That is the findings in a new report from Oxfam, the international rights group.
The $240 billion net income of the world's 100 richest billionaires would have ended poverty four times over, according to the London-based group's report released on Saturday.Imagine being able to prevent millions of children from dying of preventable diseases. Imagine being able to prevent millions of people dying from malnutrition. Imagine being able to do it with just a quarter of a year's income.
"We sometimes talk about the 'have-nots' and the 'haves' - well, we're talking about the 'have-lots'. [...] We're anti-poverty agency. We focus on poverty, we work with the poorest people around the world. You don't normally hear us talking about wealth. But it's gotten so out of control between rich and poor that one of the obstacles to solving extreme poverty is now extreme wealth," Ben Phillips, a campaign director at Oxfam, told Al Jazeera.
And then imagine spending your money to get lower taxes for the wealthiest instead.
"We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true," said Jeremy Hobbs, an executive director at Oxfam.Most of the 100 richest people do not live in the United States, but 15 out of the top 26 do.
"Concentration of resources in the hands of the top one per cent depresses economic activity and makes life harder for everyone else – particularly those at the bottom of the economic ladder.
"In a world where even basic resources such as land and water are increasingly scarce, we cannot afford to concentrate assets in the hands of a few and leave the many to struggle over what’s left."
So it only makes sense that the movement toward reducing inequality starts here.
The Haves and the Have-mores
You may have heard how the rich pay more federal income taxes than the poor (as if this is some sort of a crime), while tens of millions of working poor are using government benefits (as if this is also some sort of crime).
But you probably haven't heard about how 2,400 millionaires pocketed unemployment benefits in 2009.
“Sending millionaires unemployment checks is a case study in out-of-control spending,” U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, said in an e-mail. “Providing welfare to the wealthy undermines the program for those who need it most while burdening future generations with senseless debt.”For once I can't argue with a conservative Republican.
Of course federal income taxes are just one tax.
Social Security taxes are totally regressive, only taxing the first $100k or so of income. Often this is the major tax for the working poor.
And then there is the fact that tax breaks overwhelming benefit the wealth, not the poor.
But the real trick is when you factor in all of the taxes.
The fact is that nearly every state and local tax system takes a much greater share of income from middle- and low-income families than from the wealthy. This “tax the poor” strategy is problematic because hiking taxes on low-income families pushes them further into poverty and increases the likelihood that they will need to rely on safety net programs. From a state budgeting perspective, this “soak the poor” strategy also doesn’t yield much revenue compared to modest taxes on the rich. It’s no wonder that so many states with regressive tax structures are facing long-term structural budget deficits. They‘re continually imposing higher taxes on people without much money.In states like Florida the top 1% pay a tax rate of 2.1% while the bottom 20% pay a tax rate of 13.5%. Texas is 3% and 12.2% respectively.
But the worst state is surprisingly Washington state where the richest 1% pay a 2.6% tax rate, while the poorest 20% pay 17% in taxes.
Only in the District of Columbia do the rich pay more in local taxes than the poor.