In October 2014, the international anti-poverty group Oxfam, released a report entitled Even it Up: Time to End Extreme Poverty which reveals that inequality has spiraled out of control, with the number of billionaires worldwide more than doubled since the 2009 financial crisis. Following its release, Sarah Dransfield, Oxfam’s Senior Press Officer, posted a press release outlining the report’s key findings and recommendations. As she reports, Even it Up reveals startling facts about the economic state of the globe.
Since the financial crisis of 2009, the number of billionaires has more than doubled, to 1,645, showing that while those at the top have recovered quickly, the benefits of economic growth are not being reaped by the vast majority. Even more staggering, the world’s richest 85 people hold the same amount of wealth as half the world’s poorest population. The consequences of extreme inequality are harmful to everyone. It not only deprives millions of people better life chances, it fuels crime, conflict, and corruption. “Failure to tackle inequality will leave hundreds of millions trapped in poverty unnecessarily.”
After detailing the extreme truth about the state of global inequality, the report details way to dig people out of this disproportion. For example, “Oxfam calculated that if you were to tax billionaires just 1.5% of their wealth…it could raise $74 billion a year, enough to fill the annual gaps in funding needed to get every child into school and to deliver health services in the world’s poorest countries.” Through its Even it Up report and campaign, Oxfam calls on governments around the world to implement policies that will redistribute money and power to ensure that the poor benefit more directly.
The Oxfam report provides further evidence that that extreme inequality is not inevitable, but is, in fact, the result of political choices and economic policies established and maintained by the power-elite, wealthy individuals whose strong influence keeps the status quo rigged in their own favor. However, “in a world where people are dying of hunger or because they can’t afford healthcare” this is not just an issue of fairness, but one of life and death.
As of November 10, 2014, there has been no corporate coverage, and hardly any independent news coverage, of Oxfam’s Even it Up report in the United States. Internationally, the report has been widely covered across many countries. News outlets from across the globe like The Guardian in the U.K., The Herald in South Africa, Right Vision News in Pakistan, among others, have reported on the Oxfam findings and the need for their governments to listen and effect change. American news outlets, however, have remained almost entirely absent from the conversation. With the exception of the press release posted through Oxfam, there has been only one article published on the subject, from the independent news site Takepart.com, written by Samantha Cowan. In her article, Cowan outlines Oxfam’s report and comments on the cyclical nature of inequality and poverty. Economic inequality leads to inequality in practically every other aspect of life, a domino effect that leaves those in poverty with extremely limited opportunities. Even in a society such as the United States, where cultural values teach us that we can “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and succeed despite modest beginnings,” inequality and poverty are perpetuated across generations. While Cowan’s article covers the issue nicely, the overall lack of US corporate news coverage of Oxfam’s findings and subsequent campaign cannot be ignored.
Sarah Dransfield, “Number of billionaires doubled since financial crisis as inequality spirals out of control – Oxfam”, Oxfam, October 29, 2014, http://www.oxfam.org.uk/blogs/2014/10/number-of-billionaires-doubled-since-financial-crisis-as-inequality-spirals-out-of-control.
Samantha Cowan, “Every Kid on Earth Could Go to School If the World’s 1,646 Richest People Gave 1.5 Percent”, Takepart, November 3, 2014, http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/11/03/worlds-wealthiest.
Student Researcher: Izzy Michaelson (Pitzer College)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth (Pomona College)