Quantcast

These 6 Men Have as Much Wealth as Half the World's Population

Popular

By Paul Buchheit

Yes, inequality is getting worse every year. In early 2016 Oxfam reported that just 62 individuals had the same wealth as the bottom half of humanity. About a year later Oxfam reported that just eight men had the same wealth as the world's bottom half. Based on the same methodology and data sources used by Oxfam, that number is now down to six.

How to account for the dramatic increase in the most flagrant and perverse of extreme inequalities? Two well-documented reasons:

1. The poorest half (and more) of the world has continued to lose wealth; and

2. The very richest individuals—especially the top thousand or so—continue to add billions of dollars to their massive fortunes.

Inequality deniers and apologists say the Oxfam methodology is flawed, but they're missing the big picture. Whether it's six individuals or 62 or 1,000 doesn't really matter. The data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook (GWD) and the Forbes Billionaire List provide the best available tools to make it clear that inequality is extreme and pathological and getting worse every year.

How It's Gone from 62 to Six in One Year

As of Feb. 17, the world's six richest individuals (all men) had $412 billion. Tables 2-4 and 3-4 of the 2016 GWD reveal that the poorest five deciles of the world population own just .16 percent of the $256 trillion in global wealth or $410 billion. That latter figure is based on mid-2016 data, but since then the status of the bottom 50 percent has not improved and has in fact likely worsened, as both global debt and global inequality have increased.

Just a year ago, on March 1, 2016, the world's six richest men had $343 billion. They're the same men today, although slightly rearranged as they play "king of the hill": Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Amancio Ortega, Mark Zuckerberg, Carlos Slim Helu (with Larry Ellison jockeying for position). The wealth of these six men increased by $69 billion in just one year.

Just a year ago, according to the 2015 GWD, the poorest five deciles of the world population owned much more than today, close to $1.5 trillion. What happened? It's very clear: the world's richest 10 percent (mostly the richest 1 percent) gained nearly $4 trillion while every other segment of the global population lost wealth.

That's worth a second look. The world's total wealth is about $256 trillion and in just one year the richest 10 percent drained nearly $4 trillion away from the rest of civilization.

It's Not Just the Bottom Half: A 500-Seat Auditorium Could Hold As Much Wealth as 70 percent of the World's Population

According to the Forbes Billionaire List, the world's richest 500 individuals have $4.73 trillion in wealth. Tables 2-4 and 3-4 of the GWD reveal that the poorest seven deciles of the world population own just 1.86 percent of the $256 trillion in global wealth or $4.76 trillion. That's more than two-thirds of all the people on Earth. That means 5,000,000,000 people—five billion people—have, on average and after debt is figured in, about a thousand dollars each in home and property and savings.

In the U.S., the Forbes 400 Own as Much as 3/5 of the American People

The bottom 60 percent of Americans, according to Table 6-5 in the GWD, own three percent of the nation's $85 trillion in total wealth or $2.55 trillion. The Forbes 400 owned $2.4 trillion in October 2016 and that's been steadily increasing.

So as apologists like the National Review refer to "a growing upper-middle class" of people earning more than $100,000 a year, they're inadvertently offering an explanation for the demise of the middle class: Some are moving up, way up; many others are dropping to the lower-middle-class or below. The once sizable and stable middle of America is splitting into two.

The Deniers Are Lurking

The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby calls the Oxfam analysis "irrelevant." Reuters contributor Felix Salmon calls it a "silly stat."

Jacoby's column includes some stunning assertions. He said, "Just as capitalism made it possible for Gates, Zuckerberg and the others to reach the highest rung on the economic ladder, it is making it possible for billions of men and women to climb up from the lowest rung. Oxfam's billionaires are richer than they used to be. So is almost everyone else." And he quotes writer Johan Norberg: "Poverty as we know it is disappearing from our planet."

Billions moving up? Almost everyone getting richer? Poverty disappearing?

While we keep hearing about the world "climbing out of poverty," much of the alleged improvement is due to rapid economic growth in China and creative math on the part of the UN. And yes, many Americans have negative wealth because of debt. A human being doesn't have to live in a third-world slum to be impoverished.

Yet as inequality ravages the American and world economies, denial grows right along with it. Cato's Michael Tanner suggests that "even if inequality were growing as fast as critics claim, it would not necessarily be a problem." George Will, of course, agrees. But like the other deniers, they all protest too much as they try to explain away reality.

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of U.S. Uncut Chicago. His latest book is, Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income. He is also founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org) and the editor and main author of American Wars: Illusions and Realities (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul [at] UsAgainstGreed [dot] org. Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Somalians fight against hunger and lack of water due to drought as Turkish Ambassador to Somalia, Olgan Bekar (not seen) visits the a camp near the Mogadishu's rural side in Somalia on March 25, 2017. Sadak Mohamed / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

World hunger is on the rise for the third consecutive year after decades of decline, a new United Nations (UN) report says. The climate crisis ranks alongside conflict as the top cause of food shortages that force more than 821 million people worldwide to experience chronic hunger. That number includes more than 150 million children whose growth is stunted due to a lack of food.

Read More Show Less
Eduardo Velev cools off in the spray of a fire hydrant during a heatwave on July 1, 2018 in Philadelphia. Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

By Adrienne L. Hollis

Because extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather hazards we currently face, Union of Concerned Scientist's Killer Heat Report for the U.S. is the most important document I have read. It is a veritable wake up call for all of us. It is timely, eye-opening, transparent and factual and it deals with the stark reality of our future if we do not make changes quickly (think yesterday). It is important to ensure that we all understand it. Here are 10 terms that really help drive home the messages in the heat report and help us understand the ramifications of inaction.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
Senator Graham returns after playing a round of golf with Trump on Oct. 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Ron Sachs – Pool / Getty Images

Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Senate Republican who has been a close ally of Donald Trump, did not mince words last week on the climate crisis and what he thinks the president needs to do about it.

Read More Show Less
A small Bermuda cedar tree sits atop a rock overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. todaycouldbe / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Marlene Cimons

Kyle Rosenblad was hiking a steep mountain on the island of Maui in the summer of 2015 when he noticed a ruggedly beautiful tree species scattered around the landscape. Curious, and wondering what they were, he took some photographs and showed them to a friend. They were Bermuda cedars, a species native to the island of Bermuda, first planted on Maui in the early 1900s.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
krisanapong detraphiphat / Moment / Getty Images

By Grace Francese

You may know that many conventional oat cereals contain troubling amounts of the carcinogenic pesticide glyphosate. But another toxic pesticide may be contaminating your kids' breakfast. A new study by the Organic Center shows that almost 60 percent of the non-organic milk sampled contains residues of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide scientists say is unsafe at any concentration.

Read More Show Less
The compound of German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer in Berlin. ODD ANDERSEN / AFP / Getty Images

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria announced his ruling in San Francisco on Monday.

Read More Show Less
A Masai giraffe and sunset at Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Ayzenstayn / Moment / Getty Images

Another subspecies of giraffe is now officially endangered, conservation scientists announced Thursday.

Read More Show Less