A Fair Society? Extremes Of Wealth.

by richardhutton

Two reports were released this week. In their report ‘The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all’ Oxfam, note that:

It is now widely accepted that rapidly growing extreme wealth and inequality are harmful to human progress, and that something needs to be done. Already this year, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report rated inequality as one of the top global risks of 2013. The IMF and the Economist agree. Around the world, the Occupy protests demonstrated the increasing public anger and feeling that inequality has gone too far.

In the last decade, the focus has been exclusively on one half of the inequality equation – ending extreme poverty. Inequality and the extreme wealth that contributes to it were seen as either not relevant, or a prerequisite for the growth that would also help the poorest, as the wealth created trickled down to the benefit of everyone.

They add that “Globally the incomes of the top 1% have increased 60% in twenty years. The growth in income for the 0.01% has been even greater”. Has the recession inhibited this development? No. On the contrary, “the top 100 billionaires added $240 billion to their wealth in 2012- enough to end world poverty four times over”.

This contrasts markedly with the nature of austerity policies. In ‘A Fair Society?’, the Centre for Welfare Reform describe the disproportionate impact of budgetry cuts on the very poorest members of society. The reduction of public expenditure by £75.2 billion is being targeted primarily at two social groups: the poor, who require social protection; and people dependent on social care. The group affected most adversely of all will be men, women, and children with disabilities. 50% of cuts to public expenditure fall on social security payments, and local government costs, despite the fact that “together they make up only 26.8% of central government expenditure”.