We Can’t Afford These Billionaires

Published on counterpunch, by DANIEL RAVENTÓS and JULIE WARK, Feb 5, 2016

In its 2015 report the World Economic Forum, aka the globe-grabbing business elite, pronounced from its opulent mountain fastness in Davos that, “Inequality is one of the key challenges of our time.” Paying $25,000 to attend this billionaires’ bash, and that’s after shelling out the compulsory $52,000 WEF membership fee, the said elite isn’t pronouncing on inequality out of any empathy for the poor and oppressed. This becomes perfectly clear on page 38 of the Global Risks Report 2016 where the reader is informed that inequality has consequences: … //

… The fact that the “forum” (originally meaning an accessible public meeting place) of the Davos gang is spoken of as if it had any democratic credentials at all is the most perverse kind of madness. The OXFAM report estimating that 62 people own half the world’s wealth, that the share of the poorer half has dropped by 38% since 2010, and that 188 of 201 leading companies (i.e. the Davos cartel) are present in at least one tax haven (to the tune of $7.6 trillion, worth an extra $190 billion in taxes available to governments every year, or three times Spain’s 2013 health budget, to put that in perspective), is quite widely discussed. The point is, once the malversation has become so blatant and of such magnitude, absolutely anything is possible. None of the rights enshrined in international documents, fought for and won in millennia of struggles will be respected in the “resilience imperative”. The Greek Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas recently told the BBC that Belgium instructed Greece to “push” migrants “back in the sea”. “Break the law”, he was told. “I don’t care if you drown them.” That’s the new resilience. It’s petrifying … //

… In pragmatic, functional terms, the administrative costs of a universal basic income, precisely because it is universal and hence a lot simpler, are much lower than those for conditional measures. It doesn’t preclude earning other income. Neither would it discourage people from working, as recent studies have shown and, in general, it would empower people socially and economically. Housework and voluntary work would at last be recognised as real work. By thus addressing the unequal distribution of reproductive work and denial of the means of material existence to millions of people, basic income stands out as a political proposal that tackles the very underpinnings of gender and class inequality in the domestic sphere and capitalist markets. Everyone would receive it but the rich would pay for it out of their taxes. A basic income above the poverty line could easily be financed for all adults in Spain with a single tax rate of 49% which, combined with a tax-exempt basic income, would be highly progressive. 80% of the population would gain and the total amount transferred from rich to non-rich would be some €35,000 million. A further plus is that tax evasion (some €80,000 million at a recent count) would be more closely scrutinised. Since it should be above the poverty line, a universal basic income would address some of the most urgent problems like ending poverty and, very importantly, it would lay the socioeconomic groundwork for much more just and democratic political systems.

On moral grounds, basic income differs greatly from conditional measures because its fundamental principle is the right to material independence and hence to freedom. It works in the realm of political economy, empowering the general population and, accordingly, acting as an effective check on abuse of power. As Louis D. Brandeis, associated justice of the US Supreme Court, noted about a hundred years ago: “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” That choice is a political one and, as the world’s richest citizens are fast destroying the planet, it’s ever more urgent. It’s not just a matter of taking from the rich and giving to the poor. It’s about the crucial task of constructing truly democratic institutions and controls, and guaranteeing the elementary claims of subsistence and basic security that permit freedom.

… (full text).

(Daniel Raventós is a lecturer in Economics at the University of Barcelona and author inter alia of Basic Income, The Material Conditions of Freedom, Pluto Press, 2007. He is on the editorial board of the international political review Sin Permiso. Julie Wark is an advisory board member of the international political review Sin Permiso. Her last book is The Human Rights Manifesto, Zero Books, 2013).

Article Related Links:


Suisse – Genève: La Ville propose désormais des documents en cinq langues, dans La Tribune de Genève, par Céline Garcin, le 9 févr 2016. Projet pilote: pour favoriser l’intégration de la population étrangère, la Ville a traduit certaines informations en anglais, portugais, espagnol, albanais et arabe … // … écoutez Bienvenue à Genève en arabe, albanais, espagnol, portugais;

West’s military superiority on global stage withering away – report, on RT, Feb 9, 2016;

Russia may restart flights to Egypt in first half of 2016, on RT, Feb 9, 2016;

THE LABOR MOVEMENT’S PEARL HARBOR MOMENT, on Worker’s Action, by Shamus Cooke, Feb 8, 2016;

Denmark to Ukraine: Follow Minsk agreement, or we could drop Russia sanctions, on RT, Feb 6, 2016;

The Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford reviewed, on Director.co.uk, by Karen Penney, Feb 5, 2016;

$10 per barrel for oil producers and more, on circulate news.org, Feb 5, 2016;

Who Owns the Zika Virus? on Global Research.ca, by Guillaume Kress, Feb 03, 2016;

What’s Really Going on with Oil? on Global Research.ca, by F. William Engdahl, Jan 24, 2016;

In Defense of Greece’s Syriza, on Worker’s Action, by Ann Robertson and Bill Leumer, July 22, 2015;

… and this:

  • The Coming Crash & The Recession That Never Ended, uploaded by The Big Picture RT, May 29, 2015 – Economist Dr. Richard Wolff, Democracy At Work joins Thom Hartmann. The Coming Economic Crash…And What We Can Do About It: Part 1, 11.47 min; Part 2, 12.41 min; Part 3, 13.00 min; Part 4, 12.55 min.

Comments are closed.