To paraphrase New Deal President Franklin Roosevelt, what good is political equality when there is still economic inequality? Answer: not much, as an Oxfam International report released earlier this month suggests.
Timed to coincide with the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, Oxfam’s “The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all” states that the “annual income of the world’s 100 richest people [is] enough to end global poverty four times over.”
Oxfam notes that while progress has been made in eradicating extreme poverty, rising levels of inequality are a growing concern. “In the last decade, the focus has been exclusively on one half of the inequality equation—ending extreme poverty,” the group reports. “But as we look to the next decade, and [to] new development goals we need to define progress, we must demonstrate that we are also tackling inequality—and that means looking at not just the poorest but the richest.”
The richest 100 individuals worldwide had a net income of $240 billion in 2012 alone, notes Oxfam. And in the past 20 years, the net worth of the top 1 percent of wealth holders has risen by 60 percent, “with the financial crisis accelerating rather than slowing the process.”
“We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many,” argues Oxfam International’s executive director, Jeremy Hobbs. “Too often the reverse is true.” Inequality, the report explains, depresses economic growth except for the production and sale of luxuries, limits social mobility, contributes to obesity and poor mental health and encourages crime and violence.
“In a world where even basic resources such as land and water are increasingly scarce,” Hobbs continues, “we cannot afford to concentrate assets in the hands of a few and leave the many to struggle over what’s left.”
Setting a goal for the year 2025, Oxfam is calling for inequality to be reduced to 1990 levels. In order to accomplish this, it suggests closing corporate tax havens and increasing investment in public safety nets and services.
“Reducing inequality is a key part of fighting poverty and securing a sustainable future for all,” the report reads. “In a world of finite resources, we cannot end poverty unless we reduce inequality.”•
You can download the report at: http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/cost-of-inequality-oxfam-mb180113.pdf.