Socialist Worker

Wealth gap shows why we need a better world

Issue No. 2428

A pile of dollars

The wealth of the top 1 percent has continued to rise during the crisis (Pic: Tracey O)

There are more than twice as many billionaires in the world today as there were five years ago. 

The figures, from the Oxfam charity, give the lie to the claim that there isn’t enough money to fund jobs, benefits and services.

Oxfam’s report, published last week, also showed that the rich are getting obscenely richer. 

The richest 85 people in the world grabbed an extra £50,000 every second over the last year.

They have more wealth between them than the poorest half of the world’s population. 

World leaders are desperately trying to talk up the state of the world economy. 

Prime minister David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne talk of “recovery”.

In reality poor people and workers everywhere are paying the price for the rich robbing us.

In Britain, workers are suffering the longest wage freeze since the Great Depression of the 1870s. 

The Tories are freezing and cutting public sector pay.

And Osborne has promised to slash welfare funding by a further £25 billion.

But those at the top see no problem with the rising inequality.

The right wing Adam Smith Institute’s Tim Worstall dismissed Oxfam’s report as an “extended series of whines about how inequality is rising”. 

He claimed that things were getting better for poor people. 

This echoes an old idea that ordinary people gain if the rich get richer, because wealth “trickles down”. It’s an insulting lie.

The report pointed out that “inequality is a barrier to poverty reduction”. It blames “market fundamentalism” for the growing gap between rich and poor.

Oxfam praised the market economy for bringing “prosperity and a dignified life” to millions of people. But it warned that, “Without government intervention it tends to concentrate wealth in the hands of a small minority”. 

The last three decades of free market reforms have certainly benefited the rich. Taxes and barriers to profit-making have been slashed.

But inequality has existed in all class societies. Today capitalism perpetuates it.

In our society, a tiny minority of capitalists exploit workers to make their profits.  

Growing inequality is a product of the bosses trying to squeeze more and more out of workers.

The real problem isn’t wealthy individuals. It’s the concentrated power of capital, with a few large firms dominating the global economy. 

To get rid of inequality and poverty, we have to take on the bosses and ultimately sweep away the system.

That means supporting workers’ struggles—such as the upcoming strikes in the NHS.

It also means generalising these into a struggle to get rid of our unequal society for good.

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