80 People Control Half of the World’s Wealth and All of the Elected Officials

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting began this week in Davos, Switzerland.  The meeting convenes “global leaders from across business, government, international organizations, academia and civil society for strategic dialogues which map the key transformations reshaping the world.”  The hope is that the dialogue will lead to action on the part of the participating nations to improve conditions in their own communities, with an understanding that we are all globally connected.  The idea is that the actions in one community can affect another anywhere in the world.

The current state of global economic inequality shows just how tenuous that connection is.

In what has now become tradition, Oxfam International, a confederation of organizations dedicated to fighting poverty, issued a report on the current state of economic inequality. Last year’s report sent shockwaves through the world by announcing that just 85 people controlled the same amount of wealth as the bottom 3 billion people combined.  That was even more dramatic than 2010 when it took 388 people to control that much wealth.

Today, the bulk of the wealth is in the hands of just 80 people.

The reasons for the dramatic change are much as they have always been. The global recession had disproportionate negative effects on those in the middle and bottom of the economic scale. As most of the population slid down the scale, the recovery went quickly upwards. While the majority of the population relied on income, which decreased or disappeared, the rich had assets. Those assets grew in value just as the returns on investments began to bounce back. The rich got richer simply because with assets, it’s difficult to not remain wealthy.

Oxfam releases the report every year just as global leaders gather in Davos because the key to reversing the trend lies in the hands of government. The problem requires a coordinated global effort to tackle inequality, such as punishing tax dodging by corporations and wealthy individuals. Other initiatives include: Universal public services (i.e. health and education), shifting the burden of taxation from labor and consumption to capital and wealth, living wages, equal pay, and adequate safety nets that include a minimum income.

Interestingly, many of these policies have been promoted – and rejected – here in America.

Thirty-five of the 80 individuals controlling wealth hold American passports. Many of the names are familiar, such as Bill Gates, the Waltons of Wal-Mart fame, George Soros, Warren Buffett, both Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson. It is also no surprise that many of these names are often seen on the same donor lists of politicians across the nation, Congress and our recent presidents. The Oxfam report notes than nearly 12 percent of political contributions come from the list of 80 billionaires.

In the first few weeks of the 114th Congress, legislation was introduced to roll back regulations on Wall Street, as well as consumer protection laws that have been in place. While voters have repeatedly said they want improved education, universal healthcare and a real chance at the American dream, our elected officials seem to not hear the public’s demands. These same elected officials are dependent on the money from the wealthiest, but are also responsible for creating policies that would reverse the flow of that wealth towards a more equitable distribution.

What we have here is not a failure to communicate but a clear and dangerous conflict of interest.

The inability to invest in assets, such as houses, savings, or highly expensive art has left the majority of the world with little to show for their hard work.  Global poverty has continued to rise and it’s only going to get worse. Oxfam has predicted that if we do nothing, the wealthiest one percent of the world will control the same amount of wealth as the other 99 percent do combined.

The estimated time of arrival for this global wealth distribution is next year.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Karen H.
Karen H4 years ago

Probably the only time GWB spoke the truth. http://www.forbiddenknowledgetv.com/videos/corporatocracy/the-time-george-bush-accidentallytold-the-truth.html
"Money trumps peace."

Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago


Charlie Rush
Charlene Rush4 years ago

As long as the majority, sits back and re-elects the TEAPUBLICAN COMEDY CLUB, along with some wealthy Democrats, we are destined to continue in this direction

Darren Woolsey
Darren Woolsey4 years ago

Karen H
"Remember the politicians who tried to live on a food stamp allowance for a month? And remember those who refused to?"

The repressed racist Conservative (and EX failed leader of his party) Ian Duncan Smith has been offered the chance to prove one can live on a minimum wage, and I believe has so far refused.

Their policies are enough to make one's skin crawl.

Cathleen K.
Cathleen K4 years ago

Continued from below: What the non wealthy of the Western world had better realize is that the rich look around at the misery in the third world and look around the developed world and think that you and I have it too good, and that the best way to alleviate misery of Biblical proportions is to redistribute some of our wealth to the poor elsewhere, after taking their cut, of course. That's what's behind the crap you hear from the Stuart Varney's of the world when they say that the poor in America have refrigerators and televisions. Stupid people nod their heads; smart people hear the threat.

If Europe takes steps to end predatory poaching taxation, it could start a conversation we desperately need to have: a unified business tax policy throughout the Western world, accompanied by a unified visa policy, could stop the rich in their tracks - because they'll cheerfully renounce their citizenship and decamp for Singapore (a place very few of them would be willing to actually live) as long as we each allow them to spend several months a year in their NYC penthouse, their London mansion, their estate in the South of France and their chalet in Switzerland. Send your business and your money offshore and you go with it. Your mother is dying and you've used up your visa visit for the year? Too bad!

Cathleen K.
Cathleen K4 years ago

Lots of great comments and a few moronic ones from our fact free, numerically illiterate conservatrolls. Mark S has summed up a history lesson that should frighten the wealthy, but humans, no matter their IQ, are almost universally stupid in their response when you tell them they must stop doing something that benefits them now to avoid disaster in the future. This is the real reason why nothing serious will be done to address climate change.

Politicians in Europe, where the Austrian school of economics dictated that austerity be the response to the financial crisis (as the Republicans wanted to do here), are looking around at the smoking ruins produced by neoliberal free market fundamentalism and beginning to smell the coffee. Stimulus is finally going to get a try (since, you know, the Democrats did that here and it turns out Keynes is still right), but even more important, some of them are starting to talk about creating transnational rules on taxation, since they've finally noticed that living in a financial union that tolerates crap like the 'Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich' (google it if you don't know what I'm talking about) is beggaring everyone but the very rich.

Karen H.
Karen H4 years ago

When Marie Antoinette said, "Let them eat cake", it wasn't denigrating the poor, it was that she had lived in "rich isolation" her entire life and, therefore, had never known hunger or poverty. If you don't have bread, you eat cake. Simple solution for her.
Many of the richies in our society are the same. Parents, grandparents, and so on back to whenever, were wealthy. The current crop have no idea what it's like to go to bed hungry or not have enough money to pay the rent.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could have them walk in our moccasins for a month?
Remember the politicians who tried to live on a food stamp allowance for a month? And remember those who refused to?

Deborah W.
Deborah W4 years ago


... not through petitions (first step to awareness maybe) but through careful consideration of facts and results (or not), then voting with purpose. We, combined, can bring about change, will we? Probably not ... unless we take the time and get involved personally, disregarding the piles of fodder-dumping by others.

This one planet is shared by all the people who inhabit it -- and their choices. Think for yourself, take note of words, empty or resulting in actions and conclusions, then make up your own mind about who and how you want to be represented.

We can do it ... let's get to it. The next two years will give plenty of clues.