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The recent Oxfam report
global wealth inequality reveals some of the ugly extremes that have
divided our world. It also directs our attention to the Global Wealth Report
by Credit Suisse, and the companion Databook, which offer a shocking
testament to the severity of U.S. and global inequality.1. The 30 Richest Americans Own as much as Half of the U.S. Population
The Oxfam report
us that 85 individuals own as much as half the world. The U.S. is the
biggest reason for that, with 5% of the world's population and 30% of
the wealth. China, India, and Africa, on the other hand, combine for
about half the world's population and just 12% of the wealth.
the U.S., the richest 30 individuals own about $792 billion, while the
bottom half of Americans own 1.1% of our country's wealth, also about
$792 billion. That's 30 people owning as much as 157,000,000 people.
This information is derived from the Global Wealth Databook
and the Forbes 400 List
. More details are provided at Us Against Greed
.2. The Bottom Half of America Owns a Smaller Percentage of National Wealth than Almost All Other Countries and Continents
1.1% of America's wealth owned by the poorest half is less than the
poorest halves of Asia (1.3% of the region's wealth), Africa (2.1%),
Latin America (3.2%), India (4.5%), the United Kingdom (7.6%), and China
It goes beyond the poorest half. The upper-middle class
of America (roughly $50,000 to $200,000 in wealth) own a smaller
percentage of wealth than the corresponding upper-middle classes of
China and India. Of course, America's lower and middle classes have more money
in absolute terms than corresponding classes in China and India. But that leads to the next topic.3. Less Mobility: North America's Bottom Half Has Less Chance to MOVE UP than Any Other Region of the World
argue that individuals should be able to improve their economic
positions with personal initiative and hard work. But economic mobility
is lower in the U.S.
than in most developed countries. And lower than in many undeveloped countries.
The results of a Credit Suisse wealth mobility simulation are given in the Global Wealth Databook
"North America is...less mobile than other regions, especially over
longer time horizons. Europe is next in line, followed by the middle
group of Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Africa. The most mobile regions
are China and India."4. America's MIDDLE CLASS is Further from the Top than in All Other Developed Countries
noted above, it's not just the bottom half being battered by inequality
-- it's most of the rest of us. The U.S. median of $44,911 is only 15%
of the $301,140 mean (which is greatly skewed by the wealth of the
richest 10%). That ratio is less than any other of the 27 developed
countries listed by Credit Suisse, and much less than the average OECD
ratio of 35%.
For the world as a whole, the median is only 8% of
the mean, reflecting the fact that half the world's adults average less
than $500 in wealth.The Greatest Shock: How Little is Needed to Restore Some Sanity
Extreme inequality means that people without homes are freezing to death
in America. On a winter day in 2012 over 633,000 people were homeless
in the United States. Based on an annual single room occupancy (SRO) cost
of $558 per month, a little over $4 billion would provide shelter for every homeless person for the entire year.
The stock market
grew by $4.7 trillion
2013. A wealth tax of just a one-tenth of 1 percent (one dollar out of
every thousand) would have provided the $4 billion needed to shelter
every homeless American for 365 days.
But we have no wealth tax. And the wealth just keeps growing for the wealthiest Americans.
Paul Buchheit is a college
teacher, a writer for progressive publications, and the founder and
developer of social justice and educational websites
(UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org).
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