Inequality Video Fact Sheet

Here's where we got the facts for our video on global economic inequality

The figure we use for total global household wealth, $223 trillion, comes from the 2012 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report.

The figures we use for how the world’s wealth is divided by population cohort also come from the 2012 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, as discussed here.

The video says that the richest 300 people on earth have more wealth than the poorest 3 billion.  We chose those numbers because it makes for a clear and memorable comparison, but in truth the situation is even worse: the richest 200 people have about $2.7 trillion, which is more than the poorest 3.5 billion people, who have only $2.2 trillion combined.

The claim that inequality between poor countries and rich countries has been increasing and now stands at about 1:80 comes from the United Nations Development Program’s 1999 Human Development Report.

The amount of aid that rich countries give to developing countries each year, about $130 billion, comes from the OECD Aid Statistics report.

The claim that corporations steal more than $900 billion from developing countries each year through tax avoidance comes from a 2012 report from Global Financial Integrity.

The claim that developing countries pay $600 billion each year in debt service comes from the World Bank’s International Debt Statistics databank.

The claim that developing countries lose about $500 billion each year as a consequence of trade rules imposed by rich countries (through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) comes from Robert Pollin’s 2003 book Contours of Descent.

Another important fact that the video doesn’t include has to do with land grabs. Fred Pearce’s new book, The Land Grabbers, shows that that land exceeding the size of Western Europe has been grabbed from developing countries by rich-country corporations in the past decade alone. If we could quantify the value of that land we could have added a huge amount to the $2 trillion stack of cash that the video depicts flowing from poor to rich.

It’s also worth drawing attention to a recent Oxfam report that shows that “The richest 1% has increased its income by 60% in the last 20 years, with the financial crisis accelerating rather than slowing the process.”

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Trump: Join us in connecting the dots

The election of Donald Trump has left millions, maybe even billions of us in shock. Although we may be looking with bewilderment at the US today, we should remember that he is not an isolated phenomenon. He is a symptom of a sickness that is raging all around the world. People are hurting, disillusioned with mainstream politics and increasingly angry at a neoliberal economic system that is destroying lives and the planet with increasing ferocity. And in their desperation they are willing to consider extreme measures to make themselves heard.

Demagogues thrive amid fear and insecurity, which is why they paint the world in such dark terms. It’s a strategy that has put right-wing populist leaders in power in an Axis of Egos: from Brazil to Turkey, the Philippines to Russia, authoritarian strongmen like Trump are on the rise. Meanwhile, many centrist liberals, like the Democratic Party in the US, have been so intent on rejecting left-wing populist solutions, and so sure of their ability to beat anyone running on a white supremacy platform with its misogyny and homophobia, that they opened the door for Mr. Trump to walk straight through. Their preference is always to maintain the status quo that has served them so well.

As dangerous as the election of Trump is for the world, we can also see in this moment the truth that we simply cannot rely on the electoral political system to save us, because it is designed to prevent the fundamental change we need. Its own survival is at stake and it will marshal all its champions and resources to defend itself and stop the emergence of a new system. But when we work, or continue working for change from the ground up; when we build or keep on building new ways of living and being with each other where we live; when we construct or keep constructing the future we know is possible with our own hands, rather than hoping distant leaders will build it for us, we find our true power. Finally, when we combine that with the unbending hope that has powered change through the ages, we know our power has meaning.

A 400-year-old economic system is dying and another is struggling to be born. Change on this scale is not going to be smooth or easy. We should not be surprised, then, that moments like this — where the establishment is dealt a body blow — become more and more common. We can despair when that blow comes in the form of right-wing extremists, or we can step-up. We are the ones we are looking for, who can and must grasp the opportunities in these crises that are undoubtedly there.

So it’s time to come together, taking time to remember the earth. Remember all the successful struggles for justice that came before us, and imagine all those to come. Remember that social movements are growing all over the world and realising the common struggle. Remember life. Then, organise. Find each other and help midwife the inevitable transition that brings forth from the ashes of neoliberal capitalism a system that works for the good of all life on Mother Earth. This is not just activism; this is our responsibility as human beings alive as this all unfolds.

This is why we are here.