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Jacobin - February 6, 2022

The decisions made by this small handful of men have a huge impact on almost every area of our lives — including our wages, our rents, and the temperature of our planet. And yet they exercise this extraordinary amount of power with little to no accountability.

Oxfam’s most recent report on global wealth inequality paints a grim picture of the changes that have taken place in the world economy over the course of the pandemic.

According to research from the charity, the world’s ten richest men doubled their wealth over the course of the past year, meaning they earned the equivalent of $1.3 billion per day.

To put this figure in context, consider these illustrations of the difference between a million and a billion. If you were to count the numbers to a million it would take you twelve days; but if you were to count the numbers to a billion it would take you thirty-two years. If you were to spend a million dollars in a year, you’d have to spend roughly $2,700 per day; to spend a billion dollars in a year, you’d have to spend roughly $2.7 million per day.

These ten men are now so rich that even if they lost 99.999 percent of their wealth, they’d still have more than 99 percent of people on the planet.

These numbers are so large that they’re difficult to comprehend, even with illustrations. But it is extremely important that we do try to wrap our heads around the scale of inequality in the world economy right now. Because wealth inequality doesn’t simply tell us about the divergent living standards and life chances of people in different tax brackets; it tells us about differences in power between the wealthy and everyone else.

Billionaire wealth isn’t just sitting in bank accounts accruing interest; it exists in the form of assets, like shares, property, and bonds. Many on the Right gleefully make this point when criticizing Oxfam’s method for calculating wealth inequality, arguing that we shouldn’t think of Jeff Bezos’s wealth as equivalent to the value of his assets, because if he were to sell his assets all at once then their value would fall sharply. ...
Read full report at Jacobin