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Oxfam: 85 People Have the Same Wealth as the Lower 50 Percent

The global income inequality numbers are staggering. According to a new report from Oxfam International, 85 people control as much wealth as half the world’s population, or 3.5 billion people.

The study also found that 70 percent of all people live in countries where this income gap is growing. Oxfam calls this economic trend “ a major risk to human progress.”

The research, focused on the global stage, echoes the sentiment of both United States President Barack Obama, who called American income inequality, “the defining challenge of our time” and Pope Francis’ indictment of global capitalism. It now seems the whole world is paying attention to the growing divide between rich and poor.

However, in spite of growing awareness, the problem seems to be getting worse, not better.

The Oxfam report raises concerns about the effects of economic inequality on democratic systems of government, saying that the concentration of money in the hands of a few undermines the influence of ordinary people.

They argue that markets are not impartial phenomena, but are the construction of the wealthy elite—rigged to move more money and assets into their hands. The report goes on to provide short, specific examples from across the globe indicating how capital corrupts (and breaks) political processes.

But it is not all finger pointing. Oxfam does offer specific recommendations as to how people can face this problem in the coming years. Their policy recommendations include tax reform, living wages, labor safety and healthcare legislation, stronger regulation and the reduced political influence of capital.

The cost of not adopting these recommendations, the claim, will likely prove catastrophic for the world’s poor and for democracy abroad.

– Chase Colton

Sources: Oxfam, Al Jazeera, NPR
Photo: Borgen Project