• Market Crumbs

Oxfam Drops Scathing Report As The World's Elite Descend on Davos

Image via ABC News

Just as the World Economic Forum kicks off this week in Davos, Switzerland—where 2,000 guests, including more than 100 billionaires, will descend on the ritzy ski resort via private jets to discuss climate change and wealth inequality over $43 hot dogs, Oxfam released a scathing report on global wealth inequality.

Oxfam, which is a confederation of 19 independent charitable organizations focusing on the alleviation of global poverty, released its Time To Care report, warning that the current level of wealth concentration is not sustainable and that the number of billionaires is a sign of "economic sickness, not health."

While the issue of global wealth inequality is well known, the statistics pointed out in the report are truly staggering. The world's billionaires—2,153 of them, have more combined wealth than 4.6 billion people. Narrowing the concentration down to the world's wealthiest 1% shows they hold more combined wealth than 6.9 billion people. For context, the global population is currently estimated to be close to 7.8 billion people, with nearly half of them living on $5.50 per day, according to the World Bank.

Oxfam provided some interesting examples to show how wide the inequality gap has grown. If you saved $10,000 a day since the pyramids in Egypt were built, you would have one-fifth the average fortune of the world's five-wealthiest people. If everyone piled up their wealth in $100 bills and sat on them, most of the world's population would be sitting on the floor. A middle-class person in a developed country would be sitting at the height of a chair, while the world’s two-wealthiest people would be sitting in outer space.

While timing the report's release with the start of the WEF, Oxfam a took shot at the world's elite who are attending the event, saying "most world leaders are still pursuing policy agendas that drive a greater gap between the haves and the have nots." Oxfam points out the increasing prevalence of protests against inequality as a result of their policies.

Oxfam continued its assault on billionaires, who are the beneficiaries of the "broken economy," even pointing out that Bill Gates is worth twice as much as he was when he left Microsoft. The report notes that an estimated one-third of global billionaires inherited their wealth and thanks to "highly paid accountants," have created a new aristocracy that undermines democracy.

Oxfam's proposals to end extreme wealth inequality don't include anything that hasn't already been proposed. They suggest taxing wealth and high incomes, as well as cracking down on loopholes such as global tax rules that enable the world's wealthiest to "escape their tax responsibilities."

While Oxfam's report doesn't reveal anything that hasn't already been revealed—as well as suggest solutions that haven't already been suggested, it's commendable of them to release such a scathing report as the world's elite flock to Davos. Unfortunately, with the WEF now celebrating its 50th anniversary, it's highly unlikely the event's attendees will start paying much attention to these issues now.

Leftover Crumbs

  • Sounds kind of dangerous. The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is reviewing a petition asking the agency to formally investigate Tesla over claims vehicles are accelerating suddenly. The complaints claim vehicles suddenly accelerated both while attempting to park and while in traffic. The petition claims Tesla Models S, X and 3 are affected and requests the agency issue a recall for 500,000 vehicles. The petition notes "127 consumer complaints to NHTSA involving 123 unique vehicles. The reports include 110 crashes and 52 injuries."

  • Not The Onion. Facebook has apologized to Chinese leader Xi Jinping for translating his name to "Mr. Shithole" when translating his name from Burmese to English. A headline in a local news journal, Irrawaddy, even appeared as "Dinner honors president shithole." "We fixed a technical issue that caused incorrect translations from Burmese to English on Facebook. This should not have happened and we are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. We sincerely apologize for the offense this has caused," Facebook said.

  • Thanks but no thanks. Amazon, not content on taking over the world with Alexa, is now apparently looking at the ability of using the palm of your hand to purchase items. Amazon has reportedly begun working with Visa, while discussing the project with Mastercard, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Synchrony Financial. In what will surely alarm those who are wary of Amazon following the company's previous privacy mishaps, Amazon filed a patent for a "non-contact biometric identification system" that features a "hand scanner" to generate a picture of a person’s palm. Amazon would reportedly also store the date on their cloud and use it to study consumer's spending habits.

  • Disney is taking its lightsaber to Etsy. The Walt Disney Company has demanded Etsy stop selling all items that depict Baby Yoda. Baby Yoda, who is officially named "The Child," instantly became the hottest thing in the world after being introduced on the Disney+ show The Mandalorian last fall. Disney initially didn't release any Baby Yoda products, despite premiering at the height of the holiday shopping season, as it didn't want to give away the plot before the show aired. The first Baby Yoda plush doll from Disney, which will set you back $24, won't be available until March 1.

  • That's quite the diamond. Louis Vuitton has acquired the second-largest diamond in history, the 1,758-carat rough diamond named "Sewelô." The diamond was discovered last April by Lucara Diamond Corp in Botswana. Lucara and the HB company, a Belgian diamond manufacturer, have entered into a partnership with Louis Vuitton to polish the diamond and cut it into smaller stones for a collection. Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but Lucara will receive an upfront payment, receive 50% of all sales once the diamond is cut and receive a further 5% of the sales, which will be invested into Lucara's community initiatives in Botswana.