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Comments 17

8 billionaires to rule us all

Oxfam’s annual inequality report is here and it is jaw dropping. Last year the organization concluded that 62 billionaires own more wealth than the poorest 50% of humanity. That was a shocking report. This year, 365 days later, the number of billionaires dropped to only 8 individuals that control the same amount of money as the poorest 3.6 billion people on this planet. The reason for this massive jump is that poverty in rural India and China has not improved and the combined resources of impoverished people is less than assumed last year, requiring less billionaires to match their number. The other 54 billionaires from last year, I assume, are still billionaires.

There is no other word for this than grotesque. 1 in 9 people go to bed hungry. Have you tried going to bed hungry? I did last night, in solidarity. I couldn’t sleep so I got up at 2am to make a bowl of cereal. It’s hard going to sleep hungry and it’s hard going to sleep angry.

The cost to end world hungry is estimated around $30bn a year. The US military spend that in a week. This group of billionaire men, led by Bill Gates who is allegedly the richest man in the world, is worth $426bn. They could single-handedly end world hunger for over a decade without seeing any decline of their personal comfort. Our fascination with, and celebration, of billionaires seem to me a malware in our thinking. Who do we celebrate hoarding of resources that condemn others to death and misery?

Billionaires become billionaires by avoiding taxes and then starting charitable foundations. This gives them more tax write-offs and the ability to control what causes their massive wealth should support. As if they know better than an entire country where resources are most needed; resources that through progressive corporate taxes used to be distributed by governments on health care, education and culture for all. These days we are lucky if we get a polio vaccine from the Gates and a mosquito net from the Clintons. Same difference, right?

This report, at the end of the day, is a criticism of capitalism. Some say this is simply capitalism’s endgame playing itself out, like monopoly; a handful of winners and starved, impoverished slaves the rest of us. Some claim, and I find this incredible, that monetary wealth is infinite and if you happen to be poor you simply need to become an entrepreneur and create money out of thin air. It’s all there ripe for the taking, and, I suppose in this reality, the endgame is that we are all billionaire entrepreneurs, all 9 billions of us, in the year 2050. And if you’re not it’s because you are lazy.

Wealth is tied to real estate and exploitation of natural resources. One could argue that these should be common heritage for all people. The current global economy demands that humanity use twice as many resources as the earth can replenish each year. In this new century we are learning at warp-speed how truly interconnected this world is. Financial equality will not automatically lead to a sustainable future but it is the first issue we have to address if we will have any chance of surviving as a species. Don’t just take my word for it. Stephen Hawking said so, too.

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17 Comments

  1. dannie1955 says

    Ah! My first post was deleted by my iPad. I have never understood why the super rich are fascinated by avoiding taxes. They have so much money. What difference does it make if a few coins escape their grasp?

  2. dannie1955 says

    Good post. I have no interest in basics. Can you give me a better idea of what your Patreon is about? Like long term goals.

  3. Nice article, but there is one problem. Your link to Amazon, which does not pay its fair share of tax, in some cases none. It does not recognise unions, treats its employees dreadfully and has them on zero-hour contracts. This is how people become millionaires, treating others as their chattel (personal property).

    • Hi Patrick. You are absolutely right. I took your comment to heart and spent a day thinking of better ways to ask for support. It’s hard to turn your passion into a sustainable resource without selling ad space or hawking unnecessary products. I created a support page to help explain our intentions a little better. Thanks for your constructive feedback! :)

      • Sorry, I should have got back to you earlier. If you are dependent on money earned from your promotion, then it is not my place to criticise. Hopefully you can find funding elsewhere, but as the saying goes, ‘beggars cannot be choosers’.

  4. If you believe, as some do, that everything comes down to two choices – love or fear – then this disgusting polarisation of wealth is ultimately a manifestation of fear . . . and, in particular, fear born out of the belief that ‘more for you means less for me’ If we’re going to get much further as a species we need a greater focus on balancing social and monetary ‘wealth’ . . .

    • I think the ‘love/fear’ is a valid belief. And that greed is some form of brain damage. It’s not like you can take it with you when you die! We have to move beyond the scarcity psychology if we are ever going to live sustainably.

  5. The tax system is definitely a disaster. As a small business owner I pay approximately 40% in taxes, yet most large corporations don’t pay a dime. And then of course there’s that jackass going into the presidency who isn’t either…

    • It’s so frustrating. 40% is a lot to pay for a small business! I grew up in Norway where taxes are nearly 40% but we get free hospitals and higher education so most people feel it is worth the sacrifice. It’s hard to fathom there was a time when US corporations paid almost 90% taxes. I feel history is a pendulum and we happen to be on the “dark ages” side of things. Nudging it towards the other side is becoming a full time job!

      • Yeah it would totally be worth it if we got that as well here and of course as well as if all companies paid the same percentage tax rate!! The first few years I owned by business I didn’t even have healthcare because I couldn’t afford it without an employer plan, and (before Obamacare) I was excluded from coverage due to a pre-existing condition isn’t that nice :)

      • I’m sorry to hear that. The healthcare situation in the US is very frightening, and infuriating because it’s so illogical to be profiting off people’s illness! Maybe sanity will start prevailing soon after insanity peaking on Friday…

      • Well considering Trump wants to eliminate the Affordable Care Act which would then take away health insurance from over 20 million people, along with wanting to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood thereby decreasing access to healthcare for many low income men and women, I’m not optimistic as it took centuries for us to even get the Affordable Care Act. And sadly I think the insanity is not peaking at all I think it’s only just beginning, considering we have a man who brags about sexual assault and has been accused of raping a 13 year old girl along with his many other crimes. That in along with a speaker of the house who is equally excited to get rid of women’s rights to their own bodies. I’m sickened everyday thinking about Friday.

      • dannie1955 says

        Sigh. I just wrote a long reply and it is gone. Don’t be sickened. It is time for an effective response. Please read my article Connecting The Dots at Medium (medium.com). You will find it by my real name Daniel Thom. In any case I will be following you.

    • I read that $70,000 annually is the “happiness” limit and any income above that won’t make people happier because all their needs (not wants) are met. I tried to figure out how many households would receive $70,000 if you divide up 100 billions but the desktop calculator won’t let me input that many zeros. Funny!

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