It must be nice to be a billionaire, especially in the US. Consider the options and privileges available. You decide what laws Congress can pass; you get tons of money from the government to develop and promote your pet project and sell it back to the government or the people at inflated prices. And you get to exploit the pandemic to get even richer. Not bad.
The world’s 10 richest men, all but one American citizens, doubled their wealth while 160 million additional people worldwide fell into poverty swelling the ranks of the poor during the pandemic. These are the findings of a report released by Oxfam on January 17.
The report makes other startling revelations. The men’s wealth (yes, they are all men. Why aren’t the feminists protesting this when they get so riled up because Afghan girls cannot attend school ignoring the fact that the US freezing of Afghan reserves is the main reason?) jumped from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion. This averages out to $1.3 billion per day, enough to feed 1.3 billion poor people daily!
Oxfam’s report was published before a virtual mini summit of world leaders being held under the auspices of the World Economic Forum. Prior to the pandemic, the summit was held annually in Davos, Switzerland.
The billionaires’ wealth rose more during the pandemic than it did during the previous 14 years, when the world economy was suffering the worst recession since the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Describing this inequality “economic violence”—it would be more appropriate to call it “economic terrorism”— Oxfam said such inequality is contributing to the death of 21,000 people every day due to lack of access to health care, gender-based violence, hunger and climate change. That translates into 7,665,000 avoidable deaths. The overwhelming majority of victims are non-white ethnic minorities and women.
Let us name some of these very wealthy men. Forbes listed the world’s 10 richest men as: Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, former Microsoft CEOs Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, US investor Warren Buffet and the head of the French luxury group LVMH, Bernard Arnault (the only non-American).
Common Dreams on November 01, 2021, provided the net worth of six of these very rich individuals, calling them the “Oligarchic Half-Dozen”: Elon Musk ($292.6 billion), Jeff Bezos ($195.9b), Bill Gates ($137.4b), Larry Ellison ($130.0b), Larry Page ($126.2b), and Sergey Brin ($121.6b). That number for Elon Musk, definitely not a typo: America now has its first “quarter-trillionaire.”
In the Common Dreams article, Bob Lord, Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow, and tax counsel to Americans for Tax Fairness, had this to say: “Barely a year ago, my colleagues Chuck Collins and Omar Ocampo noted the passing of ‘a disturbing milestone in the U.S. history of concentrated wealth and power.’ On August 13, 2020, just twelve obscenely wealthy Americans held a combined $1.015 trillion. They called those twelve the ‘Oligarchic Dozen’.”
A year later (on October 29, 2021), just half that group—six extraordinarily rich people—held wealth totaling $1.003 trillion. How do people end up acquiring such wealth, especially during the pandemic? This has nothing to do with being smart. The fact is, these rich men have most of the so-called elected representatives in their pockets.
The US Congress is a cesspool of corruption. Not surprisingly, it is said that America has the “best democracy money can buy”. Every member of Congress—man or woman—is beholden to some oligarch or lobby group. Elections in the US and indeed in much of the Western world, are enormously expensive undertakings. It costs millions of dollars to run a campaign. In the 2020 election cycle for president and Congress, $14.4 billion were spent. The money that individuals and corporations contribute to get people elected is then repaid in the form of laws that protect their interests. He who pays the piper calls the tune.
Congress will not pass laws to tax the rich. This was evident in the October 2021 Congressional debate over President Joe Biden’s “Billionaire Income Tax” proposal for his Build Back Better framework. Senator Ron Wyden’s modest proposal requiring billionaires to recognize their wealth gains as income and pay tax as those gains accrued was dismissed. The charge to not tax the billionaires was led by Joe Manchin and a few other lawmakers. Nor will the billionaires pay any income tax on a lifetime of investment gains after death! The billionaires can go happy to the other side.
When billionaires can manipulate the system and not pay any tax, it is not surprising that they become trillionaires. It has nothing to do with being smart; it has everything to do with being crooked and thoroughly dishonest. It is disgusting that they would exploit the pandemic to grab more government funds while the poor become poorer and die by the millions.
The US is not a democracy but an oligarchy, as several scholars have suggested. “American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s ‘news’ media),” according to Eric Zuess, writing in Counterpunch. He went on: “The US, in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious ‘electoral’ ‘democratic’ countries. We weren’t formerly, but we clearly are now.”