The world will have its first trillionaire within a decade, but poverty won’t be eradicated for another 229 years, report finds

World's richest billionaires add $1.5 trillion in wealth during '23 after losing $1.4 trillion in '22

In just three years, the world has witnessed a “supercharged surge in extreme wealth,” new data shows.  

In the U.S. alone, billionaires are 46% richer than they were in 2020, while the three wealthiest men — Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Larry Ellison — have increased their net worth by 84%, a recent Oxfam report on global inequality found.

Yet, despite the fact that America ranks first as the richest nation in the world in terms of gross domestic product, 37.9 million Americans live in poverty, accounting for 11.5% of the total population, according to the latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

“We’re witnessing the beginnings of a decade of division, with billions of people shouldering the economic shockwaves of pandemic, inflation and war, while billionaires’ fortunes boom,” said Oxfam International interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar.

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Oxfam also found that the five richest men globally have more than doubled their vast wealth since 2020. If current trends continue, the world will have its first trillionaire within a decade, but poverty won’t be eradicated for another 229 years. 

“We expect to see continued concentration of extreme wealth at the very top,” added Rebecca Riddell, policy lead economic and racial justice at Oxfam.

There are, however, signs of progress, noted Steven Hamilton, assistant professor of economics at George Washington University.

As the labor market tightened over the same period, more workers have full-time jobs, Hamilton said, and “that has led to rapidly rising nominal wages among low-income people.”

Further, the rash of strikes in 2023 resulted in a string of labor deals where union workers including autoworkers, UPS drivers, airline pilots, and television and film writers pushed for and won higher pay

“There are cracks being made that can achieve a more equal world,” Riddell said.

‘Tax our extreme wealth’

But there is also more that could be done, Hamilton added.

“If we wanted less inequality, we could have it,” he said, citing policies such as progressive taxation, higher tax rates on corporate income, dividend and capital gains income, estate taxation, and increasing the earned income tax credit — “there are a lot of measures we could take to pretty radically reduce income inequality in the U.S.”

Shortly after Oxfam’s report was released, some of the world’s wealthiest people called on elected representatives of the world’s leading economies to introduce higher taxes on the very richest in society.

In an open letter to political leaders gathered at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, more than 250 billionaires and millionaires said that they wished to deliver a clear message, “Tax our extreme wealth.”

The signatories of the letter, entitled “Proud To Pay More,” span 17 countries and include Disney heir Abigail Disney, screenwriter Simon Pegg and Valerie Rockefeller, an heir to the famed U.S. family.

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