11/05/2014 01:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Getting Real About Extreme Inequality


Even It Up, Oxfam's global campaign to tackle extreme inequality, is one week old and full of life! A number of pictures and stories, videos, press coverage, and stunts, hint at what is to come. We want to build a global conversation around ending extreme inequality, and folks are already engaging. Here are some good questions I've heard since our launch, and my take.

1. Isn't your mission to fight global poverty? Why are you focusing on inequality? We now believe that we can't achieve our mission of righting the wrong of poverty without tackling extreme inequality. Too much power and wealth sits unproductively and often corrosively in too few hands, and is increasingly driving injustice and impoverishing those we serve.

2. But how does inequality cause poverty? Inequality hinders growth (the IMF now concedes this); corrupts politics (witness our "disgust election" in the US); stifles opportunity (by weakening health, education, employment, safety, community life); and fuels instability (the Arab Spring was ignited and inflamed by inequality).

3. So you're against markets, wealth, growth and rich people? No. We are not against markets--we oppose market fundamentalism. We are not anti-wealth, but extreme wealth puts too much power in too few hands, and rarely helps the poor. We are not against growth, but we think extreme inequality stymies growth. We are not campaigning against rich people. In fact we expect a lot of very rich people to join our campaign.

4. But Why Now? Extreme inequality is exploding. The number of billionaires has doubled in just five years - even as the global financial markets crashed. $110 trillion now sits with just 1% of our planet's population and we lost more last year to tax havens than the entire global aid budget. We are joining a groundswell of voices, which includes Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, the Pope, and institutions like the IMF, as well as millions of ordinary people, to demand that leaders tackle extreme inequality before it is too late.

5. So what do you want and what can I do? We are calling for practical reforms that can level the playing field, and you can find them in great detail in our new report. Among our top priorities we want policy makers to:
  • Close tax loopholes for the extreme wealthy and multinational corporations and make tax policies more transparent to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share;
  • Ensure the revenues generated by the natural wealth of countries (e.g. oil, minerals and gas) are spent on health, education and strengthening the economy of those countries;
  • Raise the minimum wage, including here in the United States, so hardworking people can be better able to support themselves and their families;
  • Tackle the gender pay-gap in every country; and
  • Protect the rights and freedoms for citizens all around the world to challenge their own political and economic elites on growing inequality.

Let's level the playing field. Join us to Even it Up!