Not in America, or a single country, but the entire world. Oxfam, an international anti-poverty group and development charity, released a report indicating that half of the world’s fortune belongs to 85 people, most of which are American, not surprisingly.
The findings by Oxfam are staggering. Oxfam’s report showed that the combined amount of the world’s wealthiest one percent is around $110 trillion, 65 times the wealth of the world’s bottom half. Seven out of 10 of the one percent live in countries where income inequality has drastically increased in the last 30 years.
Winnie Byanyima, the Oxfam executive director, said: “It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world’s population – that’s three and a half billion people – own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus.”
But of all countries, the United States has seen the largest accruement of wealth.
In the post-Recession recovery since 2009, America’s wealthiest one percent reaped 95 of the growth while 90 of the country’s poor got poorer. From 2008 to 2012, 20 percent of the national income also went to the top one percent wealthiest Americans. The number of the world’s wealthy is increasing, and they are also getting richer.
Since the beginning of 2013, 210 more people became billionaires, and their wealth has only snowballed. America’s wealthy recovered quickly after the financial recession, taking only three years to regain their losses since 2009. Lower and middle class wages have stagnated, however, and has done so since 1980. Income share for America’s top one percent has risen almost 150 percent since that year. If income share for the wealthy remained the same since 1980, the 99 percent would have an $6,000 more income annually.
Oxfam indicated that this increase in wealth is attributed to, among many things, offshore banks accounts. Offshore banks impose little or no taxes on this money, therefore increasing one’s net worth. According to the report, about $21 trillion is “held unrecorded and offshore.” Oxfam also noted financial deregulation’s relationship with increased wealth.
Oxfam indicated a correlative relationship between deregulation and wealth. During the peak of financial regulation in the 60s and 70s, the top one percent saw a decrease in their income share. That trend turned around 1980 when the government lessened financial regulation. With the increase of financial deregulation, income share for the wealthy skyrocketed nearly 20 percent.
The result of similar financial trends across the world is ever-growing, worldwide income inequality. At the root, financial regulation seems to be the key to offsetting the world’s income inequality. This has proven to be a difficult task as wealthy individuals have the funds to support elected officials that will pass laws that suit their greedy interests.
“Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table,” Byanyima said.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.