Oxfam says world’s rich could end poverty


From Al Jazeera:

The world’s 100 richest people earned enough money last year to end world extreme poverty four times over, according to a new report released by international rights group and charity Oxfam.

The $240 billion net income of the world’s 100 richest billionaires would have ended poverty four times over, according to the London-based group’s report released on Saturday.

The group has called on world leaders to commit to reducing inequality to the levels it was at in 1990, and to curb income extremes on both sides of the spectrum. […]

The group says that the world’s richest one percent have seen their income increase by 60 percent in the last 20 years, with the latest world financial crisis only serving to hasten, rather than hinder, the process.

“[…] . You don’t normally hear us talking about wealth. But it’s gotten so out of control between rich and poor that one of the obstacles to solving extreme poverty is now extreme wealth,” Ben Phillips, a campaign director at Oxfam, told Al Jazeera. […]

“We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true,” said Jeremy Hobbs, an executive director at Oxfam.

“Concentration of resources in the hands of the top one per cent depresses economic activity and makes life harder for everyone else – particularly those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

“In a world where even basic resources such as land and water are increasingly scarce, we cannot afford to concentrate assets in the hands of a few and leave the many to struggle over what’s left.” […]

Closing tax havens, the group said, could yield an additional $189bn in additional tax revenues. According to Oxfam’s figures, as much as $32 trillion is currently stored in tax havens.

In a statement, Oxfam warned that “extreme wealth and income is not only unethical it is also economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive.”

Oxfam says world’s rich could end poverty – Europe – Al Jazeera English

31 responses to “Oxfam says world’s rich could end poverty

  1. But of course, most of the world’s wealthy will do little about world poverty aside from some cosmetic gestures. This is a reminder of what’s wrong with the world.


  2. They’re probably passing the report around to each other like they won a medal. Being in the Top 100 must make a one percenter look like a failure…


  3. And laughing ojmo……


  4. I won’t hold my breath


  5. The report does make a lot of claims and a few of them even have a grain of truth to them. That the the world’s 100 richest people earned enough money last year to end world extreme poverty four times over is not one of those claim with a grain of truth in it.

    As someone who’s traveled and fought across more benighted mudholes than I care to remember, often as security for those seeking to render aid and largess, I can attest that poverty cannot be solved by throwing money it.

    Yes, that’s a weird statement…but it’s true. The truly poor are so for a variety of reasons and most of them cannot be solved by giving them stuff. Oh, you can make it look good and comforting for a bit but it doesn’t last because it’s fake prosperity.


  6. Why should they have to? I am always amused when people talk about the ethical or moral thing to do and then I watch them in their daily lives. Walk a mile people, walk a mile. 😉


    • [Why should they have to?]

      Well, if the torches and pitchforks were at the door they might have to…


      • Hmmm, take it by force, I get that……
        “You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.”
        Al Capone


        • Fact is TFT, when the gap between the very rich and everyone else reaches a certain level, it’s a certainty that it leads to political instability and often, indeed, revolutions. A smart society interested in survival as a free nation, would do well to enact policies to keep that from happening.
          Because it always does.

          Orhan’s post referred t0 the 100 richest billionaires? Each of whom I’m sure, are good honest citizens of their nations and earned that money by hard work. They deserve all the tax breaks and special deals they get from governments.


  7. Hey Moe! I was thinking about you and had to stop by to visit my favorite and the nicest liberal I know! How’s the weather down in Florida? It’s great here in Ft. Worth today … actually perfect. (for now!)
    Well, I hope all is okay with you.. Take good care and write when you can.


  8. jonolan is correct when he said,

    “The truly poor are so for a variety of reasons and most of them cannot be solved by giving them stuff. Oh, you can make it look good and comforting for a bit but it doesn’t last because it’s fake prosperity.”

    However, this is just as simplistic a straw man argument as orphan’s poser, which itself does imply that mere money could somehow fix the problem. But I believe that a progressive and transparent government could use that money to lift all boats out of poverty, and much of America’s material prosperity was gained just that way. As just two examples, I offer the interstate highway system and the U.S. agriculture policies in the twentieth century.


    • Well, I took the report as a description of world economic inequality and its negative aspects, not as a call for the Top 100 to give anybody “stuff”. Of course I see why jonolan would process it that way; it’s central to the conservative worldview that mooching, nonproductive “takers” are perpetually attempting to usurp the wealth of the entrepreneurial and productive “makers”. In addition, while it’s true that soaking the rich will not solve the problem of poverty, government, like you said, can and does play a powerful role in creating and maintaining prosperity.


    • 😆 Some people’s unconscious “American Exceptionalism” and “Racism” is showing.

      The truly poor, specifically the bulk of those referenced in the cited report are in Third World nations, not in America. Unless we’re going to – GASP – send troops in to stabilize the regions and emplace governments that are better at caring for their own people, all we can do is throw money at the problem.

      As the top 100 wealthiest are, with a few notable exceptions, in the same boat as we are when it comes to being able to affect change of the sort needed to significantly reduce poverty over the longer term, I can’t see where a rational person could properly claim this was a straw man.


