Socialist Worker

A sick system: 85 people own the same as 3.5 billion poorest

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2387

Anyone who believes that wealth “trickles down” from rich to poor would be stunned by the latest figures.

The world’s richest 1 percent own 65 times more than the combined wealth of the bottom 50 percent. 

And the top 85 billionaires alone have more between them than the bottom 3.5 billion people, according to an Oxfam report.

Poverty kills millions every year through hunger, lack of drinking water and preventable diseases.

And even in Britain more and more people are going without the basics. Some food banks now give out “kettle packs” of dried food for people who can’t afford to switch on the cooker.

Yet the wealth is there to ensure no one goes hungry.

Mega-tycoons such as Carlos Slim, Bill Gates and the right wing Koch brothers have more in each of their pockets than many medium-sized countries.

Far from tightening their belts, the richest 1 percent have seen their share of wealth soar since the financial crash of 2008. 

And what did any of them do to earn it?

Business

No one should be fooled by business people who call themselves wealth creators.

Every penny of profit is stolen.

Some of it comes from the centuries old land-grabs of the aristocracy. Some comes from the great crooked casino that is the stock market, and some comes from swindling poor people with loans they can’t afford.

But most of it comes from the work done by the billions of ordinary people. 

These workers toil away for the rich in Chinese electronics factories, British supermarkets and everything in between and never see the full fruits of their labour.

Many of these workers are among those struggling with severe poverty. In Britain more than a million people are paid wages so low that they have to top them up with benefits—as bosses laugh all the way to the bank.

The rich like to style themselves as philanthropists, with a few well publicised charity donations. 

But their entire fortunes come from the forced philanthropy of workers who provide their profitable labour for a pittance.

Capitalism is making inequality worse. This isn’t an aberration of the system. It is what it’s always done. 

As the revolutionary Karl Marx wrote in 1844, labour under capitalism “produces for the rich wonderful things—but for the worker it produces privation. It produces palaces—but for the worker, hovels.”

The bosses who lord over us resent having to part with even a fraction of their cash. They reminded us of this last week, unleashing a tidal wave of miserly scaremongering in response to proposals for a modest increase in the national minimum wage.

But it isn’t their cash. It’s ours. And if we ever want to end poverty, one day we will have to take it back.


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What We Think
Tue 21 Jan 2014, 17:01 GMT
Issue No. 2387
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