They’re rich, but they’re nice guys
The short version
Oxfam, the non-profit charity that fights global poverty, released a report early this morning showing how the consolidation of global wealth is now centered in the world’s eight richest people. These people, all guys, six of which are Americans, hold more wealth than half the world’s population. Oxfam sees this as a bad thing, especially given that the bottom 3.6 billion people struggle to even put food in their mouths and keep a roof over their head.
A little more detail
The timing of the report is important because the World Economic Forum kicked off early this morning in Davos, Switzerland. The event is a gathering that usually occurs during a bit of a global downtime, bringing together world leaders and the world’s wealthiest business leaders to discuss world problems. It’s a security nightmare. Can you imagine if the alleged Islamic State were able to get a bomb into this place? The event is also criticized for being nothing more than an excuse for the rich to get together and party while using their money to influence international politics. And you don’t even want to get started on all the conspiracy theories. So, Oxfam is directing their paper at all these rich people in hopes of influencing their conversation.
Fat chance? Maybe not. There are a couple of things worth noting. One is that the chair for this event changes every year and this year Pakistan’s Academy Award-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy becomes the first artist to ever take on that distinction. Given Chinoy’s history of using her film to highlight the plight of women around the world, the odds are probably higher than normal that the group will at least discuss the Oxfam report.
Secondly, the Forum’s own report, released last week, says that Capitalism, as we know it, needs to be reconsidered. This has to make at least some of those attending the conference, including the US president-elect, a little nervous. There are several of those attending who are well aware of the economic disparity and in favor of doing something to alter the current situation. That could be bad news for those whose riches have taken advantage of the capitalistic system to keep wages down and people around the world under foot. The Oxfam report is fodder for those who support change.
Who are the super-rich?
For the most part, they are names Americans already know. Here’s the list:
- Bill Gates: $75 billion
- Amancio Ortega: $67 billion
- Warren Buffett: $60.8 billion
- Carlos Slim Helu: $50 billion
- Jeff Bezos: $45.2 billion
- Mark Zuckerberg: $44.6 billion
- Larry Ellison: $43.6 billion
- Michael Bloomberg: $40 billion
What can be done about the situation?
Here are the five recommendations made by Oxfam:
- Stop offshore tax dodging which costs the US and developing countries more than $100 billion each year.
- Raise the minimum wage so that working families can make a living wage.
- Fight discrimination of all kinds and ensure equal pay for equal work.
- Build and invest in a social safety net for everyone.
- Ensure every person has access to affordable, high-quality healthcare and education.
What chances are there of any of these things being adopted by the world leaders attending the conference? I wouldn’t expect much out of China, Russia, and the US, but in smaller countries, where social and political power is more responsive, there’s a decent chance.