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The combined wealth of eight men is greater than the poorest 3.6 billion people, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam International.
This is a massive jump from last year's estimate, which cited the world's 62 richest people having a combined wealth equal to the poorest 50 percent of the population on the planet.
Oxfam's report, An Economy for the 99%, details the widening inequality of global wealth. The report will be presented at the World Economic Forum annual summit, beginning Jan. 17 in Davos, Switzerland. The attendees will include the top business executives, policy makers and academics.
Oxfam's goal is to draw attention to political and economic forces creating widening inequality.
"It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day," said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, who will be attending the meeting in Davos. "Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy."
The combined wealth of these eight men is greater than 164 countries GDPs:
- Microsoft founder Bill Gates, $75 billion
- Spanish retail magnate Amancio Ortega, $67 billion
- American investor Warren Buffett, $60.8 billion
- Mexican investor Carlos Slim Helu, $50 billion
- Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, $45.2 billion
- Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, $44.6 billion
- Oracle founder Larry Ellison, $43.6 billion
- Media mogul Michael Bloomberg, $40 billion
Many of these top eight men have already pledged vast amounts of their fortunes to charity.
Oxfam found that incomes of the poorest people increased a meager $65 between 1988 and 2011, or $3 annually. The incomes of the wealthiest 10 percent, on the other hand, added a whopping 182 times during the same time period.
A report released December 2016 by economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman found that 117 million American adults are living on income stagnated at $16,200 a year, before taxes and transfer payments. It concluded that the lower half of the U.S. population has been "shut off from economic growth over the past 40 years."
Tax avoidance by corporations and mega-wealthy individuals are escalating inequality between the rich and poor at a staggering rate. Oxfam's report contends that the wealthiest people and corporations are using a sophisticated network of tax havens. As a result, they are not paying their fair share. That enormous sum of money not being taxed is desperately needed by government agencies for aging infrastructure, social assistance and future-proofing cities for more extreme weather.
According to the report, it's the inequality that is holding back economies.
"Global leaders are very aware now of the fact that if stark inequality continues at this level, it has a global economic impact," said Jim Clarken, chief executive of Oxfam, Ireland. "This is not something that is inevitable. This is something that is a result of policy choices, and can be changed with the right kinds of policy choices."
Oxfam is urging governments to increase tax transparency and halt tax avoidance by multi-national corporations.
The organization believes that governments should be designed for the bottom 99 percent of the income earners rather than the top wealthiest one percent. Mandatory public lobby registries with stricter rules on conflicts of interest would curtail this widening gap of disparity.
According to the report:
"Some of the super-rich also use their fortunes to help buy the political outcomes they want, seeking to influence elections and public policy. The Koch brothers, two of the richest men in the world, have had a huge influence over conservative politics in the U.S., supporting many influential think tanks and the Tea Party movement and contributing heavily to discrediting the case for action on climate change. This active political influencing by the super-rich and their representatives directly drives greater inequality by constructing 'reinforcing feedback loops' in which the winners of the game get yet more resources to win even bigger next time."
"From Brexit to the success of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, a worrying rise in racism and the widespread disillusionment with mainstream politics, there are increasing signs that more and more people in rich countries are no longer willing to tolerate the status quo," cautioned Oxfam's new report.
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