The income inequality that is strangling our middle class has been spread to the rest of the world by the insidious tentacles of Wall Street and casino capitalism, as the working people of the world continue to be crushed at the expense of the very rich. In the battle between labor and capital, where labor represents the average middle class worker looking to make a reasonable life for her/his family, laborers are losing to the accumulation of capital by the selfish oligarchs in the world. “Global inequality is growing, with half the world’s wealth now in the hands of just 1% of the population,” according to a new research report from Credit Suisse.
According to the report, about 70% of the adult population in the world has wealth of less than $10,000, where wealth is understood to be the value of assets (including property and stock market investments) – measured in U.S. dollars. There are 34 million millionaires, with 45,000 people holding wealth in excess of $100 million, and of these, 536 are American billionaires out of a record 1,826 total worldwide.
Consider that each billion dollars is one thousand million dollars and that 600 of these bundles of money are held by the top 10 wealthiest people in the world – seven are Americans. According Forbes, there were a record 290 newcomers to the billionaire’s list. But what is truly revealing is that 25 years ago in 1990, there were less than a total of 100 billionaires worldwide.
The glaring and inexcusable reality of global capitalism comes into greater focus when you consider that there are approximately 4.2 billion adults in the world, with the world’s estimated wealth around $250 trillion – $135 trillion of that wealth is in the hands of just 4 million of that 4.2 billion. This ghastly accumulation of such extreme wealth by so few had been anticipated: “Oxfam had warned that 1% of the world’s population would own more wealth than the other 99% by next year…The fact it has happened a year early – just weeks after world leaders agreed a global goal to reduce inequality – shows just how urgently world leaders need to tackle this problem…“
These statistics are shocking and overwhelming, and they are supposed to be. However, what gets lost is that they are more than about numbers as they really are reflective of the nature and quality of people’s lives. This issue though, has certainly not gone unnoticed by Democrats and certain world leaders. These folks have been at the forefront – recognizing this moral and economic crisis of wealth that income disparity has created in the lives of people who work for a living:
Bernie Sanders has built his campaign, in fact his entire career recognizing the need to tackle the problem:
“The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time, and it is the great political issue of our time…There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent…There is something profoundly wrong when 58 percent of all new income since the Wall Street crash has gone to the top one percent.”
In response Hillary Clinton has said:
“As Secretary of State I saw the way extreme inequality has corrupted other societies, hobbled growth and left entire generations alienated and unmoored…The dream of upward mobility that made this country a model for the world feels further and further out of reach and many Americans understandably feel frustrated, even angry.”
And, Pope Francis has said:
“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
The Republicans, of course, have an answer to the devastating economic problems created by the disproportionate wealth accumulation – by so few at the expense of so many. It has been to put through massive cuts to social safety net programs while cutting taxes for the wealthy – providing for corporate welfare, while showing a lack of willingness to do anything about the overseas tax havens that have allowed their corporate and wealthy benefactors to hide billions.
Republicans have offered economic justification for their policies – Reagonomics – after their patron saint President Ronald Reagan, also known as trickle-down economics, or supply-side economics. But, in the end these are historically discredited immoral policies – rhetoric that claims ‘the rising-tide-lifts-all-boats ’ and they have done nothing to help poor and working Americans who struggle each day to provide for themselves and their families. The question is: Do we really want to live in a world where the top 1% controls more wealth than the bottom 50%?
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.