Wealth of 10 richest men doubled during pandemic as 99% of income plummeted: Oxfam

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The world’s 10 richest men have doubled their fortunes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report released Monday by advocacy group Oxfam, highlighting how the global health crisis has widened the gap between haves and have-nots as well as the need for political intervention to address these “deadly” inequalities.

While the wealth of the world’s 10 richest men more than doubled – from around $700 billion to $1.5 trillion between March 2020 and November 2021 – the incomes of around 99% of people in the world fell during this period, and more than 160 million people were forced into poverty, adds the Oxfam report.

The poverty and economic justice advocacy group calculated the wealth gains of the ultra-elite based on Forbes real-time data on billionaires. The richest men were Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bernard Arnault and his family, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer and Warren Buffett.

Information on the decline in income for the Global 99% was drawn from World Bank data, Oxfam said in its methodology.

The calculations also indicate that the wealth of the world’s billionaires has increased more since the onset of COVID-19 than in the past 14 years.

“Billionaires had a terrible pandemic. Central banks pumped billions of dollars into financial markets to save the economy, but much of that ended up lining the pockets of billionaires in the midst of a stock market boom,” he said. said Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International. statement on Monday accompanying the latest report.

Bucher added that if the 10 richest men in the world lost 99% of their wealth, they would still be richer than 99% of everyone on this planet.

The wealth of the world’s billionaires tends to be more tied to stocks than their less wealthy counterparts. In the United States, the wealthiest 1% of households in the United States own more than half of all publicly traded stocks in the market, according to Federal Reserve Data, and the poorest 50% of households own less than 1%.

While the pandemic recovery of the labor market and the economy as a whole continues to falter, the stock market has rallied strongly since March 2020, in part due to the monetary policies adopted by the Federal Reserve – resulting in gains of massive wealth, often untaxed, for the rich and leaving behind the poor who have no market share.

Oxfam said this gross inequality is killing people through lack of access to healthcare, hunger and more. The group advocates for a tax on the ultra-rich to address these deadly inequalities.

Bucher added that taxation is one of the main ways to begin to “repair the violent harms of this obscene inequality.”

The report calling for a new tax targeting the world’s richest comes after a survey of taxes on billionaires, published by non-profit news organization ProPublica last year, found that the ultra-rich are able to use loopholes to avoid paying taxes on wealth gains. .

The ProPublica report published tax documents on the wealthy and said that while the median US household paid 14% of its income to federal taxpayers, the 25 wealthiest Americans had a so-called average “effective tax rate” of only 3.4% of the amount their wealth grew each year between 2014 and 2018. This was largely due to keeping their reported income, and therefore reported income tax, at just a fraction of what It’s actually their net worth and the storage of most of their wealth in stocks – which are taxed only once they’re sold.

The Oxfam report cited these differing tax rates and advocates that billionaires pay taxes each year on their increased wealth – whether or not those gains are realized (i.e. if a billionaire sells the stock after it has increased in value or keeps it to avoid paying tax on those gains).

While the idea of ​​a billionaire tax has gained momentum in Washington and beyond in recent years, particularly during the pandemic, it has faced an uphill battle in its implementation. . Critics call these types of taxes on unrealized gains unconstitutional based on the definition of income.

Oxfam researchers, meanwhile, see a tax on the wealthy as an imperative and obvious way to tackle “deadly inequality” caused by the pandemic.

“One of the most powerful tools we have to combat this gross and deadly level of inequality is to tax the rich,” Abby Maxman, head of Oxfam America, said in a statement Monday. “Instead of lining the pockets of the ultra-rich, we should be investing billions of dollars in our economy, our children and our planet, paving the way for a more equitable and sustainable future.”

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