Economic inequality continues to rise both in New Zealand and throughout the world - and it was all predicted by Karl Marx over a century ago.
A NEW REPORT from Oxfam International has revealed that the one percent gobbled up 82 percent of all the wealth created in 2017. That means out of every ten dollars they left the rest of us $1.80 to live on. Hey, don't spend it all at once...
With appalling figures like this it should come as no surprise that the bottom 50 percent of the world's population saw their economic position either flat line or deteriorate throughout 2017.
The six heirs to the Walmart retail fortune in the United States have a net worth greater than the bottom 40 per cent of the American population. Meanwhile 12 million Americans, in 2014, were living on $2 per day. $2 a day. In the land of the free.
Nor can we, in little old New Zealand, assume that this terrible level of economic deprivation is alien to us - just take a look at the queues outside the food banks and the rising level of homelessness as well as housing overcrowding.
New Zealand has not been left behind in the economic inequality stakes. According to Oxfam , using data compiled by Credit Suisse, the one percent pocketed 27 percent of the country's wealth in 2017. The poorest 1.4 million of us (30 per cent of the population), got barely 1 per cent — $1.5b — of all the wealth created in 2017. We've come a long, long way from the days when New Zealand prided itself on its egalitarianism. Now we've got two New Zealanders, Richard Chandler and Graeme Hart, who have more wealth than about a third of the country.
In a press release Rachael Le Mesurier, executive director of Oxfam NZ, said the organisation was shocked to discover such a level of wealth inequality.
"The gap between the extremely wealthy and the rest of us is greater than we thought, both in New Zealand and around the world. It is trapping huge numbers of people in poverty and fracturing our societies - as seen in New Zealand in the changing profile of home ownership."
But these figures, shocking as they might be, are but a brief snapshot in time that has seen economic inequality steadily climbing ever since Karl Marx was sitting in the British Library writing Capital, some 150 years ago.
The figures again sharply refute the claims of mainstream economists, many in the pay of the banks and the finance sector, who argue that 'economic growth' has lifted millions out of poverty. It has been a convenient fantasy that the corporate media have been happy to promote. So here's the New York Times, explaining in 2014 how we've never had it so good:
"The message from groups like Occupy Wall Street has been that inequality is up and that capitalism is failing us. A more correct and nuanced message is this: Although significant economic problems remain, we have been living in equalizing times for the world — a change that has been largely for the good. That may not make for convincing sloganeering, but it’s the truth."
But this is far from the truth. It is fake news.
Karl Marx predicted that the growth of capitalism would also lead to a greater concentration and centralisation of wealth. He wrote: “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole.”
He has been proved correct. Contrary to establishment propaganda, poverty for billions around the world remains the norm with little sign of improvement, while inequality within the major capitalist economies continues to widen.
The solution to inequality remains political. But governments, like our own Labour-New Zealand First coalition, are not interested in confronting capitalism but rescuing it. It is easier to imagine capitalism collapsing than governments like our own introducing anti- capitalist policies.
Jacinda Ardern and Labour have even retreated from increasing taxes on the wealthy. And with the government's Tax Working Group dominated by representatives of the corporate sector and overseen by the neoliberal former finance minister Michael Cullen, the wealthy can rest safe in the knowledge that they can continue to grow fatter at the expense of everybody else.