Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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

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

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.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' "Doomsday Clock" — an estimate of how close humanity is to the apocalypse — remains at 100 seconds to zero for 2021. Eva Hambach / AFP / Getty Images

By Brett Wilkins

One hundred seconds to midnight. That's how close humanity is to the apocalypse, and it's as close as the world has ever been, according to Wednesday's annual announcement from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group that has been running its "Doomsday Clock" since the early years of the nuclear age in 1947.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The 13th North Atlantic right whale calf with their mother off Wassaw Island, Georgia on Jan. 19, 2010. @GeorgiaWild, under NOAA permit #20556

North Atlantic right whales are in serious trouble, but there is hope. A total of 14 new calves of the extremely endangered species have been spotted this winter between Florida and North Carolina.

Read More Show Less

Trending

There are new lifestyle "medicines" that are free that doctors could be prescribing for all their patients. Marko Geber / Getty Images

By Yoram Vodovotz and Michael Parkinson

The majority of Americans are stressed, sleep-deprived and overweight and suffer from largely preventable lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Being overweight or obese contributes to the 50% of adults who suffer high blood pressure, 10% with diabetes and additional 35% with pre-diabetes. And the costs are unaffordable and growing. About 90% of the nearly $4 trillion Americans spend annually for health care in the U.S. is for chronic diseases and mental health conditions. But there are new lifestyle "medicines" that are free that doctors could be prescribing for all their patients.

Read More Show Less
Candles spell out, "Fight for 1 point 5" in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany on Dec. 11, 2020, in reference to 1.5°C of Earth's warming. The event was organized by the Fridays for Future climate movement. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Taking an unconventional approach to conduct the largest-ever poll on climate change, the United Nations' Development Program and the University of Oxford surveyed 1.2 million people across 50 countries from October to December of 2020 through ads distributed in mobile gaming apps.

Read More Show Less
A monarch butterfly is perched next to an adult caterpillar on a milkweed plant, the only plant the monarch will lay eggs on and the caterpillar will eat. Cathy Keifer / Getty Images

By Tara Lohan

Fall used to be the time when millions of monarch butterflies in North America would journey upwards of 2,000 miles to warmer winter habitat.

Read More Show Less