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The non-profit group Oxfam, which monitors and fights global poverty, released a report Monday ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland which found that the combined wealth of the 85 richest people on earth is equal to the wealth of the 3.5 billion poorest people on the planet.

Wealthy elites have co-opted political power to rig the rules of the economic game, undermining democracy and creating a world where the 85 richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population, worldwide development organization Oxfam warns in a report published today.  

The report found that:

• Globally, the richest individuals and companies hide trillions of dollars away from the tax man in a web of tax havens around the world. It is estimated that $21 trillion is held unrecorded and off-shore;

• In the US, years of financial deregulation directly correlates to the increase in the income share of the top one per cent which is now at its highest level since the eve of the Great Depression;

• In India, the number of billionaires increased tenfold in the past decade, aided by a highly regressive tax structure and the wealthy exploiting their government connections, while spending on the poorest remains remarkably low;

• In Europe, austerity has been imposed on the poor and middle classes under huge pressure from financial markets whose wealthy investors have benefited from state bailouts of financial institutions;

• In Africa, global corporations – particularly those in extractive industries - exploit their influence to avoid taxes and royalties, reducing the resources available to governments to fight poverty.

Canadian business and television host of the Canadian program The Lang and O'Leary Exchange and ABC's Shark Tank thinks this is wonderful news for everyone involved.

Co-host Amanda Lang: The wealth, this is according to Oxfam, of the world’s 85 richest people is equal to the 3.5 billion poorest people.

Kevin O’Leary: It’s fantastic. And this is a great thing because it inspires everybody, gets them motivation to look up to the 1% and say, “I want to become one of those people, I’m going to fight hard to get up to the top.” This is fantastic news, and of course I applaud it. What can be wrong with this?

Lang: Really?

O’Leary: Yes, really. I celebrate capitalism.

Lang: So, somebody making a dollar a day in Africa is getting up in the morning and saying “I’m gonna be Bill Gates”?

O’Leary: That’s the motivation everybody needs.

Lang (speaking as one of those poor Africans):  The only thing between me and that guy is “motivation,” I just need to pull up my socks… oh wait, I don’t have socks!

O’Leary: I am not against charity.

Look don't tell me that you want to redistribute wealth again. That's not going to happen.

Lang: You know what, you take a simple fact like this which is neither good nor bad. It's just a fact...

O'Leary: It's a celebratory stat. I'm very excited about it. I'm wonderful (sic) to see it happen. I tell people everyday 'if you work hard, you might be stinking rich someday.'

Lang: We're talking about people who are in extreme abject poverty. That's how you get 3.5 billion people in this category.

O'Leary: No we're not. You were just talking about really rich people.

: Let me tell you later what you should say to this.

What can be wrong with this? Really? It is one thing to celebrate capitalism and to push the dubious old conservative chestnut that through hard work and sheer determination everyone can pull themselves out of poverty. It is quite another to suggest that a sockless African who is faced with yet another day of finding enough food to eat is in anyway motivated by any one of the 85 individuals sitting atop more riches than the equivalent of 3.5 billion people.

It either takes a liar of biblical proportions to state that this sort of lopsided global wealth disparity is a positive thing or someone with all the empathy of a psychopathic crocodile with a narcissistic personality disorder. In O'Leary's case, I'm going with the latter.

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