, the combined wealth of Europe’s 10 richest people exceeds the total cost of stimulus measures implemented across the European Union between 2008 and 2010,” it said.

The report states: “To give an indication of the scale of wealth concentration, the combined wealth of Europe’s 10 richest people exceeds the total cost of stimulus measures implemented across the European Union (EU) between 2008 and 2010 (€217bn compared with €200bn).”

It then adds: “Furthermore, post-recovery austerity policies are hitting poor people hard, while making the rich even richer. Austerity is also having an unprecedented impact on the middle classes.”

And, the report notes, the increasing wealth disparity is not accidental.

“Markets are not autonomous, spontaneous phenomena operating according to their own natural laws. In reality, markets are social constructions whose rules are set by institutions and regulated by governments that should be accountable to the participants and citizens. When there is growth and diminishing inequality, the rules governing markets are working in favor of the middle classes and the poorest sections of society. However, when only the rich are gaining, the rules start bending towards their interests exclusively.”

A new Gallup poll finds In U.S., 67% Dissatisfied With Income, Wealth Distribution:

Two out of three Americans are dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are currently distributed in the U.S. This includes three-fourths of Democrats and 54% of Republicans.

Gallup

Gallup's Jan. 5-8 Mood of the Nation survey included a question asking Americans how satisfied they are with income and wealth distribution in the U.S. Few, 7%, report that they are "very satisfied" with the distribution, while 39% of Americans say they are "very dissatisfied."

Attitudes about the distribution of income and wealth are highly related to partisanship. Republicans, at 45% very or somewhat satisfied, express the highest satisfaction with the current wealth disparity in the U.S. Democrats are much less satisfied, at 24%, with independents closer in satisfaction to Democrats, at 28%. Furthermore, almost half (43%) of Democrats and independents express strong dissatisfaction with the current state of wealth and income distribution.

Dissatisfaction With the Opportunity to Get Ahead Remains High

The same poll updated a long-time Gallup trend, finding that 54% of Americans are satisfied, and 45% dissatisfied, with the opportunity for an American "to get ahead by working hard." This measure has remained roughly constant over the past three years, but Americans are much less optimistic about economic opportunity now than before the recession and financial crisis of 2008 unfolded. Prior to that, at least two in three Americans were satisfied, including a high of 77% in 2002.

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In contrast to the question about income distribution in the same poll, satisfaction with the opportunity to get ahead does not show a significant partisan split, with 61% of Republicans and 60% of Democrats saying they are satisfied. Among independents, 45% are satisfied and 53% are dissatisfied. Independents are the only group in which a majority are dissatisfied with opportunities to get ahead by working hard.

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Bottom Line

Obama will almost certainly touch on inequality in his State of the Union address on Jan. 28. This will certainly resonate in a general sense with the majority of Americans who are dissatisfied with income and wealth distribution in the U.S. today. Members of the president's party agree most strongly with the president that this is an issue, but majorities of Republicans and independents are at least somewhat dissatisfied as well.

Although Americans are more likely to be satisfied with the opportunity for people to get ahead through hard work, their satisfaction is well below where it was before the economic downturn. Accordingly, improvement in the U.S. economy could bring Americans' views back to pre-recession levels.

As the Oxfam report warns, the massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a real threat to inclusive political and economic systems, and compounds other inequalities. Left unchecked, political institutions are undermined, and governments overwhelmingly serve the interests of economic elites – to the detriment of ordinary people.

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