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SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award ceremony on December 1, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo: Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images)

Millionaires for Humanity Calls Forbes List 'A Slap in the Face of Society'

"The Forbes rich list shows us that we are living in a tale of two pandemics where billionaire wealth is still booming, while most of humanity is going bust," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil

In response to Tuesday's publication of Forbes' annual compendium of billionaire wealth, critics of skyrocketing inequality denounced the list as "a slap in the face of society" and called for hiking taxes on the super-rich around the globe.

"The time for a wealth tax on people like me is long overdue. Inequality is bad for everyone."

"The Forbes rich list is a stark reminder of the obscenely unequal world in which we live," Djaffar Shalchi, a Danish multimillionaire business owner, told The Guardian.

Shalchi—the founder of Millionaires for Humanity, an international network of ultra-rich people advocating for a global wealth tax on the members of their relatively tiny class—said that "while most people around the globe have struggled to adapt [to] and survive the pandemic, many having lost their jobs [and] plunged deeper into poverty, those on the Forbes rich list have been able to sit back and watch their wealth soar."

"It is an affront to humanity, an insult to the claim that we are all in this together, and a slap in the face to those of us who believe that we share this planet and its resources equally," Shalchi continued. "The time for a wealth tax on people like me is long overdue. Inequality is bad for everyone."

Shalchi added that President Joe Biden's proposal to impose a 20% minimum tax rate on all U.S. households worth more than $100 million—projected to raise approximately $360 billion over a decade if enacted—"would be an important step in the right direction." However, right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) has already expressed his opposition to the measure, which is also highly unlikely to garner the support of congressional Republicans.

On social media, Millionaires for Humanity called the Forbes billionaire list "a slap in the face of society and a reminder that we still have a lot of work to do."

The magazine's 36th annual ranking of the world's wealthiest people found 2,668 billionaires on the planet as of March 11, a small decrease from last year's record of 2,755. The combined value of their assets fell slightly from a record high of $13.1 trillion last March to $12.7 trillion this year due to a dip in global stock markets since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

The sanctions imposed on Russia in response to the war have hit the nation's stock market and currency hard. As a result, Russian oligarchs experienced a combined loss of more than $260 billion over the past year, with 83 of them retaining billionaire status and 34 losing it.

"While the super-rich can choose their latest yacht or space holiday, the inequality virus has laid bare a broken system."

Elsewhere in the world, 295 other ex-billionaires dropped off the list and 30 died, while there were 236 newcomers. Although this year's decline in the total number of billionaires was the largest since 2009, in the wake of the global financial crisis, it comes after more than 600 billionaires joined the list in 2021 as stock markets surged back from lows that followed the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite volatility in recent months, 1,050 billionaires are wealthier now than they were a year ago. Elon Musk accumulated more than anyone, adding $68 billion to his fortune since last year thanks to a 33% jump in Tesla's share price—making him the world's richest person for the first time ever with an estimated net worth of $219 billion. After a four-year reign at the top of the list, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos now sits in the number two spot with $171 billion to his name.

An analysis released in January showed that during the first 22 months of the ongoing public health emergency, the world's 10 richest men doubled their collective fortune—from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion, an average increase of $1.2 billion per day.

Meanwhile, more than 6.1 million people have died directly as a result of Covid-19, and pandemic conditions have contributed to the deaths of roughly 20 million people. According to recent studies, low- and lower-middle-income countries have borne the brunt of this excess mortality since March 2020, and in the U.S., the poorest counties have suffered a Covid-19 death rate twice as high as the richest counties.

"The Forbes rich list shows us that we are living in a tale of two pandemics where billionaire wealth is still booming, while most of humanity is going bust," said Jenny Ricks, the convenor of Fight Inequality, a global alliance fighting against the growing concentration of wealth and power. "While the super-rich can choose their latest yacht or space holiday, the inequality virus has laid bare a broken system."

There are 19 times as many billionaires worldwide as there were in 1987, when Forbes began tracking their wealth. Moreover, the world's billionaires are 4,200% richer today, in nominal dollars, or 1,600% richer when adjusting for inflation.

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