Out of Whack, Really
Updated: May 2, 2020
Vice News reported on 15 May 2018: “The 10 richest people in the world are worth a combined $682 billion, or about 35 percent of the accumulated wealth. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos takes the top spot on the Forbes list, with a net worth of $112 billion.”
We talk about a billion like we know what it means. Intellectually it might make sense; comprehending it is somewhat trickier. Fact: if someone gave you a dollar every second of every day non-stop, it would take 31.6 years to reach a billion. Ergo, to give Jeff Bezos his net worth at a dollar a second would take three thousand five hundred and thirty-nine years. To repeat myself, that’s 3,539 years.
Over forty million people struggle with hunger in the United States, including 13 million children. Over five million seniors struggle to afford enough to eat. Almost twenty million Americans live in extreme poverty. This means their family’s cash income is less than half of the poverty line, or about $10,000 a year for a family of four. The internet is awash with additional statistics.
To a billionaire, a thousand dollars is literally pocket change. Losing that amount would mean the same thing (if it had any meaning at all) as you or me losing twenty-five cents. Really.
There is something wrong with this gross inequality. It is neither reasonable or expected that everybody should have equal wealth. But by any righteous ethical standard, everyone should have enough. Enough to eat. Decent housing. Access to good education and medical care. When a very few people have way, way, WAY more than enough while others suffer malnutrition and sleep on sidewalks, something is out of whack.
I do not pretend to have all the practical answers. But I join my voice to the millions of others who posit that a caring society places responsible limits on itself for the good of the whole. Billionaires getting richer and richer while children do not have enough to eat is wrong. America needs to address the issue of whether we want to be a union of people who care for the well-being of one another, or to live with a system where the top dogs rule and to hell with anyone who can’t keep up with them.