Reports on rising inequality, exploitation, poverty and hunger show that we live in a world dominated by the super-rich and big business. Oxfam’s latest report on inequality tells us the same thing.
We live in a world of billionaires where people like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet and the Ambanis own more wealth than the poorest four billion people in the world; a world where companies like Apple are worth more than the GDP of countries like India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia and Nigeria – the American asset management company “Blackstone” now manages assets of a worth over $10 trillion; and a world where the rich are getting richer at an unprecedented rate with a simultaneous increase in poverty and hunger. The gap between rich and poor is widening at an alarming rate.
The staggering wealth amassed by the super-rich is the result of the unbridled exploitation of the working class and natural resources. This wealth has been created by low wages, worse working and living conditions, cuts in social spending and the concentration of the factors of production in the hands of the capitalist class.
Oxfam’s Executive Director, Gabriela Bucher, rightly pointed out, following the release of the report on rising global inequality, that “billionaires have had a terrible pandemic. Central banks pumped trillions of dollars into financial markets to save the economy, but much of that money ended up lining the pockets of billionaires in the midst of a stock market boom.
“At such a pace and on such a scale, inequality is happening by choice, not by chance. Not only have our economic structures made us all less secure against this pandemic, but they actively allow those who are already extremely wealthy and powerful to exploit this crisis for their own gain.
Inequality has already reached unprecedented levels due to neoliberal economic policies, and it has become a new norm in 21st century capitalism. It seems that the capitalist ruling classes around the world have accepted rising inequality as a norm. They find it incredibly difficult to address the problem of growing inequality due to the fierce resistance and opposition from the elite and billionaires to the measures needed to reduce or eliminate this inequality.
These measures and policies include raising taxes on the rich, imposing a wealth tax, wage increases and social spending to address inequality and declining living standards. They oppose the role of the state in redistributing wealth in society. Any state intervention in the economy and the redistribution of wealth through progressive taxation and a social safety net is fiercely opposed.
Over the past four decades, the global elite and ruling class have structured the economy to favor capital over labor. They have created conditions that aggressively support capital whenever it faces resistance from wage laborers and sections of society. This is “structural inequality” and it requires structural changes in the economy to make it more favorable to wage workers and to make our world more equal, just and equitable.
Oxfam releases its annual Inequality Report every January a few days before the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The WEF is an annual gathering of capitalist leaders, billionaires, government officials and representatives of the ruling classes from around the world to discuss the challenges facing the capitalist system. World leaders give speeches to express their concerns about rising inequality, falling living standards, climate change and other issues. But they barely follow their words with actions to address these key issues facing humanity.
Each year, Oxfam’s report reveals how our world has become more unjust, unjust and unequal compared to the previous year. This year’s report is no different, showing how billionaires added $5 trillion to their wealth during the Covid-19 pandemic. The report was released ahead of the World Economic Forum’s virtual event “The Davos Agenda 2022”.
The Oxfam report has once again revealed that the wealth of billionaires has grown even faster during the pandemic than in the previous 14 years. The super-rich have added $5 trillion to their wealth in the last two years of the Covid-19 pandemic. The 10 richest men in the world have doubled their wealth from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion, at an average rate of $1.3 billion a day over the past two years.
The billionaire class amassed this wealth when millions of people lost their jobs and fell into poverty and hunger, and when unemployment peaked. During this period, wages also fell sharply.
Oxfam called this inequality “economic violence” and added that this inequality contributes to the death of 21,000 people every day due to lack of access to healthcare, gender-based violence, hunger and climate change. .
Oxfam says the total wealth of billionaires rose from $8.6 trillion in March 2020 to $13.8 trillion in November 2021 – a bigger increase than in the previous 14 years combined. He suggests that governments should tax the gains made by the super-rich during the pandemic and use the money to fund health systems, pay for vaccines, fight discrimination and tackle the climate crisis.
Without a radical change in economic structures and policies, global inequalities will continue to increase. Every year we will discover that a handful of the super-rich have gotten richer at the expense of the vast majority of the world’s population. We need a progressive economic agenda to tackle growing inequality.
The author is a freelance journalist.