Voices of the Humanosphere 2016: Oxfam keeps warning of widening gap between rich and poor

Bono still hasn't found what he is looking for, at the World Economic Forum in 2011. (Copyright by World Economic Forum, swiss-image.ch/Photo by Moritz Hager)
Gawain Kripke, Oxfam

Gawain Kripke, Oxfam

As part of our Year in Review ploy to avoid doing timely and current work, we are revisiting some of our favorite podcasts. Today, we revisit our conversation with Gawain Kripke, director of policy and research for Oxfam America. On inequality.

Every January, the rich and powerful gather at a ski resort in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss how much they care about the poor and disenfranchised. Does that sound sarcastic? Sorry, it is a little. But it is also actually, arguably, an accurate description of the by-invitation-only elite World Economic Forum confab, which happens again in a few weeks.

Call me naive, but some of the rich and powerful do seem legitimately worried about rising inequality and wealth (power) concentration worldwide. They may be head-faking or just worried out of self-interest, but many say they are indeed worried that this inequitable trend is potentially very destabilizing and destructive.

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The most newsworthy and powerful message that usually comes out of this wine-and-cheese-on-skis meeting is not some speech by Bono, Bill Gates or some allegedly progressive politician (are there any in power?). No, the biggest story of Davos is usually Oxfam reminding everyone, as they have for the last few years, that less than a hundred people on the planet today own more than does half the world’s population. That’s crazy, right?

Oxfam3Last year, Oxfam reported that 62 of the world’s super-richest own as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion people on Earth. That was worse than the year before, when it took 85 super-mega-rich people to equal half of the world’s population.

Humanosphere is going out on a limb and predicting that Oxfam will provide again a similarly outrageous and disturbing finding of massive wealth concentration and income inequality for this year’s WEF gathering at Davos.

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In our discussion with Kripke, which we did after last year’s report, he makes it clear why this should matter to everyone – even if you’re rich or not among the world’s bottom billions. Listen in and get the jump on Davos.

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About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.