The news isn’t all that surprising, nor unprecedented – that the 26 richest billionaires on planet earth have as much wealth between them as the poorest 3.8 billion human beings. It is though, for all of its inevitability, no less repugnant and grotesque.
The figures aren’t even stagnant either; they’re yawning ever-wider year on year. For example, in just 3 short years, the number of people who own as much wealth as half the planet has reduced from 80 in 2015 to just 26 in 2018. If this trajectory continues unabated, by 2025, just 1 single individual will have amassed a personal fortune bigger that half of all other living humans on the planet.
And this isn’t even an unlikely scenario, either. Billionaires’ fortunes balloon by a staggering $2.5bn every single day. Indeed, in 2018 alone, the 2,200 billionaires on the planet (a figure twice as big as before the 2008 financial crisis) grew 12% wealthier, whilst the bottom half of the world got 11% poorer.
The world's 26 richest people own the same wealth as the poorest half of humanity, @Oxfam says, urging governments to hike taxes on the wealthy to fight soaring inequality https://t.co/pStHeSuVxo pic.twitter.com/bu5IjcTtw0
— AFP news agency (@AFP) January 21, 2019
These are now, categorically, ultra-extreme levels of inequality. They are also a stark reminder that, above all the cries ad nauseum of Backstop, Withdrawal Agreement, Customs Union and People’s Vote, wealth has essentially been consolidated to the point of oligopoly on a global scale.
It is because of this disparity, and all it means for humanity, that we need leaders, and Prime Ministers, like Jeremy Corbyn. However, in Britain at least, Brexit has become like a parasite in the minds of well-meaning people, to the abandonment of all else.
Consider that in this country, the poorest 10% of Britons pay a higher effective tax rate than the richest 10%, once taxes on consumption are taken into account, and then marvel that our entire political conversation has essentially been hijacked by Brexit.
Along with this astonishingly unjust inequality we also have imminent global catastrophe looming. Climate change is no longer just a far-off prospect for future generations, but one that is being felt right now, and will, as long as our creaking 40-year old system of uber-capitalism withstands and its proponents and beneficiaries continue to distract us, only get worse.
Indeed, David Attenborough has just warned the Davos Conference that we are now in the Anthropocene. Whereas the Holocene – the previous age – represented a time of great natural stability for 12,000 years, now the Anthropocene – the age of humans – threatens to be our undoing.
Yet what position are we in, in this country, to discuss these vast, mythical problems? We are too busy worrying about small print.
Just look at the progress being made in the USA. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the recently elected, self-avowed Democratic Socialist representative for New York’s 14th District, has galvanised a wellspring of support for a Green New Deal.
This sweeping idea melds the needs of labour with the needs of our climate, promising massive investment in renewable energy and ‘green jobs’.
In Blighty, though, we are stuck in the quagmire of Brexit, unable to consider anything beyond paltry point scoring and demonisation of Leavers and Remainers.
At the very least, the massive wealth inequality highlighted by Oxfam must serve as a reminder that some things are bigger than Brexit. And it must serve as a timely reminder of why we need to completely diverge from the now completely defunct neo-conservative approach, and put our faith in truly transformative, Democratic Socialist visionaries like Corbyn.