New Study Shows 26 Richest Billionaires Have as Much Wealth as Poorest 3.8 Billion People

A new Oxfam study found that the world’s billionaires are getting $2.5 billion richer every day while the poorest half of the world’s population is seeing little improvement in its financial disparity.

The annual Oxfam International report published Monday ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, shows that the world’s 26 richest billionaires have the same net worth -- $1.4 trillion -- as the 3.8 billion poorest people in the world combined, CNN reported.

The study found that the number of billionaires now stands at a record 2,208 individuals who have more wealth than ever before.

Most of the 26 people are Americans. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg are worth a combined $357 billion alone, according to Forbes estimates.

Oxfam has urged significant reform to tackle the growing wealth gap.

“Oxfam recommends that nations tax wealth at fairer levels, raise rates on personal income and corporate taxes and eliminate tax avoidance by companies and the super-rich,” CNN reported. “It also advocates providing universal free health care, education and other public services — and ensuring that women and girls also benefit. And it suggests investing in public services — including water, electricity and childcare — to free up women's time and limit the number of unpaid hours they work."

Oxfam calls for fair tax system:

Paul O'Brien, Oxfam America's vice president of policy and advocacy, told CNN that the findings show the need for a very different tax system than the one the United States and many other nations currently have.

"There is going to be a broader and increasingly energized public conversation in the US and globally on what a fair and effective tax system looks like that will be very different from today," he said.

Lawmakers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called for taxing the wealthy’s income at 70% over $10 million, a more moderate approach than the 70% tax rates the United States previously had on the wealthy at any point in the 20th century until Ronald Reagan. Lawmakers like Bernie Sanders have called for a Medicare for All bill.

"In many countries, a decent education or quality healthcare has become a luxury only the rich can afford," Oxfam said. "Every day, 10,000 people die because they lack access to affordable healthcare."

"Girls are pulled out of school first when the money isn't available to pay fees, and women clock up hours of unpaid work looking after sick relatives when healthcare systems fail," the organization said, adding that "if all the unpaid care work carried out by women across the globe was done by a single company, it would have an annual turnover of $10 trillion."

Small tax increase could have huge effect:

According to the report, adding 0.5% in taxes on the wealth of the richest 1 percent would raise enough money to educate 262 million people and provide better health care that would save 3.3 million lives, CNBC reported.

“However, such taxes were being reduced or eliminated in wealthy nations and barely implemented at all in the developing world, Oxfam said. Tax rates for corporations in rich countries fell from 62 percent in 1970 to 38 percent in 2013, with the average rate in poor nations currently at 28 percent,” CNBC reported, adding that “in some countries, such as Brazil, the poorest 10 percent were paying a higher proportion of income tax than the wealthiest 10 percent.”

"Governments must now deliver real change by ensuring corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax and investing this money in free healthcare and education that meets the needs of everyone – including women and girls whose needs are so often overlooked," Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima said in a statement.

"The size of your bank account should not dictate how many years your children spend in school, or how long you live, yet this is the reality in too many countries across the globe. While corporations and the super-rich enjoy low tax bills, millions of girls are denied a decent education and women are dying for lack of maternity care."


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