As the world's super-wealthy and super-powerful gather this week in Davos for the World Economic Forum, the spotlight is once again on the widening chasm of wealth inequality. It's virtually impossible to talk meaningfully about education reform, privatization, charter schools, testing, deseg, etc... without taking the growing wealth gap into consideration.
Oxfam reports that the gap between the super-rich and the poorest half of the global population is starker than previously thought, with just eight men, from Bill Gates to Michael Bloomberg, owning as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, or half the world.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, says:
“It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day. Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy.
“Across the world, people are being left behind. 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.”Public anger with inequality is already creating political shockwaves across the globe. Inequality has been cited as a significant factor in the election of neo-fascists and populists like Donald Trump in the US, President Duterte in the Philippines, and Brexit in the UK.
The world’s 8 richest people are, in order of net worth:
- Bill Gates: America founder of Microsoft (net worth $75 billion)
- Amancio Ortega: Spanish founder of Inditex which owns the Zara fashion chain (net worth $67 billion)
- Warren Buffett: American CEO and largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (net worth $60.8 billion)
- Carlos Slim Helu: Mexican owner of Grupo Carso (net worth: $50 billion)
- Jeff Bezos: American founder, chairman and chief executive of Amazon (net worth: $45.2 billion)
- Mark Zuckerberg: American chairman, chief executive officer, and co-founder of Facebook (net worth $44.6 billion)
- Larry Ellison: American co-founder and CEO of Oracle (net worth $43.6 billion)
- Michael Bloomberg: American founder, owner and CEO of Bloomberg LP (net worth: $40 billion)
Ironically, one of the strongest voices on education at Davos, comes not from the mighty 8, but from singer Shakira, suggesting an antidote for violent conflict and divisive populism: Get more kids in pre-school.
The Colombian singer is using her distinctive voice to lobby the world's rich and powerful at the World Economic Forum for more spending on early childhood education.
Asked if she had a message for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, she urged solid education policies that instill "inclusiveness and tolerance" for future generations.
Recalling a childhood in Colombia marred by war, she said: "If we really want peace, we need to invest in education."
While the high and mighty gather in Davos, the Senate is holding hearings to consider the appointment of billionaire Betsy DeVos.
If you're confused about DeVos and Davos, this, from brother Fred, might help...