According to a report from Oxfam, a confederation of 20 independent charitable organizations that focuses on poverty reduction, in the ten months since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, the net worth of the ten richest people in the world has increased by $540 billion. Meanwhile, they project that it could take more than a decade to reduce the number of people living poverty to pre-pandemic levels.
The report indicates that unless rising inequality is address, half a billion more people could be living on less than $5.50 a day or less in 2030, ten years after the start off the pandemic.
The report recommends a temporary wealth tax on profits made by the 32 most corporations and other super-rich entities and people. Oxfam says the half-trillion dollars the ten richest have made would, if taken from them, pay for Covid vaccination for everyone on the planet and reverse the rise in poverty cause by the pandemic.
You don’t have to be Karl Marx to shake your head at those statistics. The fact is, you’re in much better position to weather or thrive during a crisis like this than you are if you’re already financially stressed.
If you’re talking about people living on $5.50 per day, you’re not talking about welfare queens or that guy who used to use food stamps to buy food you couldn’t afford in spite of working a couple jobs. These are severely poor people who struggled to survive to begin with.
The Oxfam recommendations extend beyond any national boundaries and would require an international organization with the ability to override national taxation rules. It wouldn’t be a matter of a one-time levy. Power tends to perpetuate itself. And if we could make things a little better by unilaterally taking from billionaires, just think of how much we good we could do if we did the same to millionaires, or even to the 25% most wealthy in the world (which includes you).To set something like that up in an equitable manner that protects national sovereignty and includes checks and balances would take forever. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the other eight aren’t likely to voluntarily give up everything they’ve made in the past year and more. And no country with wealth is likely to unilaterally cede tax policy to a worldwide body that hasn’t been created and has no rules. (Yes, I know there’s the UN, but it doesn’t have the right to tax and has structural problems of its own.)
There’s more to this than just saying it has to be done and done now. How do you do it? Who has the authority, and how do you stop them from seizing vast tracts of private property or businesses?
I realize people are dying, but if you don’t answer those questions, even more people are likely to die.
In short, I don’t have the answers, beyond “this isn’t working and how do we change it?” It starts with stepping away from the normal accusations we heave at each other and a realization that to solve the problem we have to find a workable way to fund the necessary work, add controls to reduce corruption, and protect the interests of the people who’d otherwise be seen as an infinite checkbook.
If we don’t get past competing shouting about communism and murderous greed, nothing will be done. (But everyone will feel good about defending their version of mortal certainty.)