February 8, 2014
An editorial in our last issue [see below] explained how a simple statistic arrived at in an Oxfam study on wealth illuminates the immense problem facing humanity. The combined wealth of the world’s richest 85 individuals now equals that of the poorest half of the human race — 3.5 billion people.
This figure is so staggering that even the economists who work for this capitalist system are worried. The rich really don’t want to give up any of their wealth. But they don’t want their system to collapse either. And they are afraid of that happening.
Look at it this way. The wealth in the hands of these 85 people equals $1.7 trillion, according to Oxfam. They can’t begin to spend it all, not even on the most ridiculously lavish things. Most of it is invested in production and commerce that is increasingly efficient, meaning fewer workers are hired to produce more goods and services.
Suppose these 85 billionaires did manage to each spend $1 billion each year — an amount that is 20,000 times what the median U.S. household earns in a year.
That would come to $85 billion, which is only 5 percent of their collective wealth of $1.7 trillion. The other 95 percent would be sitting there, most of it in income-producing property that means they’ll be even richer next year — unless the system crashes.
The 3.5 billion people at the bottom of the pile live from day to day. If they could get their hands on even a few hundred dollars, they would spend it very quickly because they are in need of everything — food, clothing, adequate housing, transportation, medical care and so on. But they don’t have it, so they can’t buy much of anything.
Capitalist economists know that this irrational situation can’t go on forever. If most of the wealth is bottled up in the hands of a few while the majority can’t buy more than the barest essentials, then the markets will dry up and the economy sooner or later will grind to a halt.
This is why even financial analysts warn about the growing wealth gap. But the investors are too focused on their bottom line — profits — to listen.
We have to fight hard for higher wages and programs that relieve poverty and unemployment. But as long as capitalism remains in place, any money the workers get will just wind up in the hands of the rich once again, who both exploit our labor and make a profit selling us whatever we buy. The trend toward the rich getting richer and the poor poorer is irreversible — as long as there is capitalism.
This is an argument for seeing beyond capitalism, beyond private property and exploitation, for understanding that every workers’ struggle, whether for a higher wage, a pension or an unemployment check, can be a stepping stone to the much bigger struggle: to liberate the tremendous productive wealth that the workers have built and apply it to solving the monumental problems of poverty, unemployment, oppression and the degradation of the environment.
Articles copyright 1995-2013 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
The Planet’s Parasites
January 30, 2014
It should come as no surprise to any worker that the rich are getting richer, while the majority of people around the world are getting poorer. Yet, the latest statistics on the global concentration of wealth in the hands of a few are still stunning.
A report entitled, “Working for the Few,” issued on Jan. 20 by Oxfam, a British-based, anti-poverty organization, declares that the world’s 85 richest individuals own a total of $1.7 trillion, which is equivalent to the wealth held by the poorest 3.5 billion people — half the world’s population. Further, nearly half of the planet’s wealth — a gargantuan $110 trillion — is owned by the richest 1%.
The pages of this newspaper have stated that the super rich benefited from the recent global financial crisis, while the masses of the world’s people fell further behind. Oxfam also notes this development and points out that the world’s billionaires garnered 95 percent of the post-crisis growth, a trend it says is especially true in the United States. Workers World has noted the mammoth corporate profits made during the U.S.’s “jobless recovery,” and the further impoverishment of the working class here, as millions remain unemployed or underemployed and need food stamps and other social benefits to survive.
What can political activists do while fighting along with the workers and oppressed in our cities in this period? We join with all those who demand higher corporate taxes, more government programs, including unemployment insurance and food stamps, higher wages, collective bargaining rights and every other economic right and social benefit for the majority of people.
However, we say that the struggle has to go further and hit hard against the capitalist system itself. Economic and social inequality is inherent in this system, rooted in the private ownership of the means of production.
The bosses’ exploitation of the multinational working class is also intrinsic to capitalism. With profit making and filling the bosses’ coffers the goal of all production, laborers are paid only a fraction of the value they produce. Workers’ labor has created all of the capitalists’ wealth. The owners have created nothing.
As the capitalists accumulate more wealth from exploiting and super exploiting their workforce, they reinvest money, purchase companies and expand, always looking to increase their riches on the backs of those who produce everything.
In fact, in their ferocious war on the working class here and worldwide, the corporate bosses are trying to break unions and drive down wages, while fighting higher minimum wages, always searching the world for cheaper labor to maximize profits and increase their wealth even further.
