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#Oxfam – “Wealth: Having it all and wanting more”

The Oxfam report, published ahead of Davos 2015 World Economic Forum, a gathering that brings world’s billionaires and politicians together, could not be named any better. “Wealth: Having it all and wanting more”. The work Oxfam did and the data they have collected is an eye opener and the report contains not only summarized information but also detailed numerical data to back up the findings.

The report begins with a strong statement on global wealth: “Global wealth is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of small wealthy elite. These wealthy individuals have generated and sustained their vast riches through their interests and activities in a few important economic sectors, including finance and pharmaceuticals/healthcare.”

Anyone who is even slightly interested in social, economic issues, anyone who has any doubts and questions about what is happening to our world should read this short 12 page report and study the supplementary Excel spreadsheet that provides the detailed data and information supporting the report.  It is an easy read and we must congratulate Oxfam for this important work.

Here are some highlights from the report:

We are the 99%: In 2014, the richest 1% of people in the world owned 48% of global wealth, leaving just 52% to be shared between the other 99% of adults on the planet

Global Trend of getting richer: If this trend continues of an increasing wealth share to the richest, the top 1% will have more wealth than the remaining 99% of people in just two years

During the height of the economic crisis in the word: Wealth of the 80 richest people in the world has doubled in nominal terms between 2009 and 2014, while the wealth of the bottom 50% is lower in 2014 than it was in 2009.

More money in less number of pockets: Number of billionaires it takes to have accumulated the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50% of the global population: In 2010 it was 388, in 2014 just 80

Pick and choose: Wealthy individuals have generated and sustained their riches through interests and activities in a few important economic sectors

The very few rich men in a few places, many started as already rich:  In 2014 there were 1,645 people listed by Forbes as being billionaires. This group of people is far from being globally representative. Almost 30% of them (492 people) are citizens of the USA. Over one-third of billionaires started from a position of wealth, with 34% of them having inherited some or all of their riches. This group is predominately male and greying; with 85% of these people aged over 50 years and 90% of them male.

Billionaires of the Financial Sector - the Bankers: Richest 10 billionaires (ranked in 2013) who have made (at least part of) their fortunes from activities related to the financial sector, and their increase in wealth between March 2013 and March 2014. These people are from United States (5), Russia (2), Saudi Arabia (1), Brazil (1) and Colombia (1), of the 10, 9 are males.

Our health their wealth: Richest 10 billionaires (ranked in 2013) who have made (at least part of) their fortunes from activities related to the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, and their increase in wealth between March 2013 and March 2014. 9 men, 1 women; they are from USA (3), Switzerland (2), India (2), Germany (2), Italy (1).

In USA the rich buy power:Companies from the finance and pharmaceutical sectors spent millions of dollars in 2013 on lobbying. During 2013, the finance sector spent more than $400m on lobbying in the USA alone. During the election cycle of 2012, $571m was spent by companies from this sector on campaign contributions. During 2013, the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors spent more than $487m on lobbying in the USA alone

In the EU the rich buy power:In the EU, an estimated $150m is spent by financial sector lobbyists towards EU institutions every year. At least $50m is spent by the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry on lobbying each year in the EU,

Lobbying about what matters for the rich: The most prolific lobbying activities in the us are on budget and tax issues

For too long the corporate media, politicians, the rich elites of this world have been telling us their version of the global economic story and wanted us to believe it without much questions asked. Any serious questions and attempts to narrate alternative stories were dismissed as ‘left lunatics’ or ‘impossible idealism’.

In fact, their facts and supposedly unchallengeable ‘realities’ are a collection of masterfully crafted myths and stomach turning lies. Let us look at some of these myths and lies in the light of the Oxfam report.

Myth 1: “There is no money”– Haven’t we heard this so many, in fact far too many times. For hospitals, schools, social welfare, in fact for many other public services, for social housing; for Syrian refugees, for the Ebola crisis, for migrants dying at sea, you name it. Whatever problem that hurts the ordinary, decent, hardworking people, whatever these people deserve, whatever is a humanitarian crisis, there is never ever money for those things. But obviously there is money, a lot of money in the hands of a small minority.

Myth 2:  “We must share the pain, we are in this together” – The masses of workers, young, elderly, unemployed people in Europe and North America have been suffering from waves of austerity measures and cuts. Rising unemployment and poverty is making the lives of millions of people a misery. Whether the boat is sinking or not, it is clear that we, the ordinary people and the elites of rich circles are not on the same boat. Isn’t it interesting, during the times of a massive economic crisis and all related issues, how the concentration of wealth hasn’t changed and in fact the rich have become even richer.

Myth 3:  “We live in a democracy” – True, we elect our politicians and governments but do we really have much control and say in what they do when in power. We may have a version of political democracy of going to the ballot box but when it comes to economic-social policies and implementing these clearly we don’t have the kind of economic democracy that matters so much to our lives. In many parts of the world there may be a one person one vote system but millions spent on election campaigns are a proof of how elections can be influenced by not democratic debates but by hard currency. The millions spend on lobbying is the evidence of how much the rich and the corporate powers can influence the policy decisions of political executives. We live in a free-market democracy. We are free to vote and some others are free to buy political influence and power regardless of our votes. Davos World Economic Forum is just one of the examples of how the political leaders see it as their duty to meet and listen to the billionaires of the world.

Myth 4:  “The wealth trickles down”– This is another well-articulated myth. It present the situation as if the rich guys work hard and produce the wealth; keep most but give some of it to do people. In fact workers produce the most significant amount of the wealth; keep a tiny bit as wages and the rest goes to the capitalists. Given the rising, in some cases extreme, global inequality, and that there are chronically poor societies, given that in many countries the workers have suffered loss of earnings while the some at the top continued to increase their wealth is a clear sign that wealth does not trickle downwards but sucked upwards.

Myth 5:  “The old class division is gone. The working class as we knew it doesn’t exist anymore. The class politics is a thing of the past”– When billionaires and political leaders - broadly from the same capitalist political world view - gather in Davos to discuss world’s economic and political issues; strategize and fantasise; eat dinners that cost a lot more than the monthly minimum wage of a worker, not only the class division still exist, but also the class politics is alive and relevant. When all of the wealth on this earth is produced by workers but distributed so badly, mostly benefiting only a minority class of people at the top, the class politics is still necessary to understand this world. The working class is still exploited for profits. When the mouthpieces of capitalism declare that the class politics is over, they hope that we accept the terms of conditions of their capitalist system and never challenge it, whatever the cost to our lives may be.

Myth 6:  “There is nothing we can do. We must elect better leaders to do better jobs”– There is so much we can do, and a lot is being done. If the entire problem of inequality and class division in the world is so evident, this system of inherent failures cannot be fixed by just electing the right guys to power. For hundreds of years, everything people gained were mostly due to their struggles in many fronts. Organised mass protests, resistance movements, grass-root fight backs, social revolts and revolutions have been a key part of these struggles and wins. Elections are important but only up to a point, only as a small tool. It is the bottom up, grassroot people power that matters not the replacement of old politicians at the top with some new politicians, only to continue to manage and run the system...

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