Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. They laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work digging out the truth. Please support this independent journalism today by donating to our critical Fall Campaign. We cannot do it without you. Thank you. -- Craig Brown, Co-founder

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Garment workers in Vietnam

Oxfam interviewed garment workers in Vietnam who are struggling survive on wages of $1/hour, working 12-hour days six days a week for the world's wealthiest clothing conglomerates. (Photo: ILO in Asia and the Pacific/flickr/cc)

Just Eight Men Own Same Wealth as Half of Humanity: Report

As the super-rich descend on Davos, report reveals how these billionaires are fueling the global inequality crisis

Nika Knight

The private jets of the world's wealthiest men and women are swarming the Swiss Alps for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF), which begins Monday in Davos, Switzerland, in the midst of an ongoing global inequality crisis.

"Across the world, people are being left behind[...] their voices are ignored as governments sing to the tune of big business and a wealthy elite."
—Winnie Byanyima,
Oxfam International
And that crisis is accelerating, according to a new Oxfam report released Monday: today, only eight men own the same amount of wealth as the 3.6 billion people who comprise the poorest half of humanity. Those eight men are Bill Gates, Amancio Ortega, Warren Buffett, Carlos Slim Helu, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, and Michael Bloomberg.

The report, An Economy for the 99% (pdf), observes that "[f]ar from trickling down, income and wealth are being sucked upwards at an alarming rate."

It goes on to describe how super-rich individuals and the massive corporations they run are fueling the inequality crisis by offshoring taxes, driving down wages, and influencing government to their advantage, and argues that the "very design of our economies and the principles of our economics have taken us to this extreme, unsustainable, and unjust point."

"It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when one in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day," said Oxfam International director Winnie Byanyima in a statement. "Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy."

Indeed, the report links rapidly rising inequality with the vote for Brexit and the election of President-elect Donald Trump, a frightening rise in xenophobia, and widespread frustration with mainstream politics.

"There are increasing signs that more and more people in rich countries are no longer willing to tolerate the status quo," the report notes. "Why would they, when experience suggests that what it delivers is wage stagnation, insecure jobs, and a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots?"

The report's research also highlights how rising inequality in poorer nations fuels profits to the world's wealthiest.

"Oxfam interviewed women working in a garment factory in Vietnam who work 12 hours a day, six days a week and still struggle to get by on the $1 an hour they earn producing clothes for some of the world's biggest fashion brands," the organization wrote. "The CEOs of these companies are some of the highest paid people in the world. Corporate tax dodging costs poor countries at least $100 billion every year. This is enough money to provide an education for the 124 million children who aren't in school and fund healthcare interventions that could prevent the deaths of at least six million children every year."

"Across the world, people are being left behind," Byanyima said. "Their wages are stagnating yet corporate bosses take home million dollar bonuses; their health and education services are cut while corporations and the super-rich dodge their taxes; their voices are ignored as governments sing to the tune of big business and a wealthy elite."

The report also outlines a plan for a "human economy" that would work to combat the exponential rise of global inequality.

"Together we need to create a new common sense, and turn things on their head to design an economy whose primary purpose is to benefit the 99 percent, not the one percent," the report reads. "The group that should benefit disproportionately from our economies are people in poverty, regardless of whether they are in Uganda or the United States. Humanity has incredible talent, huge wealth and infinite imagination. We need to put this to work to create a more human economy that benefits everyone, not just the privileged few."

It is hard to imagine Davos as the place to create this economy: while the WEF is purportedly focusing anew on inequality this year, the super-rich and leaders of multinational corporations who attend the forum continue to offshore trillions of dollars worth of taxes.

"We have a situation where billionaires are paying less tax often than their cleaner or their secretary," Max Lawson, Oxfam's policy advisor, told the Associated Press. "That's crazy."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Schumer Endorses 'Inspiring Community Leader' India Walton as Buffalo's Next Mayor

The U.S. Senate majority leader's move comes as some key New York Democrats refuse to back the democratic socialist.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Who Will You Throw Overboard?' Manchin Targeted for Trying to Sink Democratic Agenda

West Virginians gathered at the senator's yacht to demand that he stop blocking the "popular and needed" Build Back Better package.

Jessica Corbett ·


'We Shouldn't Do It at All': Manchin Admits He's the Enemy of Democrats' Ambitions

The right-wing West Virginia Democrat and fossil fuel investor has previously confessed his intent to quash his own party's sweeping $3.5 trillion Build Back Better package.

Brett Wilkins ·


After Getting 'Stealth Bailout' During Pandemic, US Corporations Try to Kill Proposed Tax Hikes

"When it's time to finally put workers first, big businesses are spending millions to maintain their advantage and preserve the status quo," said Kyle Herrig of Accountable.US.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Disgraceful': Just 9 Republicans Join With Dems to Hold Steve Bannon in Criminal Contempt

The vote "reveals just how far the Republican Party has fallen" since Trump took control as GOP's de facto leader, said one pro-democracy advocate.

Jon Queally ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo