Monday, January 19, 2015

What would Martin Luther King, Jr. say about the Oxfam brief?

Second Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights
March 25, 1966

"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most
shocking and inhumane." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Issue Brief
January 19, 2015
Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More
By Deborah Hardoon

Global wealth is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of a small
wealthy elite. These wealthy individuals have generated and sustained
their vast riches through their interests and activities in a few
important economic sectors, including finance and
pharmaceuticals/healthcare. Companies from these sectors spend millions
of dollars every year on lobbying to create a policy environment that
protects and enhances their interests further.

* In 2014, the richest 1% of people in the world owned 48% of global
wealth, leaving just 52% to be shared between the other 99% of adults on
the planet.1 Almost all of that 52% is owned by those included in the
richest 20%, leaving just 5.5% for the remaining 80% of people in the world.

* The very richest of the top 1%, the billionaires on the Forbes list,
have seen their wealth accumulate even faster over this period. In 2010,
the richest 80 people in the world had a net wealth of $1.3tn. By 2014,
the 80 people who top the Forbes rich list had a collective wealth of
$1.9tn; an increase of $600bn in just 4 years, or 50% in nominal terms.
The wealth of these 80 individuals is now the same as that owned by the
bottom 50% of the global population, such that 3.5 billion people share
between them the same amount of wealth as that of these extremely
wealthy 80 people. In 2010, it took 388 billionaires to equal the wealth
of the bottom half of the world‟s population; by 2014, the figure had
fallen to just 80 billionaires.

* In 2014 there were 1,645 people listed by Forbes as being
billionaires. This group of people is far from being globally
representative. Almost 30% of them (492 people) are citizens of the USA.

* Between 2013 and 2014 billionaires listed as having interests and
activities in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors saw the biggest
increase in their collective wealth. Twenty-nine individuals joined the
ranks of the billionaires between March 2013 and March 2014 (five
dropped off the list), increasing the total number from 66 billionaires
to 90, in 2014 making up 5% of the total billionaires on the list. The
collective wealth of billionaires with interests in this sector
increased from $170bn to $250bn, a 47% increase and the largest
percentage increase in wealth of the different sectors on the Forbes list.

* During 2013, the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors spent more
than $487m on lobbying in the USA alone. This was more than was spent by
any other sector in the US, representing 15% of $3.2bn total lobbying
expenditures in 2013. In addition, during the election cycle of 2012,
$260m was spent by this sector on campaign contributions. Twenty-two of
the 90 pharmaceutical and healthcare billionaires are US citizens.

Comment by Don McCanne

In 1966, Martin Luther King, Jr. famously noted that injustice in health
care was the most shocking and inhumane form of inequality. The Oxfam
brief issued today - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - gives some insight as
to how well we are fulfilling his dream of social justice for all. We
are seeing exponential increases in wealth inequality and the fastest
expansion of that inequality is in the pharmaceutical and health care

Are we still learning from him, or have we given up?

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