Oxfam’s Simple Minded Rhetoric About Inequality

Luxury yachts, cigars and playboys fanning themselves with money are not images you would expect to see in the twitter feed of a development organization. But Oxfam, as a precursor to the 2018 World Economic Forum, can’t stop tweeting them as part of a new media campaign that seeks to pit the rich against the poor.

Oxfam, originally started as a famine relief organization in 1942, has now jumped into the deep end of the social activist pool. Nick Bryer, Oxfam’s Global Inequality Lead, recently wrote, “there’s no way we’re going to end poverty unless we tackle extreme wealth too.”

This unsubstantiated claim was later buttressed when Bryer concluded his post with, “These are necessary, practical steps that can help us consign both extreme wealth and extreme poverty to the history books.”

That’s right, Oxfam has a new mission. An organization that once made it their goal to tackle poverty is now wading into completely new waters: tackling wealth?

Because, according to them, the wealthy are to blame for poverty.

Misleading Statistics

Oxfam has used several misleading statistics to propel their new agenda. Below are a few examples:

“Last year, 82% of wealth created worldwide went to the richest 1%.”

Oxfam is trying to earn brownie points with the Bernie Sanders crowd by calling back to his famous critique of the top 1%. The only problem is that Bernie and Oxfam are talking about two very different groups of people. Bernie commonly references the top 1% of Americans, who have an average household income of $1.26 Million dollars. While Oxfam is referencing the top 1% of the globe, where you only have to earn $34,000/year to be included.

So while the statistic is accurate as a stand alone figure, it’s deceptively presented as evidence of an overbearing ultra-wealthy class. When, in reality, the top 1% of the globe includes people in a diversity of situations including many single mothers working 4 jobs.

“Last year saw the biggest increase in billionaires in history, one more every two days.”

Last year, just like almost every year for the last 200, people earned more money. This includes 182 people who newly became billionaires. But poor people became wealthier too. In fact, it’s rather bizarre that Oxfam fails to mention that the poor are actually becoming “historically wealthier.”

 

However, Oxfam only mentions the increase in the wealth of billionaires because showing the increase in the wealth of the poor would muddy their narrative that the rich exist at the expense of the poor.

“Billionaire wealth increased by $762 BILLION last year. Enough to end extreme poverty 7x over.”

These two sentences may be the most intentionally deceptive. The first sentence is a fact, the second sentence (implying $108B would end extreme poverty) is a delusional fantasy, and putting them together is another unfair jab at billionaires.

A non-skeptical person might look at these misleading numbers and be activated to outrage at the billionaire class. It heavily implies that if billionaires just gave away 1/7th of their wealth, then poverty would be a relic of the past. But there is absolutely no way to backup this hysterical claim.

First of all, $2.6 Trillion has been spent on ending global poverty over the last 60 years (24x the mythical amount) and yet, billions remain poor. As it turns out, poverty alleviation is complex. And second of all, even if you loosely and dishonestly defined “end extreme poverty” to mean “redistributing wealth so no one makes less than $1.90/day,” the numbers are still a complete impossibility.

These rhetorical number games are only one component of their media campaign to push their new narrative about the “evil rich.”

Misleading Visuals

Go to the Oxfam twitter page right now and you’ll see this tweet pinned to the top:

A little further down you’ll see this one:

In both of these images, Oxfam attempts to drive home the point that “extreme wealth” is at the expense of “extreme poverty.” By pointing out that some people have yachts while others live in muddy urban sprawl, they are implying that those with nothing are the victims of those with everything.

And they are pushing this ideology using mere visuals and misleading rhetoric. They are quickly lumping terms like “extreme wealth” and “global 1%” together and hoping nobody will notice. And the irony is that most people who work for Oxfam as well as those who retweet them are likely in the global 1% of income earners themselves. As you’ll recall, this includes anyone with an income of $34k/year and above.

So, while I agree that the haves should do more for the have-nots, it’s simply untrue that the wealthy class is (as a collective group) exploiting the poor. Actually, there are many wealthy people who we should be thanking for creating goods and services that have helped so many.

How We Got Here

This provocative rhetoric is so unfounded in reality that it could only possibly survive in an ideological echo chamber. Those at Oxfam headquarters must have banished all dissenting opinions so that no one was left to scrutinize this astoundingly simple minded campaign. Otherwise you would think someone would have mentioned one of the following:

Have you considered that many of the world’s wealthiest earned their money by inventing iPhones and search engines which have consequently resulted in profound job creation?

Or…

“Have you considered that we should let the rich use their money as they please since they’ve proven to be remarkably adept with it and often give it away anyways?”

Or…

“Have you considered the potential consequences on human prosperity if we were to dis-incentivized people from taking entrepreneurial risks by capping their income?

Instead, you have Oxfam executives using deceptive rhetorical techniques to push a baffling new agenda: “tackle extreme wealth.”

But really, there’s nothing baffling or new about this agenda.

Make no mistake, this is authoritarianism disguised as altruism. It’s the bold claim that the world needs to run like the folks over at Oxfam think it should run. That if only they were in charge of the world’s wealth, then those suffering from oppression would be liberated and those making a profit would be cut off at the knees. And, when executed properly, this restructuring would bring ultimate equity for all.

And they are so convinced of the good of their mission that they are willing to use any means necessary to bring it to fruition, including a Machiavellian media campaign.

Ultimately, this campaign isn’t designed to serve the poor. It’s designed to harness the suffering of the poor in order to expand the influence Oxfam has through government intervention. And once they have that influence, the poor will finally get the help that they need, so we’re told.

But while Oxfam continues to feign generosity by telling other people how their money should be spent, we over at DonorSee are working to unmistakably benefit the poor directly and effectively. Visit donorsee.com today and change the life of someone living in the bottom half of the world, voluntarily, with your own money.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” -Steinbeck

**UPDATE** After people liked this tweet, I decided to flesh out more thoughts in a YouTube video.