Contain the inequality virus: Tax the rich and richest

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero Ballescas - The Freeman

Poverty is part and parcel of global inequality.

Global inequality stems from a global economy that emphasizes profits and a world market rather than humane conditions and a world community.

Pope Francis called out against “this economic system focused on the interests of a few privileged groups, a market that ignores ethical principles, or picks and chooses from among them, creates inhumane conditions for people already in precarious situations.”

The global poor have been counted rather than embraced.

For 2020, World Bank estimated about 88 to 115 million to be in extreme poverty defined as living on less than US$1.90 a day (less than P95 with US$1=P50). January 2021 forecasts, however, showed higher estimates ranging from 119 to 124 million.

In January, 2020, Oxfam (a confederation of 20 independent charitable organizations focusing on the alleviation of global poverty founded in 1942) revealed in their report: "Time to care: Unpaid and underpaid care work and the global inequality crisis that:

1.) The world's 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60% of the planet's population, that global inequality is shockingly entrenched and vast and the number of billionaires has doubled in the last decade;

2.) Our sexist economies are fuelling the inequality crisis --enabling a wealthy elite to accumulate vast fortunes at the expense of ordinary people and particularly poor women and girls;

3.) The 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa;

4.) Women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day --a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year (more than 3 times the size of the global tech industry); and,

5.) Getting the richest 1% to pay just 0.5% extra tax on their wealth over the next 10 years would equal the investment needed to create 117 million jobs in sectors such as elderly and childcare, education, and health.

While the pandemic drove more poor to become poorer, Oxfam’s January 2021 report “The Inequality Virus” revealed that:

1.) The world’s ten richest men have seen their combined wealth increase by $540 billion which is more than enough to both pay for a COVID-19 vaccine for everyone on the planet and reverse the rise in poverty caused by the pandemic;

2.) The total wealth of billionaires hit $11.95 trillion (£8.8 trillion) in December 2020, equivalent to G20 governments’ total COVID-19 recovery spending;

3.) Although the stock market collapsed at the start of the crisis, the wealth of 1,000 of the world’s billionaires --who are mostly white males-- returned to the record highs seen before the pandemic within less than nine months;

4.) While the wealth of the richest increases, support for the poorest is being squeezed with donors cutting aid to the world’s poorest;

5.) Unless rising inequality is tackled, half a billion more people could be living in poverty on less than $5.50 a day in 2030, than at the start of the pandemic;

6.) Rising inequality means it could take at least 14 times longer for the number of people living in poverty to return to pre-pandemic levels.

While billions of people grow hungrier, are homeless, jobless, desperate, dying during this pandemic, “at the same time, a tiny number of individuals have pocketed more money in nine months than they could spend in a lifetime!”

Oxfam emphasizes that “these facts are shameful and governments cannot continue to look the other way, they must act.”

Oxfam suggests that “fair taxation on the very richest could help with the global recovery, raise more money to fight poverty and help shape more equal societies.”

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