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Inequality Chasm

"Earlier this year, Oxfam reported that the world’s eight richest people control roughly the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population. Around the same time, the World Economic Forum identified income inequality as the most challenging problem the world faces today...[and] the World Economic Forum at Davos noted that rising income and wealth inequality could be the most significant trend in world economic development over the next 10 years. Their report had input from 700 experts. So there is more agreement today on the size and importance of this challenge." SOURCE: Podcast by Wharton School of Finance interviewing Robert Shiller and Jeremy Siegel, March 10, 2017

In this Post, we will not focus how to solve income and wealth inequality. We leave that to upcoming discussions and, in part, to our proposal for the mycoPLACES Ecosystem. Here, we want to see if we can agree on how profoundly this Barrier affects the lives of millions of people.

Can we not also agree that, like chasms that we find in the rest of nature, it's one hell of a task to climb up or cross over a deep income and asset chasm? Is not every risk (from illness to job loss, etc.) magnified many times over? Does not every missing resource (from lack of family support to lack of networks of well-placed friends) greatly aggravate the challenge?

Let's look a little deeper and see if we are fairly describing this Barrier. On January 27th of this year, Himanshi Dhawan of the Times of India blog asked Oxfam India' CEO Nisha Agrawai for comments on the fact that "Oxfam’s new report ‘Economy for 99%’ claims that since 2015, eight men own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world. In India, the richest 1% control 60% of the total wealth..." Nisha Agrawai answered that "In 2016, India is the second most unequal economy after Russia. Inequality is fracturing our economy and the reality is that today 57 billionaires control 70% of India’s wealth. Even International Monetary Fund recently warned that India faces the social risk of growing inequality."

David Rotman, writing in the MIT Technology Review magazine (November /December 2014), made the point that "In 2010, the richest 1 percent of the [U.S.] population had 34 percent of the accumulated wealth; the top 0.1 percent had some 15 percent. And the inequality has only gotten worse since the last recession ended: the top 1 percent captured 95 percent of income growth from 2009 to 2012, if capital gains are included." SOURCE: David Rotman in MIT Technology Review magazine November/December 2014

But the problem goes back further than 2010 in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Writing in the International Business Times (November 14, 2014), Meagan Clark headlined an article: Wealth Inequality Is Approaching Its Roaring ’20s Peak. She wrote that, "Plenty of research shows that income inequality in the U.S. has risen dramatically since the 1970s. What’s even more startling is rising wealth inequality, the difference among classes of the assets people own through homes, pensions, bank accounts and stock portfolios. Only a tiny portion of Americans have seen their wealth increase over the past 30 years."

She added, "Using data on capital income reported on individual tax returns since 1913, economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman say in a recent working paper that the top 1 percent increased their wealth more than tenfold from the late ’70s to 2012, while most Americans haven’t increased their wealth at all. In 2012, the top 1 percent (1.6 million families with net assets above $20 million) owned 42 percent of wealth, while the top 0.1 percent (160,700 families with net assets above $20 million) owned 22 percent of wealth."

How important a Barrier is income and wealth inequity to people being enabled to thrive? Can the vast majority of people on the planet overcome inequity by simply applying themselves diligently? Or, do we need to embrace innovative structural changes? Share your experiences. Speak out!

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