No matter how much wealth the capitalist class owns, the riches will not “trickle down” to the workers. In fact, as the Oxfam study shows, with phenomenal wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, it has not helped the majority of the world’s people. In fact, they’ve lost ground. Unemployment, hunger, homelessness and other inhumane indicators of capitalism are on the rise worldwide.
WW wants to get rid of this system of exploitation. We say it is time to kick up the struggle a notch and aim it against capitalism in order to end inequality, injustice, oppression and impoverishment forever.
Only socialism can move society forward, as the means of production would be transferred from ownership by a few to the collective hands of the multinational working class. Then, all the fruits of our labor would be used for the good of humanity – for housing, health care, education, nutritious food and everything else.
Articles copyright 1995-2014 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
[DS added the video report.]
Poverty Punished: Low income New Yorkers feel pinch of govt sequester
RT on Feb 9, 2014
Low income families in New York are feeling the pinch of the so called Sequester. The automatic multi-billion dollar spending cuts which kicked last year after congress failed to agree on a budget. People are being told to smaller and cheaper apartments or see the rent sky rocket. Marina Portnaya has more.
Gar Alperovitz: What Might a New Economy Look Like?
Congress Passes Austerity Budget for the Workers, Poor but Not the Military by Kathy Durkin
Food Stamps Cut As Hunger Rises by Kathy Durkin
Richard Wolff: Capitalism’s Destructive Power + Wolff Urges End to Austerity, New Jobs Program, Democratizing Work
Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger (must-see)
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“…wealth that the workers have built…”
Now that’s a phrase that should haunt the brain cells of the super-rich until their heads ache; as a persistent reminder of just whose sweat has greased their juggernaut wheels & whose backs have borne them on their surreal journey to privilege and entitlement.
The very notion of gain from the methodical deprivation of others is a foul and abysmal deceit. A disgusting depravity. The one thing that is so lacking in the way the world is conceptualized by those who presume absolute authority from material endowment alone, is a sense of moral proportion. Their dismal universe is nightmarish, lob-sided and psychologically dysfunctional.
Perhaps if they would consider the truth about the ancient pyramids and just how that system really worked ~ not the Hollywood caricature ~ they might be surprised at the possibilities.
Actually, “that’s a phrase that should haunt the brain cells of the” workers! They are the ones that need to be told over and over again. Most people are ignorant of the labor movements of the past and how they are benefiting now because of those workers who DIED for the cause and the gains won then are being eroded now.
Thanks Lo, I totally concur.
I’ve just spent a couple of intensive weeks in Andalusia (Spain) a sobering experience, because the prevalent tendency is subordination and concession to the status quo (ante) ~ acceptance of one’s “lot” so to speak, with notable exceptions of course…
It’s a very complicated cultural equation to square, with so many overlaying interests and underlying issues, like monoculture, “tradition,” government corruption, corporate controls, land issues, ecology etc.
Glad to see you back, David. Very interesting observations from your trip to Spain. Hope you’ll continue to inform us in future comments.
“Class” is something I just can’t understand, although I am well aware of its existence.
Are the rich, basically the same as the poor? by this I mean, are the rich, really rich? other than by chance, or by corruption, or by criminal means? the rich recognize they are the same as the poor, because they see themselves as the same, having only one method of staying in the rich club, that is by being ruthless, and destroying any possibility of any threat, or wealth threat, that is the fear of becoming what the poor are, the essential weapon is to kill or maim any one whom appears as a threat, to the self, or any one who may be a threat and yet be innocent.
It’s very difficult to find a formula that fits every case I think Don.
Generalizations can be misleading, since each individual has a history.
I suspect cynicism and ignorance combined with opportunism and status issues, contribute a good deal to the erosion of ethics and a breakdown of trust in mutuality # and reciprocity.
My own view is that community coherence, with increased care and concern for living environments are the real levers of ethical change and a lasting improvement in the quality of existence.
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Greed not only affects the brain, it also affects vision. And one day we shall overcome…hopefully very soon.
The rich are neurotic, they are unable to help being greedy, as the rich hob knob with each other, the competition to have greater riches with the rich, is to tempting to risk having less as opposed to having more, the structure of society is made for the rich, regardless of peoples health being destroyed and damage to the environment is of less importance to having another billion dollars.