The Antitraveller
Voyaging Is Victory

INEQUALITY

The multitude exists as a majority of the worlds population who have access only to a minority of total global wealth. Before analysing the global political economy that perpetuates this multiplicity of exploited singularities, it would do well to provide some postcards of inequality in the world today. The statistics present a striking picture of the bulk who work under global capital, or even worse can’t get work, versus that minority that exists on their labour. The lastest International Labour Organisation ‘World of Work’ report shows that the redistribution of income is increasingly away from labour, that is the share of wages in total income is declining, and that the richer households income is increasing relative to poorer households. Executive pay alone is reaching astronomical levels, on average between 71 – 183 times more than average employees. Executive pay in the United States rose on average 10 percent per year, while average employees pay rose 0.7 percent per year in the 2003 – 2007 period. Looking at the global pie of income distribution, Branko Milanovic reports that the top 5 percent of individuals in the world receive one-third of total world income, and that the top 10 percent covet half. The bottom 5 percent and 10 percent get 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent respectively. Across countries it was found that the ten richest countries’ gross domestic income was 42 times that of the ten poorest countries. Of course countries are not homogenous entities, so for example, the poorest 5 percent of French people were poorer than the top third of all Brazillians. A recent World Bank report shows that high income countries, those with per capita gross national incomes over $11,115, have a 61 percent share of world GDP. These countries account for 17 percent of the worlds population. Middle income countries, those with per capital gross national incomes between $905 and $11,114, produce 32 percent of world GDP. These countries account for 48 percent of the worlds population. Low income countries, those with per capital gross national incomes below $905, produce only 7 percent of world GDP. These countries account for 32 percent of the worlds population.  It has also been shown that the richest 25 percent of the worlds population spent more than 75 percent of the worlds consumption, while the poorest 20 percent spent less than 2 percent. Half the worlds population consumed less than $1300 per year in 2005 , and the bottom quarter less than $600.

In Australia the wealthiest 10 percent of the population owns about 50 percent of the total wealth, the top half of the population owns 90 percent of the wealth, leaving the bottom half to survive on less than 10 percent of the wealth between them.  There is a particular ambivilence to recognising class in Australia, with the bulk of people identifying themselves as middle class, even if they derive their income primarily from the sale of their labour. To limit our understanding of ‘working class’ to traditional blue collar jobs is hopelessly restrictive, the authors state, when service industries employ two-thirds of the Australian workforce. White-collar and service sector jobs are just as ‘working class’ as manual labourers, writes Martin Smith, in that they are forced to sell their labour, and suffer similar hardships, forcing them to defend themselves through union organisation. Marx’s definition of what makes someone working class is that they have to sell their labour to survive, which becomes a commodity like every other article of commerce, exposed to the vicissitudes of competition and fluctuations of the market. Class then is the social expression of exploitation and how it is embodied in the social structure. To further clarify this picture of global inequality we can focus on the United States, which alone holds 22.5 percent of world GDP. In 2007 the mean income in the US was $50,233, but 50 percent of the country’s population earned less than that.  In 2001 the richest 1 percent of the US had 33.4 percent of all net worth (the money value of all an individuals assets), while the bottom 90 percent had only 28.5 percent. The richest 1 percent owned 44.8 percent of all common stock (assets that yield income), the poorest 80 percent owned only 5.8 percent.  Likewise, the ‘Survey of Consumer Finances’ conducted by the Federal Reserve and the IRS, showed that in 1995 the top 10 percent of the US population had 62 percent of total assets, 84 percent of stocks, 90.2 percent of bonds.  In fact the top 0.5 percent of the population had 28 percent of net worth, almost as much as the bottom 90 percent (31.5 percent). The top 0.5 percent had 60 percent of business assets, compared with the bottom 90 percent controlling a mere 7.7 percent. The picture of inequality is further exacerbated when we consider that the bottom 90 percent of the population held 70 percent of total personal debt, compared with the top 0.5 percent having only 6.7 percent, which makes sense since consumer and mortgage debt is basically the very rich lending to the middle class and poor. The average net worth of the bottom 90 percent was $30,252, while the top 0.5 percent average worth was $10,757,046. Its a interesting term, bottom 90 percent, even if it were applied to inanimate material it would seem odd, equating a negative term ‘the bottom’, with a majority percentage. The bottom 90 percent of a tank of petrol, the bottom 90 percent of bricks that make up a house, the bottom 90 percent of hours left on a plane trip to Europe………., but especially when applied to human welfare indicators. Because obviously these figures aren’t just abstract calculations in a statisticians Excel files, but represent, as Chomsky states, exploitation, “starving children, broken families, criminal violence, and all the social pathology that arises from the end of hope”.

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