While the world’s richest people convene this week in Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum, Oxfam has released a new report detailing the extraordinary increases in wealth inequality since 2020. Some of the key findings include: The five richest men in the world more than doubled “their fortunes from $405 billion to $869 billion since 2020 —at a rate of $14 million per hour.” At the same time, 5 billion humans on the planet got poorer.
How rich are they? “If each of the five wealthiest men were to spend a million US dollars daily, they would take 476 years to exhaust their combined wealth,” the authors of the report wrote. Did you know that 70% of the world’s top 10 publicly listed corporations are either run by or predominantly owned by a single billionaire? In fact, the report shows that while billionaires are $3.3 trillion richer than they were in 2020, world poverty remains “at pre-pandemic levels.” Good news for people who like seeing world records broken, though: According to Oxfam, the Earth could see its first “trillionaire” in the next 10 years if things don’t change.
Of course, that’s how the Republican Party seems to want things. One need only look at the GOP’s gridlocking of the Biden administration’s modestly more equitable budget proposal in March 2023, which would have created tax breaks for working people and families with children. The cost would be covered, in part, by trying to stop the rich from hiding their overblown assets. Biden’s budget was simply an attempt to get the billionaire class to stop paying lower tax rates than teachers and retail workers pay.
If you were wondering who these lucky five men are, the Washington Post reports:
Tesla CEO Elon Musk; Bernard Arnault and his family, who own luxury goods group LVMH; Amazon founder Jeff Bezos; Oracle founder Larry Ellison; and investor Warren Buffett — increased from $453 billion in 2019 to $869 billion as of November 2023. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Even the Republican Party’s so-called “centrists” will find any excuse to oppose proposals that would ease the financial burdens of everybody who isn’t wealthy. Instead, after blowing out the U.S. deficit on decades of Bush- and Trump-era tax cuts for the rich, conservatives’ (and Sen. Joe Manchin’s) biggest victory over the past few years was ending the pandemic-era child tax creditwhich helped lift families and children out of poverty.
In turn, Republicans like House Budget Committee Chair Jodey Arrington cry about fiscal responsibility and the supposed need to cut popular, helpful government programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In the same breath, operatives like Arrington and his brethren are unwilling to discuss making the rich to pay their fair share of taxes.
In 2019, historian Rutger Bregman made waves when he spoke out about billionaires and tax avoidance during a panel at Davos. Bregman compared the Davos’ forum’s avoidance of discussing taxing the rich to being at a “firefighters conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water.” As the Davos conference begins again, it’s worth rewatching Bregman’s simple statement of fact to a billionaire class that has very little interest in sharing.