Global Inequality, American Inequality

Two recent reports show us just how disgusting, alarming, and immoral our problem with inequality has become. 

The first takes a global scope and comes out of the international anti-poverty group Oxfam. Issued last month and titled “An Economy for the 1%”, the report finds that 62 billionaires now own as much wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people around the world. 

Even worse, the richest 1% now have more wealth than the rest of the world combined, it finds. Tax havens provide plutocrats one of their favorite methods of shielding wealth.

But the problem not only concerns an increase in inequality, Oxfam finds. It also involves a dramatic drop in the wealth of ordinary people. Between 2010 and 2015, the wealth of the 62 richest increased by 44%. In that same span of time, the wealth of the “bottom half” fell by 41%, just over a trillion dollars. 

“Since the turn of the century, the poorest half of the world’s population has received just 1% of the total increase in global wealth, while half of that increase has gone to the top 1%,” the report states.

And then there is the situation in America. 

On the evening of the Iowa caucus, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders referenced an Institute for Policy Studies report issued in December and co-written by Patriotic Millionaire Chuck Collins. “It is not fair when the 20 wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of America,” Sanders said. 

He wasn’t exaggerating. 

The Institute for Policy Studies report, titled ”Billionaire Bonanza: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us”, found that just 20 individuals now own more wealth than the bottom half of the U.S. population, or 152 million people living in 57 million households.

According to the report, “the wealthiest 100 households now own about as much wealth as the entire African American population in the United States,” and “the wealthiest 186 members of the Forbes 400 own as much wealth as the entire Latino population.”

Collins spoke to the Nation about the report. “Our wealth data is a tip of the iceberg,” he said. “So much wealth among the über-rich is hidden, either in offshore tax havens or in these loophole trusts where money is shuffled around into private corporate accounts or between different family members, and it disappears from taxation or any sort of oversight or accountability. So there’s a huge amount of escaped wealth that isn’t even factored into these statistics.” 

The situation in America mirrors the situation out in the rest of the world, in other words.

Share these reports with friends and family — here is Oxfam’s, here is the Institute for Policy Studies’ — internalize their message.

This is our reality in 2016. It is immoral and un-American. Let’s change it.

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