- It costs just 25 cents a day to provide a child with the vitamins and nutrients to grow up healthy, but every hour of every day, 300 children die from malnutrition.
- One in seven people on earth goes to bed hungry each night while the top 40 highest-earning hedge fund managers made a combined $13.2 billion in a single year.
- Global military spending exceeds $1.7 trillion per year, 100 times more than annual cancer research spending.
- 1.4 billion people in developing countries live on $1.25 a day or less, while the global video game market is nearly $50 billion. Read more
You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again. ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Do some people matter more than others? In a tabloid culture, an inordinate premium is placed on anyone rich or popular, the antics of celebrities and millionaires receiving more attention than the mortal struggles of women and children.
In the U.S., the gap between fame and obscurity, wealth and poverty, power and powerlessness manifests itself most starkly in centers of influence like Washington, Los Angeles and New York, where jockeying for position is an obsession. Being invited to the right party, getting the right table at the right restaurant, having the right address, owning the right accoutrements, getting name-checked in the right publication or seen with the right person is of paramount importance.
America is based on the noble idea of equality, but principle and practice are two very different things and some people are more equal than others, with disproportionate privileges and prestige. This holds true across the planet.
Counterintuitively, the most important people in the world are those who have the least, those who are the most oppressed, those who are victims of the worst violence.
We are only as strong and powerful and important as the weakest link in the human chain. When a little girl is gang-raped, when a child wastes away from preventable hunger, when a man is silenced for his beliefs, when a woman dies needlessly in childbirth, when a little boy lives in agony from a preventable disease, we are all weakened, our worth diminished.
When the resources of the rich and famous are put to use to help those in need, it is because the highest moral calling is to give to others, to extend a hand to those who need one.
If character is built on compassion and generosity of spirit, the most important person in the world is the one who most needs our compassion, care and generosity, the person who enables us to improve ourselves by helping them, who gives us value because we value them.
With all the hobnobbing, backslapping, namedropping and idol-worshiping served to us by the media, with the dazzling displays of money and fame and power, let’s never forget who matters most in this world: it is the person to whom we give something of ourselves — and from whom we derive our moral power.
The poverty rate jumped to 14.3 percent in 2009, up from 13.2 percent a year earlier and the highest rate since 1994, the Census Bureau said Thursday. Last year, a record 43.6 million people were in poverty, up from 39.8 million in 2008 — the third consecutive increase. “The number of people in poverty in 2009 is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates have been published,” the Census Bureau said.
A chief executive officer of a Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 index company was paid, on average, $9.25 million in total compensation in 2009.
Eli Pariser of MoveOn captures the obscenity in a tweet:
In the US, the richest country on earth in terms of total wealth, 1 in 7 live in poverty.
As a New Yorker, it’s easy to see that things are completely out of whack when luxury real estate listings for multi-million dollar apartments are a dime a dozen.
As I’ve said, these are dark days for progressives and for America with inequality, injustice, hunger, poverty, human rights violations, oppression of women and so many other ills rampant. Our work is cut out for us.
UPDATE: More on income inequality from Joan McCarter:
Based on the preliminary data from the Census, Democrats on the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) have issued a report based on the Census data, showing that “income inequality skyrocketed in the past three decades, peaked under President Bush just before the Great Recession began, and may have been a root cause of the worst recession since the Great Depression.”
The report talks about how increasing income inequality has been compounded by financial deregulation, resulting in easier access to credit and more and more American families getting deeper and deeper into debt just to make ends meet.
I’m sure many of you have seen anecdotal evidence of this in your lives, but here it is, spelled out:
With the battle over whether to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy shaping up as the major political event of the fall, opponents of repeal were handed a bounteous gift this summer when Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and 38 others announced that they formed a pact to give at least half their wealth to charity. After all, what better illustration could there be of the great social good that wealthy people can do when the government lets them keep their hard-earned dollars to spend as they please?
The problem is that the exceptional philanthropy of the superwealthy few doesn’t apply to the many more people defined as rich in the current debate over the Bush tax cuts — individuals earning over $200,000 and couples with revenues over $250,000. For decades, surveys have shown that upper-income Americans don’t give away as much of their money as they might and are particularly undistinguished as givers when compared with the poor, who are strikingly generous. A number of other studies have shown that lower-income Americans give proportionally more of their incomes to charity than do upper-income Americans. In 2001, Independent Sector, a nonprofit organization focused on charitable giving, found that households earning less than $25,000 a year gave away an average of 4.2 percent of their incomes; those with earnings of more than $75,000 gave away 2.7 percent.
More on that Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge:
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett announced today that 40 signers, including at least 30 billionaires and other wealthy families, had officially made the Giving Pledge–a promise to give away more than half their fortunes.
…Some people may write off the pledge as a gimmick aimed at simply improving the PR of the super-rich, which could certainly use some improving. But the list could become a strong financial force for philanthropy, if for no other reason than peer pressure, publicity and the inspiring example of others.
America’s rich have been searching for new status symbols in the wake of the Great Recession. Yachts, private jets, seaside mansions are so 2007. But being wealthy enough and generous enough to get on the Giving Pledge list may quickly become the ultimate badge of status–both in the U.S. and abroad.
The billionaire’s pledge is undeniably a good thing, and Buffet and Gates are setting an excellent example and saving lives. Still, for the 40+ signers, you have to ask yourself if being left with a few hundred million or even a few billion dollars after you’ve given away half your fortune should be considered a sacrifice in any meaningful sense of that word.