Wealthiest 1% Bag Nearly Twice as Much Wealth as the Rest of the World Put Together

Over the past two years, the richest 1% grabbed nearly two-thirds of all new wealth worth US$42 trillion created since 2020, almost twice as much money as the bottom 99% of the world’s population, reveals a new Oxfam report. During the past decade, the richest 1% had captured around half of all new wealth.

“Survival of the Richest” was published on the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where global elites are gathering in the Swiss ski resort as extreme wealth and extreme poverty have increased simultaneously for the first time in 25 years.

“While ordinary people are making daily sacrifices on essentials like food, the super-rich have outdone even their wildest dreams. Just two years in, this decade is shaping up to be the best yet for billionaires —a roaring ‘20s boom for the world’s richest,” said Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

“Taxing the super-rich and big corporations is the door out of today’s overlapping crises. It’s time we demolish the convenient myth that tax cuts for the richest result in their wealth somehow ‘trickling down’ to everyone else. Forty years of tax cuts for the super-rich have shown that a rising tide doesn’t lift all ships —just the superyachts.”

Billionaires have seen extraordinary increases in their wealth. During the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis years since 2020, US$26 trillion (63%) of all new wealth was captured by the richest 1%, while US$16 trillion (37%) went to the rest of the world put together. A billionaire gained roughly US$1.7 million for every US$1 of new global wealth earned by a person in the bottom 90%. Billionaire fortunes have increased by US$2.7 billion a day. This comes on top of a decade of historic gains —the number and wealth of billionaires having doubled over the last ten years.

Billionaire wealth surged in 2022 with rapidly rising food and energy profits. The report shows that 95 food and energy corporations have more than doubled their profits in 2022. They made $306 billion in windfall profits, and paid out $257 billion (84%) of that to rich shareholders.

The Walton dynasty, which owns half of Walmart, received $8.5 billion over the last year. Indian billionaire Gautam Adani, owner of major energy corporations, has seen this wealth soar by $42 billion (46%) in 2022 alone. Excess corporate profits have driven at least half of inflation in Australia, the US and the UK.

A Wide-Ranging Increase in Taxation

At the same time, at least 1.7 billion workers now live in countries where inflation is outpacing wages, and over 820 million people —roughly one in ten people on Earth— are going hungry. Women and girls often eat least and last, and make up nearly 60 % of the world’s hungry population. The World Bank says we are likely seeing the biggest increase in global inequality and poverty since WW2.

Entire countries are facing bankruptcy, with the poorest countries now spending four times more repaying debts to rich creditors than on healthcare. Three-quarters of the world’s governments are planning austerity-driven public sector spending cuts —including on healthcare and education— by $7.8 trillion over the next five years.

Oxfam is calling for a systemic and wide-ranging increase in taxation of the super-rich to claw back crisis gains driven by public money and profiteering. Decades of tax cuts for the richest and corporations have fueled inequality, with the poorest people in many countries paying higher tax rates than billionaires.

Elon Musk, one of the world’s richest men, paid a “true tax rate” of about 3% between 2014 and 2018. Aber Christine, a flour vendor in Uganda, makes $80 a month and pays a tax rate of 40%.

Oxfam’s research also shows that the ultra-rich are the biggest individual contributors to the climate crisis. The richest billionaires, through their polluting investments, are emitting a million times more carbon than the average person.

The wealthiest 1% of humanity are responsible for twice as many emissions as the poorest 50% and by 2030, their carbon footprints are set to be 30 times greater than the level compatible with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement.

“Taxing the super-rich is the strategic precondition to reducing inequality and resuscitating democracy. We need to do this for innovation. For stronger public services. For happier and healthier societies. And to tackle the climate crisis, by investing in the solutions that counter the insane emissions of the very richest,” said Bucher.

Oxfam is calling on governments to introduce one-off solidarity wealth taxes and windfall taxes to end crisis profiteering.

Permanently increase taxes on the richest 1%, for example to at least 60% of their income from labor and capital, with higher rates for multi-millionaires and billionaires. Governments must especially raise taxes on capital gains, which are subject to lower tax rates than other forms of income.

Tax the wealth of the richest 1% at rates high enough to significantly reduce the numbers and wealth of the richest people, and redistribute these resources. This includes implementing inheritance, property and land taxes, as well as net wealth taxes.

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