Working for the Few

Oxfam, January 20, 2014

In November 2013, the World Economic Forum released its ‘Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014’, in which it ranked widening income disparities as the second greatest worldwide risk in the coming 12 to 18 months. Oxfam shares its analysis, and wants to see the 2014 World Economic Forum make the commitments needed to counter the growing tide of inequality.

Given the scale of rising wealth concentrations, opportunity capture and unequal political representation are a serious and worrying trend. For instance:

• Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.

• The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.

• The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.

• Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.

• The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.

• In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.


Those gathered at Davos for the World Economic Forum have the power to turn around the rapid increase in inequality. Oxfam is calling on them to pledge that they will:

• Not dodge taxes in their own countries or in countries where they invest and operate, by using tax havens;

• Not use their economic wealth to seek political favors that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens;

• Make public all the investments in companies and trusts for which they are the ultimate beneficial owners;

• Support progressive taxation on wealth and income;

• Challenge governments to use their tax revenue to provide universal healthcare,

education and social protection for citizens;

• Demand a living wage in all the companies they own or control;

• Challenge other economic elites to join them in these pledges.

Oxfam Briefing Paper – Summary:…

World Economic Forum – Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014:


Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world

By Graeme Wearden

The Guardian, January 20, 2014

As World Economic Forum starts in Davos, development charity claims growing inequality has been driven by ‘power grab’

Winnie Byanyima, the Oxfam executive director who will attend the Davos meetings, said: “It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world’s population – that’s three and a half billion people – own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus.”

Working for the Few – Oxfam report…

Although Martin Luther King Jr is no longer here in body, he did leave with us his moral guidance, reinforcing our ability to recognize social injustice when we see it. It is left to us to seek an end to these injustices.

Of industrialized nations, the United States is the world leader in expanding the injustices of inequality – a first for us that matches our first place in health care spending in a nation that is in last place amongst wealthier nations in meting the goal of universality.

From the perspective of those of us who are morally outraged over health care injustice, we need to “challenge governments to use their tax revenue to provide universal health care.” We cannot possibly do this without adopting policies that would “counter the growing tide of inequality.”

If Martin Luther King could speak to us today, he would certainly challenge us to demand the opportunity for everyone to have an adequate education which would help them understand better the injustices inflicted upon us by, yes, the wealthy who control our plutocracy, and to understand what our remedies should be. He would challenge us to demand not only the right but also the opportunity for everyone to vote for the government we need, especially a government that would create a health care system that serves the health care needs of the people first rather than the business goals of the insurers and the rest of the medical-industrial complex. As he famously said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Listen. You can hear him now. Let’s march.