A number of political analysts have noted how globalization seems to have given rise to a self-centered generation of super-rich who are so focused on their personal interests and their political agendas that they have almost completely abandoned the long-standing social contract to spend at least a large chunk of their wealth to the betterment of society. Moreover, the influence of the wealthy on the political process has grown significantly in the U.S. and elsewhere.
As a recent report from the non-profit organization Oxfam International highlights, the net result of the rich coopting the political process is that we are becoming increasingly locked in a negative feedback loop where the super-rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The title of the January 2015 Oxfam report sums up the situation perfectly: Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More.
The 1% continued to pile up wealth in 2014
The Oxfam report points out that the richest of the top 1% (the billionaires on the Forbes list) have seen their wealth accumulate extremely rapidly since the Great Recession. Oxfam notes: “In 2010, the richest 80 people in the world had a net wealth of $1.3 trillion. By 2014, the 80 people who top the Forbes rich list had a collective wealth of $1.9 trillion; an increase of $600 billion in just 4 years, or 50% in nominal terms.”
Moreover, this unprecedented growth of wealth by the rich means the 1% of richest people in the world now own 48% of all global wealth (as of second half 2014), resulting in just 52% left to be shared between the other 99% of us.
When you take into account that practically all of that 52% of global wealth not owned by the 1% is owned by the richest 20%, with the remaining 80% of people in the world only owning 5.5% of global wealth. If the rich keep getting richer at the same rate they have over the last four years, the 1% of richest people will have more wealth than the other 99% of people in only 24 months (Figure 2).
80 richest people own more wealth than 3.5 billion poorest
This statistic from the January 2015 Oxfam report brings the staggering scale of the wealth inequality problem into focus. As of 2014, the wealth of the top 80 richest individuals is the as that of the bottom 50% of the global population. This means that the 3.5 billion poorest people in the world share between them the same amount of wealth as that of the top 80 richest people.
The scariest thing of all is how fast the super-rich are getting richer (especially with the trend showing no signs of slowing down). It took the top 388 billionaires to equal the wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population in 2010; the number had dropped to just the top 80 billionaires by 2014.