Monday, January 19, 2015

47 Years After MLK's Death, Do the 'Haves' Have It All?

On this day honoring MLK, extreme global economic disparity made headlines with the release of an  Oxfam International report that predicts 1% of the global population will accumulate over 50% of the worlds wealth by 2016 based on current trends.

The richest 80 people on the planet having more collective wealth than billions of people who live on the opposite end of the economic spectrum is troubling, but the positive news is that economic disparity has finally become a serious topic of discussion; even at the highest echelons of global capitalism.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, will be a co-chair of the upcoming World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting starting this Wednesday in Davos, Switzerland, ensuring that the growing income gap is on the agenda.

There's growing research and data that shows the widening divide between the haves and have-nots is not just inherently unfair, it's a legitimate threat to global economic stability and security.

Some of this data, including specific methods (including manipulating laws, regulations and tax codes) used by a tiny fraction of the human population to conceal immense amounts of hidden wealth, from the 99% of us are pretty sobering.

As Winnie Byanyima was quoted as saying recently: "Extreme inequality isn't just a moral wrong. We know that it hampers economic growth and it threatens the private sector's bottom line."

The upside? If they're talking about it at the World Economic Forum in Davos, then it's going to have to be an issue in the 2016 elections here in the US.

Like climate change, I just can't see how today's Republican party is going to be where the bulk of the world's population is on this issue in terms of the need to address the wage gap here in the US.

But you can bet President Obama will talk about the results of the Oxfam report tomorrow night in his State of the Union Address; his plan to propose revamping the tax code is one of the key components of Oxfam's suggestions to address extreme economic inequality.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's (as well as states like Oregon) efforts to raise the minimum wage to a level that would ensure that workers would be able to pay for basics like rent, food and other necessities is another component of the Oxfam strategy to level the playing field.

I've listened to a number of interesting and insightful discussions on Dr. King's legacy today, but I can't help but wonder what would he think about the Oxfam report.

Considering that he was warning those who would listen about the dangers of economic marginalization and wealth inequality back in 1968, I think he would be disappointed.

In light of all that Dr. King lived and ultimately died for, perhaps aspiring to make all aspects of his dream a reality are motivation enough to support a growing global call to hold local and national politicians accountable to the needs of the 99%.

The idea of a world where 1% control more wealth than billions of others, is simply an unsustainable reality doomed to fail.

As Dr. King himself once said, "Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality."

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