I’ve been thinking about how to write about the feeling that the people at the top have been funneling all the wealth out of the system so that the poor are struggling, the middle class are struggling, cities and counties are struggling, hell the federal government is struggling. And then Oxfam releases a report that it’s down to an astounding 62 people who own as much wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion.
Just 62 ultra-rich individuals — a list that is primarily made up of men and includes Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, the Koch Brothers and the Walmart heirs — have as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity. Five years ago, it took 388 rich guys to achieve that status.
388 was bad enough. 62? It’s just astounding how much money is out of the system, out of circulation, sitting in the bank accounts and investment vehicles of just 62 God-like souls. So called “leftist” economists like Thomas Piketty and Paul Krugman have been warning that this kind of wealth concentration is not conducive to a healthy society. It’s more like how the world worked before the American Revolution – a feudal fiefdom where almost all the wealth is held by a very small group of people in a hierarchy based on the patronage of the royal landowner down to his knights and tradesmen. Everyone else is a peon, struggling. It feels like that now.
Get below the top 10% and its paycheck to paycheck, living on overextended credit with no wealth accumulated, no long term security. For the American middle class it’s all contributing to an unprecedented drop in life expectancy for certain cohorts.
Despite all the accumulated wealth of the world there continue to be huge swaths of Africa, Asia, South America that are dirt poor, living on a dollar a day, with almost no connection to the western world, ie. healthcare, clean water, indoor plumbing, predictable food sources. Instead of the world being lifted up to those standards, it feels like more of the 1st and 2nd worlds are backsliding to the 3rd. See Flint, Michigan, the state of our infrastructure, paved roads going back to gravel.
Oxfam suggests some solutions that sound like materials from the Sanders campaign:
Workers nee a living wage, the gap with executive pay needs to be narrowed. The gender pay gap has to narrrow (or end). We need compensation for unpaid care and the promotion of equal land and inheritance rights for women. Obviously education for women needs to improve. Education in general. And governments need to take action on lobbying, reducing the price of medicines, taxing wealth rather than consumption and using progressive public spending to tackle inequality.
But it’s not just the stock market driving the rise in inequality. Oxfam’s report also points a finger at tax dodging and urges governments worldwide to get a handle on tax avoidance by wealthy individuals and corporations.
“It’s a significant loss to governments,” Kripke said. The rich use exotic strategies to park money so that it’s invisible and inaccessible to governments, who could redistribute those dollars to their citizens, he said. “We need reform on this.”
But we won’t, because, as we all know, the people at the top are rigging the system. The wealthiest use their resources to keep tax laws bent in their favor so that they never have to pay their fair share, or anything at all. To what end though? What will all their money be worth when they live in gated compounds with motes and private armies protecting them from a general population living in squalor?
Do they really want to go back to the middle ages?