If you were following the news in recent days you’ll have seen some staggering statistics from Oxfam on global wealth inequality.
- The wealthiest 85 people on the planet own as much as the poorest 3,500,000,000 – the bottom half of the population.
- The wealth of the richest 1% of people in the world amounts to $110tn, or 65 times as much as the poorest half of the world.
- Since the late 1970s, tax rates for the richest have fallen in 29 out of 30 countries for which data are available.
- 70% of the world’s population live in countries where inequality has increased since the 1980s.
- 1% of families own 46% of global wealth – almost £70tn.
But what do the world’s wealthy think of this disparity?
We’re constantly reading in the press about their charitable donations and poverty-busting foundations. Surely their consciences are pricked by this chasm between global haves and have-nots?
Not a chance. Canadian businessman Kevin O’Leary was probably more honest than most, but he said what the world’s rich were thinking: it’s fantastic… I celebrate capitalism!
And it’s worth remembering that we have a 1% and rapidly growing inequality in our own back yard. (Not to mention more than a few like this lad ^)
Ireland is among the states which the Oxfam report shows has seen income inequality increase significantly since the 1980s:
And, as you might expect, this trend has escalated rapidly since the crash.
A paper from the OECD this summer gives a good indication of just how much inequality in market income (derived from wages and capital) rocketed in Ireland from 2007-2010.
This has been offset by state intervention – but not by much. Ireland’s ‘small, open’ economy is code for rampant supply-side economics. This means a higher percentage of jobs and services sacrificed to the market and inequality that will grow for years to come.
Michael Taft took up the mantle of the Oxfam wealth report to investigate income inequality in Ireland in greater detail. He found that:
- Ireland’s 1% takes home the second highest share of the national income in Europe, after the UK.
- Its growth in income between 1995 and 2009 was the highest in Europe.
- The top 10% increased their share of the national income from 27 percent in 1977 to 36 percent in 2009.
- And the 1% increased it from 5 ½ percent to 10 ½ percent.
- The average income of the 1% grew by 117% between 1995 and 2009, almost three-times the rate of workers’ income (40%).
And in November 2011, that man again Michael Taft wrote a blog post investigating the wealth of our 1% based on numbers from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Data Handbook.
In it he found that Ireland’s 1% – 36,000 individuals – owned €130.2 billion, or 28% of all of Ireland’s wealth.
So – both domestically and internationally we have a small elite accumulating vast sums of money by exploiting working people. They’re not investing and, in fact, have driven the austerity agenda to protect their wealth and resolve the crisis by attacking working people’s living standards instead.
If prevailing common sense wasn’t shaped by the agenda of the rich, all of this would raise one pretty obvious question:
Since the world’s 1% have enough wealth to end global poverty, put a stop to deaths by curable diseases and hugely accelerate the development of the Global South;
Since Ireland’s 1% have enough wealth to end austerity, put the unemployed to work and almost wipe out our national debt;
And since no-one in their right mind could believe that these tiny minorities earn more wealth than half of the world’s population or 28% of the total wealth of a country;
Why aren’t we talking about expropriating them?