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VIDEO: Rich TV Host Says It's 'Fantastic' that 85 People Have More Wealth than Half the World

Kevin O'Leary thinks extreme inequality is just the motivation poor people need.
 
 
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Photo Credit: screengrab via youtube

 
 
 
 

Most sensible people were horrified by the stats in the recent  report released by Oxfam revealing that the 85 wealthiest people in the world possess the total combined wealth of all the people who comprise the bottom half of the world's population--or three billion ( that's 3,000,000,000) people.

Not Kevin O'Leary, a Canadian businessman who co-hosts the "Lang & O'Leary Exchange." He thought it was wonderful news.

"It's fantastic and this is a great thing because it inspires everybody, gets them motivation to look up to the one percent and say, ‘I want to become one of those people, I’m going to fight hard to get up to the top,’” O'Leary said. “This is fantastic news and of course I applaud it. What can be wrong with this?”

His co-host, Amanda Lang, was skeptical.

"Really?" she said. "So, someone living on a dollar a day in Africa is getting up in the morning and saying, ‘I’m going to be Bill Gates’?”

Nevertheless, no reason could penetrate O'Leary's obliviousness. Nevermind those 3 billion poor folks, he said. Let's celebrate the 85.

 As The Atlantic reports, inequality of "wealth" is not the same as inequality of "income": Wealth is composed of assets that don't immediately translate to spendable income, like mortgages, stocks, and investments that tend to generate more wealth in the future. Chris Rock once articulated this difference to his audience: "...Wealth is empowering. Wealth can uplift communities from poverty. Wealth is passed down from generation to generation. Rich [Income]? That's some[thing] you can lose with a crazy summer and a drug habit."

The report also reveals that the wealthiest one percent of the world hold onto $110 trillion, which is 65x more than the bottom half of the world's population, and that the worst levels of inequality have been concentrated in the wealthiest countries, with the United States topping the list. 

Some other notable revelations from the Oxfam report include: 

  • The richest one percent in the US, along with those in China and Portugal, have doubled their share of national income since 1980. 
  • The unprecedented surge in inequality has led to a political system in the US that is in the service of the wealthiest. Oxfam point to a correlation between rising inequality and falling patterns of deregulation, union membership, and top marginal tax rates since the early 1980s to support this. 
  • In the US, the wealthiest 1% captured 95% of the post-financial crisis "recovery," while the bottom 90% grew poorer. 
  • Within a great many countries, inequality amongst social classes is becoming increasingly entrenched, as falling access to things like quality education and public goods weakens social mobility across generations. 
  • It is likely that the true extent of inequality is worse than what official numbers can illustrate, because there is an estimated $18.5 trillion is hidden away in tax havens.

Finally, the report details some of its recommendations for how the world's governments can lay the grounds for a fairer society:

• Cracking down on financial secrecy and tax dodging
• Redistributive transfers; and strengthening of social protection 
schemes
• Investment in universal access to free healthcare and education
• Progressive taxation 
• Strengthening wage floors and worker rights 
• Removing the barriers to equal rights and opportunities for women 
For sheer, absurd entertainment value, watch O'Leary and Lang by clicking here.
 
 
Aaron Cantú is an investigator for the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and an independent journalist based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @aaronmiguel_
 
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