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.
Please consider supporting honeythatsok by becoming a Patron for as little as $1 a month! Learn more at Patreon.com.