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INSIDE LABOUR | Covid-19 has only made billionaires richer

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Terry Bell (supplied)
Terry Bell (supplied)

Six months ago, the gross, even terrifying, social and economic inequalities that were regarded as normal around the world were highlighted when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. Since then, those inequalities have become even more gross and terrifying. 

Latest research reveals that the very rich have generally become much richer while ever more millions of working people — including many who might once have thought of themselves as middle class — have been made hungry and desperate, cast onto the social scrapheap of joblessness. Over recent decades, profits and the wage and welfare gap have increased massively, especially in the world’s largest economy, the USA. 

The Forbes magazine richest list, for example, this month gave the combined wealth of the ten wealthiest Americans as $853 billion. In 1982, when the list was first compiled, the ten richest Americans had a combined wealth (in today’s dollars) of just $27.9 billion. And the gaps between the highest and lowest paid have yawned into chasms.

It is a situation well summed up this month by Oxfam executive director, Chema Vera: "Covid-19 has been tragic for the many but good for a privileged few."

Vera was speaking at the launch of the campaigning groups’ report entitled Power, Profits and the Pandemic. He added: "The world’s largest corporations are making billions at the expense of low-wage workers and funnelling profits to shareholders and billionaires – a small group of largely white men in rich nations." 

This, as Oxfam has long maintained — along with many human right groups and the bulk of the labour movement — is a crisis "fuelled by a rigged economic model". And, with more than a touch of irony, that model arguably entered the mainstream of economic policy making exactly 50 years ago to the month.

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