Tags: Oxfam | wealth | rich | poor

Oxfam: Wealth Disparity Could Threaten Social Order in Many Nations

By John Morgan   |   Wednesday, 22 Jan 2014 07:39 AM

The 85 richest people in the world now control as much wealth as the poorest half of the people on earth, according to an Oxfam analysis titled "Working for the Few."

The United States is at the top of the list of countries where income disparity between the richest and poorest people is growing, according to Oxfam, a nonprofit group that focuses on global poverty.

The phenomenon amounts to more than a fairness issue or even a moral issue, Oxfam noted.

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"This massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a significant threat to inclusive political and economic systems. Instead of moving forward together, people are increasingly separated by economic and political power, inevitably heightening social tensions and increasing the risk of societal breakdown," the report stated.

Among the findings:

• In the United States, 95 percent of the wealth generated since 2009 has flowed into the bank accounts of the wealthiest 1 percent.

• In 24 of 26 major nations, the richest 1 percent have increased their share of wealth since 1980.

• An estimated 65 percent of low-wage earners in the United States believe that Congress passes laws that predominantly benefit the wealthy.

• The wealth of the 1 percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion, 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world's population.

According to Oxfam, the growing disparity tends to result in "political capture" of societies by the ultra-wealthy, which is often evidenced by financial deregulation, skewed tax systems with rules that make tax evasion easy, "austerity economics" and the accumulation of basic resources such as oil into the hands of a few.

Software billionaire Bill Gates has a world wealth view that is wildly more optimistic than Oxfam's, however.

In a letter accompanying his foundation's annual report, the Microsoft founder says that the rising tide of prosperity is actually lifting many boats around the world.

Gates predicts that the pace of modern change and innovation is actually transforming the world into a better place.

"I am optimistic enough about this that I am willing to make a prediction. By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. (I mean by our current definition of poor.)," he writes.

"Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer. Countries will learn from their most productive neighbors and benefit from innovations like new vaccines, better seeds, and the digital revolution. Their labor forces, buoyed by expanded education, will attract new investments."

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