For today’s Humanosphere podcast, we’re talking with Gawain Kripke, director of policy and research at Oxfam America. For the last few years at the annual meeting of the rich and powerful in the Swiss ski resort city of Davos – aka, the World Economic Forum – Oxfam has repeatedly provided the biggest news splash every year by just tossing out a few numbers.
In 2014, it was 85 and 3.5 billion. This year, it’s 62 and 3.6 billion. What do these two sets of numbers represent? Wealth inequality in the world, and it’s getting worse, according to the humanitarian advocacy organization. In 2014, Oxfam reported that 85 people held as much wealth on the planet as the poorest 3.5 billion. This year, 2016, they are reporting that the wealth has been concentrated into even fewer hands – 62 people now have as much wealth in total as the poorest 3.6 billion people around the planet.
Put another way, as the Oxfam report is entitled, what we have is an Economy for the 1%: How Privilege and Power in the Economy Drive Extreme Inequality and How This Can Be Stopped. Here’s Tom Murphy’s report from earlier this week on Oxfam’s report.
We wanted to talk to Kripke because some contend the Oxfam numbers are wrong, or misleading. Others say inequality – the growing gap between the rich and poor – doesn’t matter; what matters is overall growth and development. We talk to Kripke about the criticisms, about how wealth concentration and inequality is seen by many as a key driver of poverty and inequity and about what Oxfam thinks we can do to reverse this trend.
As usual, Tom Paulson and I start off the podcast by first discussing some news highlights in the Humanosphere, including a story by Lisa Nikolau about the Missing Maps project – the use of satellite, GPS and web data to more accurately assess the living conditions of the world’s poorest people. We also chat about a story I did on how Indonesians reacted to a recent terrorist attack in Jakarta (my home city!), to emphasize that most Muslims (like most people, duh) angrily reject the violent distortion of their religious beliefs. Finally, we noted a story by Cooper Inveen in Sierra Leone and the concern that the government is over-reacting to (or even exploiting) Ebola fears.