The latest New Internationlist has published statistics regarding the world's wealthy and the increasing divide between rich and poor. They refer to the "Feral Rich" and ask, "what can we do to stop them?"
- 8% of the world's population own 82% of its wealth.
- There are now 180 more billionaires than before the global financial crash.
- The world's richest man is Carlos Slim and his total wealth is $69 billion (the New Zealand Government's annual income is 70 billion).
- The world's richest woman is Australian mining heiress Gina Rinehart. She is worth $28 billion and she has $52 million a day to survive on.
- The average household wealth in the world declined by 5.2% over the last year.
- The 400 richest Americans have a combined wealth of $1.7 trillion
- In 1980 the average US CEO earned 42 times as much as the average worker and by 2012 this had skyrocketed to 380 times.
- The top rate of US income tax in 1980 was 70% and in 2012 it was 35%.
- Mitt Romney and his wife pay 14.1% of their income in tax, while the average worker pays 30%.
- $21 trillion is stashed away in tax havens which is the equivalent of the entire US and Chinese economies combined.
- In the US 47% of the members of Congress are millionaires.
- 62% of British cabinet ministers are millionaires.
New Zealand reflects what is happening in the rest of the world but our income inequality is growing faster than most.
- Our 100 richest New Zealanders have a combined wealth of $52 billion.
- Our richest saw their incomes increase by an average of 20% in 2011
- Over the past four years the median income for Maori families has dropped by $40 a week and Pasifika families have seen a drop of $65.
- The median weekly income in New Zealand (from all sources) is $550, many obviously live on much less.
- The median rent for a 3 bedroom house in Auckland is $370 a week and rents across the country increased by $10 over the past year.
- Tax evasion cost the Government $6 billion while benefit fraud cost around $39 million.
While the rich have got richer around the world, most are paying far less in tax and most governments are struggling to pay for core government services and infrastructure. Many rich, including writer J K Rowling are happy to pay tax because of the support they received from the state early in their careers. They also believe that tax is the price to pay for a civilised society. Would a truly civilised society stand back and watch 25% of their children live in poverty? Would a civilized society have their elderly live in rest homes that can't pass minimum standards of care and pay the minimum rate for their workers (one of our wealthiest New Zealanders, Kevin Hickman, owns rest homes and his personal wealth increased by $15 million last year)?
The fact that Governments and most people of the world struggle to manage on their incomes is not because there isn't enough money in the world, it's because the world's wealth has been captured by a few and they refuse to share. Many Governments are guilty of perpetuating this wealth capture by lowering taxes and not standing firm to lobbyists.