Eight Wealthiest Men Own the Same Amount as the Poorest Half of The World

A new Oxfam (Oxford Committee for Famine Relief) report confirms many of our worst suspicions about about inequality, that it is horrible and getting worse. Eight men, many have the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the world, or 3.6 billion people, according to the report. It was published to coincide with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the world’s largest gathering of leaders and business heads.

The poorest half of the world owns own the same in assets as that group of eight, $426 billion to be exact. The group of eight is led by Bill Gates, Amancio Ortega, the founder of the Spanish fashion chain Zara, and investor Warren Buffett. The others on the startlingly short list are Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecom tycoon, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Michael Bloomberg, former billionaire mayor of New York and founder of Bloomberg news and financial information service.

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Photo Credit: Rui Duarte/Flickr CC

This information would be frightening enough on its own, but gets even worse when compared to 2016’s data, when a whopping 62 owned the same in assets as the poorest half of the world, partly because new data shows that poverty in India and China is even worse than reported just last year. Such a steep drop should be troubling to anyone concerned the scourge of economic inequality. Oxfam’s report certainly didn’t mince words, calling the data “beyond grotesque,” and advcates for “a new economic model to reverse an inequality trend that it said helped to explain Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.”

“From Brexit to the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, a worrying rise in racism and the widespread disillusionment with mainstream politics, there are increasing signs that more and more people in rich countries are no longer willing to tolerate the status quo,” the report said.

It’s not enough, and in fact, is probably counterproductive, to make these eight men the poster boys for economic evil though they are the beneficiaries. As Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s CEO writes in a Guardian Op-Ed explaining the report, many of the top eight are also among the world’s most prominent philanthropists. Goldring continues,

this is not an exposé of eight people, but of a broken economics. Narrowing the gap between the richest and the rest requires us to take on a more challenging task than asking eight men to change their behaviour. It requires us to create a more human economy; one that does not result in 1% of the world’s population owning the same wealth as the other 99%. One that encourages and rewards enterprise and innovation, yes, but one that also offers everyone, regardless of background, a fair chance in life and ensures when individuals and businesses succeed, they do so for the benefit, rather than at the expense, of others.

Even the heavyweights at the World Economic Forum in Davos know this, as in a study published ahead of the gathering, 700 experts said inequality is the number one threat to the global economy. One way to begin might be to address this threat, aside from a fundamental cultural shift in values, would be to limit tax avoidance, which Goldring reminds us “costs poor countries more than $100B annually that could be used to provide clean water, lifesaving medicines or education. Rich countries, including the UK, lose countless billions more. Yet governments, anxious to defend their own corporate sectors and perceived national interests, have failed to adequately respond to companies’ use of tax loopholes, corporate power and new technology to avoid paying their fair share.” Also contributing to the inequality are policies allowing aggressive wage restraints.

If any of the World Economic Forum Davos attendees were serious about fighting this threat they would do well to read both the report, and and Goldring’s commentary.

Oxfam is considered the world leader in the delivery of emergency relief and implements long-term development programs in vulnerable communities. Today, there are 19 member organizations of the Oxfam International confederation. They are based in: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Ireland, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Quebec, South Africa, Spain and the United States.

YOUR TURN

What would you do to begin to shift the unequal distribution of wealth in this country? In this world? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page, on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds and don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

 

Source: Additional reporting and statistics provided by Alternet

 

Stealing the Economy in 6 Easy Steps

So… How Does So Much Wealth End Up in the Pockets of CEOs and Wall Street Firms?

1. Companies buy other companies using borrowed money.
Since the 1980s, corporate raiders, corporations and hedge funds have looked to take over any company they could. But here’s their secret.

2. Raiders use the assets of the targeted company to pay for the costs of the acquisition.
The target company is weakened because it has to pay back millions of dollars. Worse, the corporate raiders pay themselves from the assets of the acquired company, too, in fees and special dividends. The CEOs and bankers get their cut as well. Not much left to share with the workers from a once-successful company.

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3. CEOs get paid with stock incentives.
That means when a company’s stock goes up, CEOs get even more money.
Unfortunately, in the U.S., most CEOs are focused on very short-term goals, like improving their own compensation. They most likely aren’t looking at long terms goals like increasing productivity or reinvesting in research and development. They aren’t interested in increasing workers’ real wages and benefits. So what does the CEO do?

4. CEOs use company earnings not to invest in better equipment or operations, not to pass along gains to workers, but to buy more stock.
That raises the stock prices and raises the CEO’s salary.

5. CEOS IMPLEMENT “THE SQUEEZE.”
The company downsizes, and workers get laid off. Jobs are shipped offshore. Pension funds are frozen. Wages and benefits are cut.

6. Results
The earnings of the corporation are redistributed to executives and Wall Street bankers.

What’s left for workers?

NOT MUCH.

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Five Dumb Things People Believe About Unions

1. Unions are no longer necessary
Wage stagnation and a decline in real incomes for middle class families has become one of the biggest problems facing the country. The middle class is shrinking and college graduates are putting off buying homes and cars because of low salaries. Meanwhile productivity is higher than ever and corporate profits are through the roof. So where is the money going? Instead of to the worker, more and more of it is going to corporate execs and CEOs, leading to increasing income inequality.

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2. Unions are undemocratic
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, one could argue that unions are among the most democratic organizations. Unlike a corporation, for example, unions are bottom up organizations where the members elect their officers, approve bylaws, and vote on contracts. Each union has member committees, member meetings, member-driven elections, and so forth that help to ensure that the opportunity for member participation is available to all.

3. Unions pay their officers and staff obscene amounts
Union salaries are determined democratically, often with the salaries approved by delegates and set forth in the bylaws or constitutions.

The reality is that most union officers are local officers. They get paid very little especially when you take into account the hours that they put in when it comes to negotiations, union administration, and contract administration. And many don’t get paid at all.

Some officers and staff at the national level get paid more but it is far from obscene. They often work long hours in cities with very high costs of living, such as DC and New York, where many unions are headquartered. And when compared to their peers in corporations, and some non-profits, their pay is often low.

4. Unions increase labor costs, leading companies to send jobs overseas
This allegation is completely refuted by recent history. If a highly unionized workplace was, as the argument goes, the cause of companies sending jobs overseas, then the absence of high union density should lead to very few jobs going overseas, right?

Well, union density in the private sector has been declining for decades and is currently less than 10%. Yet for the last few decades, American businesses have shifted millions of good paying jobs overseas, despite the huge increases in productivity at home and the stagnating wages.

It’s not unions that lead to job loss. It’s greedy corporate executives who simply don’t want to share the fruits of higher productivity and profits with American workers – unionized or not.

5. Unions lead to lower productivity and worker laziness
No. Not even close. Studies show that productivity in unionized American workplaces is actually higher, with a meta-analysis noting that “”a positive [association between unions and productivity] exists for the United States in general and for U.S. manufacturing in particular.”

Your Turn

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