Richest 100 earned enough in 2012 to end global poverty four times over

So, it turns out Bob Geldoff, Bono, and countless charity organisations have been wrong this whole time. Making poverty history doesn’t require the generosity of all, just the mountains of cash hoarded by the top 100 richest people in the world.

According to a new report by the international charity organisation Oxfam, the $240 billion net income of the worlds 100 richest billionaires in 2012 (they are now worth $1.9 trillion, i.e. just a little less than the entire output of the UK), could end global poverty four times over.

In the report, Oxfam seeks to get away from position traditionally held by charities in which “the focus has been exclusively on one half of the inequality equation – ending extreme poverty”, and instead focus on what it now sees as the route cause of that poverty – the massive inequality in the distribution of wealth worldwide.

The report also discredits the “trickle down” mantra, long repeated by the worlds rich, capitalist governments and charities alike. The idea that wealth will trickle down from the top, and thus gradually benefit all in society, is a nonsense, particularly in a time when the richest people in the world are hoarding their wealth and refusing to invest. The Oxfam report highlights this when it states as an example “in South Africa even with sustained economic growth a million more people will be pushed into poverty by 2020 unless action is taken”.

The report goes on to challenge many of the lies which have propped up capitalist governments for centuries. The idea of the “democratic mandate” of national parliaments who claim to symbolise majority rule is challenged in the report as Oxfam highlights the fact that, in Britain, the Conservative Party receive the vast majority of their party funds from the financial services industry. The idea of equal opportunities is smashed by the report, which states that those who are born poor, will most likely live and die poor, as social mobility is halted due extreme inequality.

The question of the environment was also covered in the report, stating that each individual who forms part of the top 1% in US society, has a carbon footprint 10,000 times larger than the average American. This figure alone destroys the argument that environmental taxes on ordinary people (bin charges, water charges, &c.) have anything to do with solving the environmental crisis facing the planet.

While Oxfam’s report is to be welcomed for highlighting the massive inequality between rich and poor, the corruption of national governments, and the extreme greed of the top 1%, it fails to draw the correct conclusions. While the main lesson from the report, that poverty is caused by inequality, is quite right, it fails to recognise the cause of inequality – capitalism!

The unequal distribution of wealth, economic domination of a minority of super rich, and the democratic deficit of parliamentary government are all part and parcel of this system. The harking back to the Roosevelt “New Deal” past, the report ignores the reality of the world economic situation and the nature of the system. No amount of taxation and political reform can bring the redistribution of wealth necessary to end global poverty, exploitation, and ecological ruin.

Simply lobbying right wing political leaders and the super rich to try to get bigger scraps from the bosses’ table is not and cannot be enough. Only by breaking from capitalism and replacing it with a democratic, socialist system based on the public ownership of wealth and industry can a truly equal society, free from poverty be built.