This week European bank Credit Suisse published figures showing that the wealth gap between rich and poor has reached even more grotesque and absurdist levels. According to the bank, the world’s richest 1% now own as much wealth as half the population of the entire planet. The United States and Britain are among the top countries for residing multi-millionaires, while these two nations have also emerged as among the most unequal in the world.
The data calling out how dysfunctional the capitalist system has become keeps on coming. It is impossible to ignore the reality of a system in deep disrepair, yet British and American politicians in particular – apart from notable exceptions like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders – have the audacity to block out this reality and to chase after risible phantoms. (The exercise makes perfect sense in a way.)
Last week, a report from the US-based Institute of Policy Studies found that just three of America’s wealthiest men – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett – own the same level of wealth as the poorest half of the entire US population. That is, the combined monetary worth of these three individuals – reckoned to be $250 billion – is equivalent to that possessed by 160 million citizens.
What’s more, the study also estimates that if the Trump administration pushes through its proposed tax plans, the gap between rich elite and the vast majority will widen even further. This and other studies have found that over 80% of the tax benefits from Trump’s budget will go to enrich the top 1% in society.
All Western governments, not just May’s or Trump’s, have over the past decades overseen an historic trend of siphoning wealth from the majority of society to a tiny elite few. The tax burden has relentlessly shifted from the wealthy to the ordinary workers, who in addition have had to contend with decreasing wages, as well as deteriorating public serves and social welfare.
To refer to the United States or Britain as “democracies” is a preposterous misnomer. They are for all practical purposes plutocracies; societies run by and for a top strata of obscenely wealthy.