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Billionaire fortunes grew by $2.5 billion a day last year as poorest saw their wealth fall

By Oxfam

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New Oxfam report estimates that the number of billionaires has doubled since the financial crisis of 2008

Billionaire fortunes increased by 12 percent last year – or $2.5 billion a day - while the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth decline by 11 percent, a new report from Oxfam revealed today. The report is being launched as political and business elites head to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week.

Oxfam’s report, ‘Public Good or Private Wealth,’ shows the growing gap between rich and poor is undermining the fight against poverty, damaging our economies and fueling public anger across the globe. The report reveals that the number of billionaires has doubled since the financial crisis, with a millionaire becoming a billionaire every two days, yet wealthy individuals and corporations are paying lower rates of tax than they have in decades, thanks in part to the new tax law championed by the Republican-led 115th Congress and President Trump. The report also details how governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, finding that that women and girls are hardest hit by rising economic inequality.

“The last ten years clearly shows that we have learned nothing. Since the global economy collapsed, the number of billionaires has doubled, with a new billionaire being minted every other day,” said Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America’s Vice President for Policy and Campaigns. “While corporations and the super-rich enjoy the lowest tax bills, millions of girls around the world have no access to a decent education and women are dying due to a lack of maternity care.”

The 2017 US tax bill is super-charging the worldwide tax race to the bottom and exacerbating the trend of governments dramatically cutting tax rates for wealthy individuals and corporations around the world. The top rate of personal income tax in rich countries fell from 62 percent in 1970 to just 38 percent in 2013. The average rate in poor countries is just 28 percent, according to Oxfam’s report. The corporate tax rate has been similarly slashed around the world over the past decades, with some countries now mulling over further cuts in response to the US move to do so. Cutting wealth and corporate taxes predominantly benefits men who own 50 percent more wealth than women globally, and control over 86 percent of corporations. 

“The recent US tax law is a master class on how to favor massive corporations and the richest citizens,” continued O’Brien. “The law rewards US companies that have trillions stashed offshore, encourages US companies to dodge foreign taxes on their foreign profits, and fuels a global race to the bottom that benefits big business and wealthy individuals at the expense of poor people everywhere.”

At the same time, public services are suffering from chronic underfunding or being outsourced to private companies that exclude the poorest people. The UN estimates that education and healthcare in developing countries are under-funded by $418 billion. In many countries a decent education or quality healthcare has become a luxury only the rich can afford. Every day 10,000 people die because they lack access to affordable healthcare.

Conversely, when public services are neglected poor women and girls suffer most. Girls are pulled out of school first when the money isn’t available to pay fees, and women clock up hours of unpaid work looking after sick relatives when healthcare systems fail. Oxfam estimates that if all the unpaid care work carried out by women across the globe was done by a single company it would have an annual turnover of $10 trillion.

Oxfam estimated that if the richest one percent paid an additional 0.5 percent tax on their wealth, an estimated $418 billion would be raised a year. This alone would ensure an education for the 262 million children currently not in school and provide healthcare that could save the lives of more than three million people.

“The only winners in the race to the bottom on corporate tax are the wealthiest among us. Now is the time to work towards a new set of tax rules that work for the many, not the few,” continued O’Brien. “We need economic, political and tax reform to level the playing field if we want to restore prosperity and opportunity for all, including women, girls whose needs are so often overlooked.”

/ENDS

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