In an age of austerity and financial meltdown, where people are living hand to mouth and worrying how to keep a roof over their heads and feed their families, there’s only a few things that you can rely on to never change: one is death, the other is taxes, and the other is that the rich will keep on getting richer even if the world burns and the earth dies screaming.
When they’re not busy ripping people off and paying slave wages, getting even richer is what the filthy rich do, and it’s a hard habit for these craven and money-chasing souls to shake.
A recent Oxfam report suggests that a mere 1 percent of the population holds half the world’s wealth. To break that figure down into terms we can all hate, that translates as 73 million people owning just a much as the other 7.3 billion have to share.
Who are these 73 million people you may wonder. Well, they’re certainly selfish souls who never paid much attention to Jesus Christ’s parable of the five loaves and two fish, but even these greedy guzzlers and worshippers of Mammon could learn a thing or two from the 62 richest people on the planet.
These plucky 62 philanthropists one and all own as much wealth as the poorer half of the global population combined. Or as they’re so tenderly described, “the bottom half of humanity.”
Yes, sir, the rich are getting richer, and there’s none richer than the world’s richest three men. So here’s looking at you software mogul Bill Gates, Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim Helu, and investor Warren Buffett. These three musketeers have a combined net worth of US$230 billion, according to Forbes. The question is why do they need it, what do they need it for, and what kind of world are we living in which makes such an accumulation of insane wealth possible?
A world gone wrong perhaps, or just one consumed by greed and rampant capitalism. Of course, if you dare criticize the grossly disproportionate distribution of wealth and social ills that follow in its trail, you’ll be accused, usually by the very wealthy, of being poisoned by the politics of envy, harboring the resentment of the peasant, or being bone idle and jealous of your betters who have made a comfortable life for themselves by enslaving others to a lifetime of soul-destroying tedium and mind-paralyzing labor, for little or no reward.
Yet, the concentration of wealth is killing the world’s economy and will eventually put it six foot under. The super — let’s call them filthy — rich probably realize this but don’t care. When the revolution comes, it will be televised, but solely for their entertainment, as they watch from the comfort of their super yachts and fortress retreats, with cocktail in hand, the carnage and chaos their greed has caused.
It may sound like hyperbole, but where else is this merry go round going to end?
Most people are less concerned with chasing the dollar than they are living a life free of hassle and free from being exploited, being ripped off, and having their time, talent, and energy used and abused to make someone else’s life more comfortable than they could ever imagine, but for most that’s not an option.
The Oxfam report explains that a “broken” economic model underpinned by deregulation, privatization, and financial secrecy has seen the wealth of the richest 62 people jump by 44 percent in five years to US$1.76 trillion ($2.74 trillion).
By the same token, the wealth of the poorest 3.6 billion people plunged by 41 percent.
“The big winners in our global economy are those at the top. Our economic system is heavily skewed in their favor. Far from trickling down, income and wealth are instead being sucked upwards at an alarming rate.”
During those five years when the rich kept on getting richer and the poor kept on getting poorer, the Oxfam report states it could have been a dramatically different story if the rich did the right thing and splash some of their undeserved cash around the place.
“Had inequality within countries not grown during that period, an extra 200 million people would have escaped poverty. That could have risen to 700 million had poor people benefited more than the rich from economic growth.”
Here are some more stats for you to swallow.
Since the turn of the century, the world’s bottom half has received 1 percent of the total increase in global wealth, while half of that increase has gone to the top one percent. Sound good? Let us continue.
In China, the richest 1 percent of households own one-third of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 25 percent account for only one percent.
And in Britain, new data revealed growing house prices has led to the top 10 percent now owning nearly half of the country’s total private wealth.
Can we assume those 10 percent have certainly earned it through their blood, sweat, tears, and hard graft? The word “poppycock” certainly springs to mind.
The Oxfam report states that the growing problem of tax avoidance and use of tax havens was a prime example of how the economic system was “rigged” in the rich’s favor and must be stopped. Listen carefully and you can hear the corporate captains and the politicians all chuckling in unison at that one.
Oxfam is also calling for the tax burden to be more concentrated on wealth and capital as opposed to labor and consumption. They also want to see a higher minimum wage for all and for the influence of the powerful with vested interests to be kept in check. Again, cue the laughter.
The International Monetary Fund has warned the gap between rich and poor in advanced economies was now at its highest level in decades, making widening income inequality the “defining challenge of our time, because the benefits do not trickle down.”
The rich are getting richer, and they’re the only ones, but the bottom line is this: there’s enough wealth in the world for everyone to have a home and everyone to feed their families but they cannot. Why? Because they are lazy? Or because the system is rigged and grossly unfair?
I know which one I’m betting my money on.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers/Getty Images]