An article by Adele Horin in the February 15 Sydney Morning Herald reported the findings of a world authority on income inequality, Sir Anthony Atkinson, of Oxford University, which he presented at a seminar at the social policy research centre at the University of NSW.
"The research shows the top 10 per cent of earners in most OECD countries, including Australia, have been the big beneficiaries of globalisation, each year pulling further ahead of people on median earnings", Horin reported.
"Gated communities had sprung up to separate the very rich from ordinary people, and the rise in use of domestic servants, elite schools and private health insurance were signs of the wealthy being able 'to opt out of the community', [Atkinson] said.
"Australia's rich had pulled ahead as quickly as their counterparts in the US, Britain and Canada but it was the super rich, the top 1 per cent of earners, who had gained the most.
"At the same time, Australians in the lowest earnings decile had hardly improved their position relative to the median in the 20 years to 2004, though they were luckier than their counterparts in many OECD countries who had gone backwards."
So the top 10% got richer, the top 1% got even richer and the bottom 10% have to be thankful that they haven't gone backwards.
Of course, we are talking about income distribution here. When you look at wealth distribution, the lurch to greater inequality is even more dramatic.
On current trends, by the year 2030 the richest 20% of Australians will own 70% of the nation's wealth, while in 1967, the top 20% owned 53.5% of wealth.
When debts are taken into account, the Reserve Bank found in 2004 that the poorest 20% of Australians own just 0.2% of the nation's wealth.
On a global scale, the richest 10% own 85% of the world's assets. The bottom 50% owned barely 1% of global wealth.
Perhaps the word "unfair" comes to your mind. But I am thinking of another word: "unsustainable". It is not just that such a trend of widening disparities cannot be accepted, but that it will not be tolerated. It spells doom for the environment and a future of endless bloody conflict.
The big question is whether the 90% who are the wage slaves for the top 10% have the power to change the course of history.
At Green Left Weekly we know that the 90% — who make everything that is produced and provide all services — have the power to change the world for the better. But the 90% have to get organised for this historic task before it is too late. Green Left Weekly is committed to playing a role in this process and we need your help.
So far this year, we have raised 10% of our annual $250,000 Fighting Fund. $4944 came in last week, bringing the total raised this year to $25,610 in just over a month. Thank you to all our supporters out there.
We'd like to make, or exceed, our target this year and we can do this with your help.
Please check the calendar of events on page 23. If you can make it to one of these fundraising events, please do. If you can make a donation to the 2007 Green Left Weekly Fighting Fund you can make a deposit at: Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 901992. Alternatively, send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007, phone it through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia), or donate securely online at <http://www.greenleft.org.au/fogl.htm>.