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Study: Eight People Hold More Wealth Than Half Of World

With the gulf between the average person and the wealthy elite a heated topic in the United States, an anti-poverty organization asserts that the global scale of income inequality has grown shockingly stark.

On Jan. 16, Oxfam released its latest annual analysis of global income inequality. The group found that eight individuals collectively own more wealth than the bottom half of the world's income, AP reports.

That single-digit number representing concentrated wealth is in contrast to the organization's 2016 findings, which projected that 62 individuals held more wealth than the poorer half of the global population. Oxfam noted that its new findings were the result of adjusting their study based on the data provided by a Swiss bank, Credit Suisse.

The report found that eight men collectively own more wealth than half of the world population: Bill Gates of Microsoft, Amancio Ortega of Spanish clothing company Inditex, American investor Warren Buffett, Mexican investor Carlos Slim Helu, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Larry Ellison of Oracle, and former Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City.

Executive director Winnie Byanyima of Oxfam International believes that the current status quo of income inequality is untenable and will result in the destabilization of the world order if left unchecked.

"It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day," Byanyima said. "Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy."

Policy adviser Max Lawson of Oxfam has suggested that global income inequality can fall if the wealthiest individuals pay higher taxes while government funding for public services and job growth increases.

Lawson urged the wealthiest members of society to do "what Bill Gates has called on them to do, which is pay their taxes."

In May 2016, Gates called for legislation to raise taxes for capital gains, profits that are usually reserved for the wealthy through property sales or investments. Capital gains currently have a maximum rate of 20 percent while ordinary income can be taxed as high as 39.6 percent.

"There's always been the question of whether taxes on capital should be a lot lower than taxes on labor," Gates told CNBC. "I tend to think they should be pretty much the same, and that's an opportunity to be a bit more progressive."

The policy suggestions made by Oxfam do not appear to mesh with President-elect Donald Trump's incoming administration and the GOP-majority in the U.S. Congress, which has signaled plans for reducing the tax rate of the wealthiest Americans while cutting back on government programs.

Oxfam's policy prescriptions seem to most closely mirror the platform advocated by Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont during his presidential campaign. On Jan. 9, Sanders asserted that while Americans had voted in a conservative government during the election, their policy desires more aligned with his policy viewpoint.

"The overwhelming majority of the American people -- including many people who voted for Mr. Trump -- support the ideas we're talking about," Sanders said during a CNN-moderated town hall. "On many economic issues you would be surprised at how many Americans hold the same views. Very few people believe what the Republican leadership believes now: tax breaks for billionaires and cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."

Sources: AP, CNBCCNN via Youtube / Photo Credit: OnInnovation/Flickr

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