MADRID, Jan 25 (IPS) – Gone are those times when catastrophes were measured in terms of human suffering. Now, with an exception: Ukrainians victims of the Russian invasion, everything is calculated in just money.
Following such a solid trend, major financial, business-oriented institutions, like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank, are now devoted to calculating if and how big the recession will be, ergo, how much money could be won or lost due, of course, to the Ukrainian proxy war.
They, likewise the establishment’s politicians and media, just talk about inflation, stagflation, economic (read financial) slowdown and commerce.
Rare mention is made of the victims and human suffering of the other 56 armed conflicts still spreading worldwide. Haitians do not matter, nor do Yemenis, Syrians, Somalis, Ethiopians, and a long list of human beings whose lives are broken by wars and climate disasters they did not cause.
Inequality reaches highest peak ever
In yet another evidence of this trend, a global movement of people working together to end the injustice of poverty: Oxfam International, has now revealed that the richest 1% bag nearly twice as much wealth as the rest of the world over the past two years.
“The richest 1 percent grabbed nearly two-thirds of all new wealth worth $42 trillion created since 2020, almost twice as much money as the bottom 99 percent of the world’s population, reveals Oxfam’s new report “Survival of the Richest.
“During the past decade, the richest 1 percent had captured around half of all new wealth.”
Super-rich outstrip their extraordinary grab of half of all new wealth in the past decade, and billionaires’ fortunes are increasing by $2.7 billion a day even as at least 1.7 billion workers now live in countries where inflation is outpacing wages, it reported on 16 January 2023.
“A tax of up to 5 percent on the world’s multi-millionaires and billionaires could raise $1.7 trillion a year, enough to lift 2 billion people out of poverty.”
“Survival of the Richest” was published on the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In it, Oxfam explains, the elites are gathering in the Swiss ski resort as extreme wealth and extreme poverty have increased simultaneously for the first time in 25 years.
The rich’s wildest dreams
“While ordinary people are making daily sacrifices on essentials like food, the super-rich have outdone even their wildest dreams. Just two years in, this decade is shaping up to be the best yet for billionaires —a roaring ‘20s boom for the world’s richest,” said Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International.
“Taxing the super-rich and big corporations is the door out of today’s overlapping crises. It’s time we demolish the convenient myth that tax cuts for the richest result in their wealth somehow ‘trickling down’ to everyone else. Forty years of tax cuts for the super-rich have shown that a rising tide doesn’t lift all ships —just the super-yachts.”
The rich capture 16 trillion US dollars
Billionaires have seen extraordinary increases in their wealth. During the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis years since 2020, $26 trillion (63 percent) of all new wealth was captured by the richest 1 percent, while $16 trillion (37 percent) went to the rest of the world put together.
A billionaire gained roughly $1.7 million for every $1 of new global wealth earned by a person in the bottom 90 percent. Billionaire fortunes have increased by $2.7 billion a day. This comes on top of a decade of historic gains —the number and wealth of billionaires having doubled over the last ten years, adds the report.
Profiting from destruction
“Billionaire wealth surged in 2022 with rapidly rising food and energy profits. The report shows that 95 food and energy corporations have more than doubled their profits in 2022. They made $306 billion in windfall profits, and paid out $257 billion (84 percent) of that to rich shareholders.”
Oxfam further reports that the Walton dynasty, which owns half of Walmart, received $8.5 billion over the last year. Indian billionaire Gautam Adani, owner of major energy corporations, has seen this wealth soar by $42 billion (46 percent) in 2022 alone. Excess corporate profits have driven at least half of inflation in Australia, the US and the UK.
At the same time, at least 1.7 billion workers now live in countries where inflation is outpacing wages, and over 820 million people —roughly one in ten people on Earth— are going hungry. Women and girls often eat least and last, and make up nearly 60 percent of the world’s hungry population.
“The World Bank says we are likely seeing the biggest increase in global inequality and poverty since WW2. Entire countries are facing bankruptcy, with the poorest countries now spending four times more repaying debts to rich creditors than on healthcare.”
Many poorest people pay more taxes than billionaires
Oxfam is calling for a systemic and wide-ranging increase in taxation of the super-rich to claw back crisis gains driven by public money and profiteering. Decades of tax cuts for the richest and corporations have fueled inequality, with the poorest people in many countries paying higher tax rates than billionaires.
It explains that Elon Musk, one of the world’s richest men, paid a “true tax rate” of about 3 percent between 2014 and 2018. Aber Christine, a flour vendor in Uganda, makes $80 a month and pays a tax rate of 40 percent.
And that worldwide, only four cents in every tax dollar now comes from taxes on wealth. Half of the world’s billionaires live in countries with no inheritance tax for direct descendants.
“They will pass on a $5 trillion tax-free treasure chest to their heirs, more than the GDP of Africa, which will drive a future generation of aristocratic elites. Rich people’s income is mostly unearned, derived from returns on their assets, yet it is taxed on average at 18 percent, just over half as much as the average top tax rate on wages and salaries.”
The vital 5 percent
According to new analysis by the Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam and the Patriotic Millionaires, an annual wealth tax of up to 5 percent on the world’s multi-millionaires and billionaires could raise $1.7 trillion a year…
… This figure would be enough to lift 2 billion people out of poverty, fully fund the shortfalls on existing humanitarian appeals, deliver a 10-year plan to end hunger, support poorer countries being ravaged by climate impacts, and deliver universal healthcare and social protection for everyone living in low- and lower-middle-income countries.