World’s Top 1 Percent Own Over Half of Global Wealth

The world’s top 1 percent has more wealth than the world’s bottom 99 percent, which is confirmed again by the new Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report. Anything near that level of inequality is a tremendously immoral and destabilizing force in the world.

Anti-poverty advocates on Tuesday implored world leaders to combat the massive wealth gap described in the annual Global Wealth Report released by Credit Suisse, which showed that the world’s richest one percent own just over half of the global wealth.

“This report highlights the huge gulf between the haves and the have nots—the world’s richest one percent own more than everyone else combined while the poorest half of the population share less than a penny of every pound of wealth,” said Katy Chakrabortty, head of advocacy for Oxfam, in a statement.

At the height of the global financial meltdown in 2008, the world’s richest people held 42.5 percent of the global wealth, compared with 50.1 percent today. Thirty-six million people with over a million dollars make up just 0.7 percent of the global population, but control 46 percent of the world’s $280 trillion dollars.

Meanwhile, 3.5 billion people who make up the world’s least wealthy adults each have assets of less than $10,000. These adults account for 70 percent of people who are of working age.

The group is disproportionately represented in developing countries. “In some low-income countries in Africa, the percentage of the population in this wealth group is close to 100 percent,” according to Credit Suisse’s report.

The Global Wealth Report also presents a dire outlook for the world’s young adults, referred to in the document as “unlucky millennials.” Adults between the ages of 20 and 29 especially “faced the rigors of the financial crisis and the high unemployment that followed in many countries, and have also been widely hammered by high housing prices, rising student debt, and increasing inequality,” according to the report.

Despite being better educated than their parents’ generation, “millennials are not only likely to experience greater challenges in building their wealth over time, but also greater wealth inequality than previous generations.”

“We expect only a minority of high achievers and those in high demand sectors such as technology or finance to effectively overcome the ‘millennial disadvantage’,” said Urs Rohner, Credit Suisse’s chairman, in an interview with the Guardian.

Oxfam noted that the report is just the latest sign that the world’s poorest have the deck stacked against them, recalling the recent release of the Paradise Papers, which showed how the rich hide their wealth in order to avoid paying the taxes that stand to shore up public services that, when well-funded, benefit the whole population.

“The recent Paradise Papers revelations laid bare one of the main drivers of inequality—tax dodging by rich individuals and multinationals,” said Chakrabortty. “Governments should act to tackle extreme inequality that is undermining economies around the world, dividing societies, and making it harder than ever for the poorest to improve their lives.”

The Economic Inequality the Trump Regime is Seeking to Worsen

Today’s congressional Republican tax schemes are obviously designed to benefit the richest people in the United States at the expense of most of the population. Honest analysis after analysis reveals the absurd benefits the proposals would grant to rich people, who are generally doing more than well enough financially.

It should be noted that there’s already an extreme level of inequality in the United States — a country where the top 1 percent already controls about 40 percent of the wealth. The top 0.1 percent of people there already have the same or more wealth than the bottom 90 percent do. Another way of putting that is to explain that — with the U.S. having a population around 330 million — 330,000 people have equivalent wealth to 300 million. The number of people who could reside in a city of moderate size therefore have more wealth than the vast majority of the country’s occupants.

There’s perhaps a comparatively worse statistic, and that’s to note that the 400 richest people in the U.S. have more wealth than the poorest 190 million there do. The number of people who could fit together in a medium-sized church are richer than over half the country’s occupants combined. This comprises part of an inequality so extreme that it’s possibly the highest in history.

There are plenty of problems that either have began with or have been made worse by this severe economic inequality, and they’re becoming all the more apparent with corrupt billionaires directly running parts of the government now. The problems include: an unjust concentration of power at the top that has a pervasively negative effect on democracy, a significant poverty level that includes a 20 percent child poverty rate in world history’s richest country, and a life expectancy gap of 15 years between rich and poor counties.

Oh, and there’s how almost three quarters of U.S. workers are living paycheck to paycheck, how there’s a majority lacking $500 in savings for an emergency, and how there are tens of millions crippled by corporate capitalism’s stunning consumer debt levels. In the background, there is also an opioid crisis that ravages communities by killing tens of thousands (more than the number who died in the Vietnam war) every year, natural disasters worsened by climate change that disproportionately affect poorer people, millions who have dropped out of the labor force in despair due to concentrated greed’s refusal to invest in sufficient public works programs, and monied interests corrupting affairs from the local level to the national level.

There’s reason to conclude that the general public of the country has too many problems it doesn’t deserve and too many good solutions that it hasn’t applied.

As concentration of political power is what follows concentration of economic power, there must be solutions to this for real progress to occur. Mere redistribution from the rich to everyone else shouldn’t be the end goal either, as that alone ultimately has a high chance of failure. Instead, the goal should be making sure that the wealth isn’t distributed so unequally to begin with.

It should be noted that there has been enormous redistribution from the working class and middle class to the richest people in the country over the last four decades. This should be obvious enough to anyone who honestly looks at the data from the late 1970’s to today. To note one statistic, the richest 1 percent appropriated almost 60 percent of the total gains in U.S. national income from 1977 to 2007, which is a far cry from a fair society.

But even if there were much higher taxes to alleviate the overabundance of poverty and suffering in the U.S., it would be unwise to expect that they’d be guaranteed to remain with the same concentration of economic power and rigged corporate structure. The majority of people must gain much stronger control over the means of production — particularly the resources of money, land, and technology. With that would probably occur improvements in the political sphere, as elected officials could be less beholden to private concentrated power, and people generally would also be stronger, allowing them to fight back against corrupt elites more effectively.

Considering the significant upwards distribution to the rich in the neoliberal period combined with the inherent exploitation of corporate capitalism, a decent wealth tax levied on the upper 1 percent is a fair proposal. The most popular politician in the U.S., Senator Bernie Sanders, already has a proposal — a tax of 1 percent on estate values over $21 million. An estate worth $121 million would therefore pay $1 million, which frankly isn’t much compared to the amount of money that remains in the estate and the amount of public costs that was used to attain it.

There’s a lot of important work that can and should be done, from securing free public university tuition to organizing major projects in a democratic way and creating public interest organizations to improve the Congress. The structure of the system that delivers such extreme inequality and suffering must be altered though, or real progress will continue to remain out of reach.