Economic Damnation 07: The 1%

“The 1%” was coined in 2011 to refer to the US income and wealth inequality where the concentration of wealth among the top 1% is significantly above the national average. On average, the 1% earn well over a million dollars each year (and the bottom 99% all make less than 350K) and control over one third of the country’s wealth, meaning that, on average, their financial influence is 33 times that of an average person. In addition, the roughly 536 Billionaires in the US have a net worth that is over 10,000 times that of the average household net worth in the US (and in a couple of cases, almost 100,000 times).

And the US is not the only country with such a disparate income and net worth inequality. China has 213 Billionaires in US dollars, and the top one percent in China also controls over one third of the country’s wealth. The wealth inequality has widened significantly over the last 20 years.

And similar situations appear to be arising in other developed countries around the world. A recent article in the Guardian called the growing wealth inequality in the UK a ticking time bomb, the Broadbent institute recently published a report that found Canadians vastly underestimate the wealth gap in Canada, and even the Australian Institute is finding that the inequality between those with the most and the least is rising in what was once universally thought of as an egalitarian country.

This is bad, because it’s at the point where a select view individuals can not only single-handedly make life a living hell for a large number of Procurement professionals in a number of disparate companies across the globe (as Extreme Activist Investors, Damnation 64), but can individually cause a number of economic, infrastructural, environmental, regulatory, societal, organizational, and technological headaches all on their own. If a small group of these individuals buys a Fortune 3000 and decides it’s manpower heavy, they can cause 10,000 people to be laid off in a day in a small town and cause a major shift in the local, and even regional, unemployment rate (and the market who can afford the product being built). They can start new airlines to increase competition (and logistics headaches), or buy a competitor just to decrease competition. They can create new sustainability initiatives overnight, or turn the fracking dial up to 11! They can fund entire lobby groups to get their standards and requirements in place. They can single-handedly make your supply chains safer or lobby against worker’s rights to keep costs down. They can replace your entire Sales and Marketing teams overnight. And they can dictate your ERP for years to come.

The reality is that, in today’s world, Money Talks, and when you can buy and sell 99% of the world’s companies with your pocket change, their money talks the loudest. It’s another damnation we’d rather not know exists, but it does, so we need to be as prepared as we can (and always expect that even the best laid plans can be set awry by the whims of one wealthy individual).