      • Of course it’s a straw man argument, jonolan. When Oxfam said,

        “extreme wealth and income is not only unethical it is also economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive.”

        they were not suggesting giving money outright to third-world poor people. The sensible interpretation, I submit, is that economic policies that minimize wealth disparity would improve the lot of everyone on this blue marble. Hell, nobody said economics was easy. However, there is proof that it’s possible to lift the wealth of everyone, witness the interstate highway system, the U.S. agricultural system, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the equal opportunity policies of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

        Are you implying that the poor of the Third World are beyond redemption and have not the potential to rise to our level of perspicacity and wealth? I suggest you re-read (or perhaps read for the first time?) the story of Frederick Douglass.


        • I’m not implying that poor of the Third World are beyond redemption. I’m saying it bluntly and openly within the context of that redemption coming from outside their own people.


          • Another characteristic of the conservative worldview is that each individual is 100% responsible for the external circumstances of her life. If she’s poor, it’s due to some moral failing or weakness on her part. Similarly, if an American is out of work, it’s her choice; either she’s too lazy to work, or she’s milking the system.


          • Moot point and irrelevant, ojmo, as it doesn’t the change the simple fact that you can’t impose prosperity on other people. The changes that lead to prosperity have to come from within the cultures themselves.


            • True, jonolan, you can’t impose prosperity on other people, but that ignores what should be obvious, that there are certain elements necessary to prosperity and if those elements are missing, they can be supplied from outside. One who attributes American success solely to cultural and/or racial superiority ignores that we started with a vast, sparsely populated land, fertile and full of natural resources. And even with that, prosperity was immensely boosted for a century by the employment of millions of slave laborers that provided cheap cotton and other agricultural products for both home consumption and export. Your world view, in my opinion, is undeservedly patronizing.


              • You say,

                there are certain elements necessary to prosperity and if those elements are missing, they can be supplied from outside.

                But, from what I’ve seen among the truly poor, you’re wrong because what is missing aren’t things that can be provided by others because they’re not “stuff.” They’re cultural mores, attitudes, and beliefs.

                We tried for decades and decades to provide the missing material elements and it has failed repeatedly and consistently for a plethora of societal regions.

                Gods! There’s defunct water and sewage treatment plants all over Africa. We build them and run them for a while but when we turn them over to the locals they go defunct within a mere few years…and that’s just one example.


                • jonolan, you make a good point about the defunct water and sewage plants in Africa – I don’t doubt that’s true, and I certainly do not deny that “cultural mores, attitudes and beliefs” are very important. In fact, something similar happened when we built a huge system for Baghdad. But as I mentioned before, economics is a complex systems problem and ojmo’s example of Haiti (below) further illustrates the point.

                  The problem, it seem to me, is that a good economic environment depends on a stable political system, but the reverse is also true. The two are mutually dependent. Afghanistan is an extreme example of how imposing that from the outside, a.k.a. nation-building, doesn’t work.

                  I’m just trying to point out that people are people and that prosperity can be incrementally encouraged, . Perhaps South Korea is an example of that, especially when compared to its former half to the North. That was a shift in culture, no? Another example is the success of small business loans to women entrepreneurs in India.


                • Now, in my opinion, you’re one the right track. None of those things, however, are things that can or should be attempted by the top 100 wealthiest as claimed in the cited report.

                  BTW – Don’t pass out! – I agree with you that nation building rarely, if ever, works and, even when it does, costs all involved a great deal in blood and treasure. In my opinion it is only acceptable in situations like Iraq where we unilaterally removed the existing regime.


              • I’d add that it’s easy enough to demonstrate that much of the poverty in the world was imposed from outside. Haiti is a good example: France grew wealthy off its blood and soil. Initially, the ships that dropped off African slaves returned to France laden with Haitian lumber; later the Haitians were criticized for their inability to manage the denuded land well enough to prevent soil erosion. Then, when Haiti successfully rebelled against France, both the United States and France enacted punishing economic sanctions. After that, the Haitians were forced to pay reparations to France for the privilege of not being returned to slavery. Subsequently, Haiti was invaded and occupied by the US, followed by the American-imposed Duvalier dictatorships. The pattern repeats with various imperialist powers and colonial governments, on various continents, with depressing regularity.


              • Jim – how about Japan post WWII. The US in fact imposed policies – with wild success – that led to a modern economy, a modern society and a cultural shift away from imperialism. And I think we were from ‘outside’ Japan.


                • I thought about Japan, Moe, but declined to propose it because of its long-standing culture of hard work, civility and obedience to authority. While it’s very true that Douglas MacArthur imposed the template of democracy on them, it was their culture that made it a success and I was hesitant to suggest America take credit for that.


                • Gotcha – you’re saying they already had a civil society and there weren’t intractable social problems. I’ll buy that. It’s not the same thing.


                • Also, there’s a temporal problem involving Japan. The “imposition” happened much earlier during the Meiji era and set the stage for both WW2 and the successful changes in Japan immediately following it.


                • jonolan, I’ve rethought my Japan analogy based on what you and Jim say and I find it wanting. So I’ll forget about Japan.


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