The world’s eight richest individuals possess the same amount of money as the world’s poorest 3.6 billion.
According to Oxfam’s annual assessment of wealth distribution, “collectively the poorest 50 percent of people have less than a quarter of 1 percent of global net wealth,” based on data from Credit Suisse. Much of the vast wealth horded by the richest individuals and corporations is shielded from domestic taxes through offshore financial havens and other corporate loopholes.
But inequality takes different shapes in rich and poor nations. In the Global South, wealth maldistribution often takes the form of exploitation of local resources and deep social deprivation. But in the United States, structural poverty is multifaceted and often oversimplified as a matter of personal success or failure. The United States, despite having the world’s most powerful economy, leads the “developed” world in the share of the workforce holding low-wage jobs; nearly one-third of workers earn less than $12 an hour, and are burdened by erratic schedules and poor working conditions. Moreover, these domestic trends disproportionately harm black, Latino, and women workers.
Now Trump, the great disruptor, threatens to further destabilize the most vulnerable workers, with a budget centered around tax cuts for the wealthiest. Though he has talked a big game about protectionist trade policies and closing unfair tax loopholes for exporters, his fiscal agenda is fundamentally about redistributing wealth upward.
Under Trump’s “simplified” tax plan, millionaires would see taxes reduced by 10 percent. Some families earning between $20,000 and $50,000 would pay more in taxes—for a shrinking social-service infrastructure. The burden falls heaviest on lower-income workers, including the roughly 40 percent of the workforce earning less than $15 an hour. On the other side of the ledger, Trump seeks a $54 billion boost for military spending, to be offset by slashing social programs. Though these funds are technically considered “discretionary,” they support essential social-welfare programs and public services for struggling households, which have already suffered years of budget cuts.