The wealth-and-income divide continues to widen globally amid a growing wave of government repression of free expression and human rights, according to a recently released report from Oxfam International. Just 26 individuals now own as much wealth as 50 percent of the rest of humanity, some 3.75 billion people, Oxfam found.
The fortunes of the world's billionaires increased 12 percent, or $2.5 billion per day, in 2018, while those of the poorest 50 percent of humanity declined 11 percent, according to Oxfam's Public Good or Private Wealth, which was released as central bankers and political leaders, including Brazil's newly elected president, Jair Bolsonaro, joined the world's wealthiest for this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In a pattern that's being reproduced in a growing number of countries, Bolsonaro is purging any and all opponents to his policies and government, "leftists" specifically, under the guise of building a safe, open society and government free of ideology, special interests, and corruption.
“The size of your bank account should not dictate how many years your children spend in school, or how long you live – yet this is the reality in too many countries across the globe. While corporations and the super-rich enjoy low tax bills, millions of girls are denied a decent education and women are dying for lack of maternity care,” Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said for a press release.
A new billionaire every two days
The number of billionaires worldwide has almost doubled since the latest financial crisis. A newly minted billionaire emerged every two days between 2017 and 2018. Yet even amid widening gaps in wealth and income, they're paying lower tax rates than they have in decades, Oxfam highlights.
Furthermore, Oxfam found that governments are increasingly unable to fund basic public services, so they're turning to privatization. The result is that a decent education, housing and health care now cost more than ever and are increasingly only affordable for the rich.
"Every day 10,000 people die because they lack access to affordable healthcare. In developing countries, a child from a poor family is twice as likely to die before the age of five than a child from a rich family. In countries like Kenya a child from a rich family will spend twice as long in education as one from a poor family," the report authors highlight.
Cutting taxes primarily benefits those who already have some wealth -- men, who own 50 percent more wealth than women worldwide, and control 86 percent of corporations, according to Oxfam. Those most vulnerable and without resources or recourse, mainly poor women and children, suffer most when public services are cut.
According to Oxfam's estimates, a single company would earn annual revenue of $10 trillion— 43 times Apple's annual revenue— if it performed and was paid for all the unpaid work done by women globally.
“People across the globe are angry and frustrated. Governments must now deliver real change by ensuring corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax and invest this money in free healthcare and education that meets the needs of everyone - including women and girls whose needs are so often overlooked. Governments can build a brighter future for everyone – not just a privileged few,” Byanyima said.
Some other eye-opening findings from Oxfam's report:
- Getting the richest one percent to pay just 0.5 percent extra tax on their wealth could raise more money than it would cost to educate the 262 million children out of school and provide healthcare that would save the lives of 3.3 million people.
- Just four cents in every dollar of tax revenue collected globally came from taxes on wealth such as inheritance or property in 2015. These types of tax have been reduced or eliminated in many rich countries and are barely implemented in the developing world.
- Tax rates for wealthy individuals and corporations have also been cut dramatically. For example, the top rate of personal income tax in rich countries fell from 62 percent in 1970 to just 38 percent in 2013. The average rate in poor countries is just 28 percent.
- In some countries, such as Brazil, the poorest 10 percent of society are now paying a higher proportion of their incomes in tax than the richest 10 percent.
*Images credit: Oxfam International, Public Good or Private Wealth report, Jan. 2019