“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.”
While the startling facts of Oxfam’s report into global inequality may not comes as a surprise for many, they do expose just how wide the gap between rich and poor really is. Just take a look at the graphs showing the income shared between China and Indonesia’s highest and lowest earners and the great abyss that exists between them.
So why should we be more concerned about the have’s than the have nots? How will worrying about those at the top help the people at the bottom?
According to the organisation’s report Working for the Few, it is this growing inequality “that helps the richest undermine democratic processes and drive policies that promote their interests at the expense of everyone else.”
Essentially, the politics of extreme wealth have helped to create a vicious cycle were those who can afford to fund political campaigns can essentially buy favourable policies, which allow them to accumulate more wealth or safeguard it from high taxes or offshore.
In the report, Oxfam outlines that “since the late 1970s, tax rates for the richest have fallen in 29 of the 30 countries for which data are available, meaning that in many places the rich not only get more money but also pay less tax on it.”
“We are witnessing a titanic battle between two principles – an idealized market ($1 one vote) and an idealised democracy (one person one vote). Real politics is born of the tussle between the two: sometimes money, sometimes people wins out. Right now, money is doing far too well,” Oxfam says.
Massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of a few people is a major threat to inclusive political and economic systems. It also compounds other inequalities – such as those between women and men.
But, luckily, public opinion seems to be increasingly on side with this message, with survey’s conducted by Oxfam in six countries showing a majority of people believe legislation favours the wealthy and need to be changed.
That’s why Oxfam is calling on leaders at the 2014 World Economic Forum at Davos, many of them comprising the economic elite, to make commitments ‘to counter the growing tide of inequality’, such as:
• Not dodge taxes in their own countries or in countries where they invest and operate, by using tax havens;
• Not use their economic wealth to seek political favors that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens;
• Make public all the investments in companies and trusts for which they are the ultimate beneficial owners;
• Support progressive taxation on wealth and income;
• Challenge governments to use their tax revenue to provide universal health care, education and social protection for citizens;
• Demand a living wage in all the companies they own or control;
• Challenge other economic elites to join them in these pledges.
Sounds fair to me…
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