(the) planet’s billionaires have collectively “earned” (and yes, that’s in quotation marks for obvious reasons) $2.7 billion every one of the last 730 days. Meanwhile, in 2021 alone, at least 115 million people fell into “extreme poverty,” with billions more hanging on by a thread. By 2030, Oxfam reports, the world could be facing the “largest setback in addressing global poverty since World War II
BY LIZ THEOHARIS
It was weird but symbolically right on target that, in 2017, the first billionaire entered the White House. There had never been a president like him, financially speaking. And yet, with that wealth of his, he certainly caught something of our world (and not in the way you normally imagine). After all, according to Forbes, from 2010 to 2020, the billionaires on this planet more than doubled from 1,001 to 2,095. By 2022, that number had risen to 2,668 with a collective net worth of $12.7 trillion.
In other words, for all his weirdness, Donald Trump was a product of this world of ours, one that’s left so many non-billionaires in what could be thought of as the dust of history. Worse yet, poverty only continues to deepen globally. We’re talking about a world of increasingly extreme wealth and poverty that has, as TomDispatch regular Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and author of We Cry Justice, lays out vividly today, left so many on this planet all too literally without a hope in hell.
A few weeks ago, the world’s power brokers — politicians, CEOs, millionaires, billionaires — met in Davos, the mountainous Swiss resort town, for the 2023 World Economic Forum. In an annual ritual that reads ever more like Orwellian farce, the global elite gathered — their private jets lined up like gleaming sardines at a nearby private airport — to discuss the most pressing issues of our time, many of which they are chiefly responsible for creating.
The 2023 meeting was organized around the theme of “Cooperation in a Fragmented World” and the topics up for debate were all worthy choices: climate change, Covid-19, inflation, war, and the looming threat of recession. Glaringly missing, however, was any honest investigation of the deeper context behind such an epic set of crises — namely, the reality of worldwide poverty and the extreme inequality that separates the poor from the rich on this planet.
Every year, Oxfam, a global organization that fights inequality to end poverty and injustice, uses the occasion of Davos to release its latest rundown on global inequality. This year’s report, “Survival of the Richest,” offered a striking vision of global poverty from the trenches of the pandemic years. Imagine this as a start: in the last two of those years, the world’s richest 1% captured almost two-thirds of all new wealth, or twice that of the bottom 99%. Put another way, this planet’s billionaires have collectively “earned” (and yes, that’s in quotation marks for obvious reasons) $2.7 billion every one of the last 730 days. Meanwhile, in 2021 alone, at least 115 million people fell into “extreme poverty,” with billions more hanging on by a tenuous thread. By 2030, Oxfam reports, the world could be facing the “largest setback in addressing global poverty since World War II.”…