SPREADING THE WEALTH

MAN NAMED JOE WURZELBACHER NOT LONG AGO asked president-elect Barack Obama if his new business would be subject to increased taxes. Obama was quoted as responding, “I think that when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

Since that day, the Democratic senator from Illinois has received weeks of backlash for a platform that is said to echo the works of Karl Marx and so many socialist principals. McCain supporters don’t believe the statement was an innocent slip of the tongue.

Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) compared Obama’s policies to those of Cuba, saying, “Where I come from, where I was raised, they tried wealth redistribution. We don’t need that here, that’s called socialism, communism, not Americanism.”

You can sit around all you like and blame the poor for their own plight, but there are children that go to bed every night cold and hungry. According the charity organization Bread.org, 16,000 children die every day from hunger-related causes. In the U.S., 11.7 million children have to skip meals or eat less to make ends meet.

Around the world, famine and diseases ravish thousands. Out of a population of 12 million in Zimbabwe, there were 2.7 million cases of malaria, according to the World Health Organization’s most recent estimates. A little over 1.2 billion in the world live below the poverty line of $1 per day and 6 million children under five die each year from malnutrition.

Here in the U.S., the National Coalition on Health Care reported in 2005 that nearly 47 million Americans were without health care. That number rose by 2.2 million in 2006, an increase of 9 million since 2000.

The United Nations Development Program estimates that the basic health and nutrition needs of the world’s poorest people could be met for an additional $13 billion a year. That should be easy for a country that spends at least $200 billion and 120 billion hours on legal forms of entertainment every year according to author and financial analyst Harold L. Vogel.

That should be easy for a country that, according to the Department of Agriculture, can afford to waste 100 billion pounds of food each year and whose citizens consume 162 gallons of water over the sufficient limit every day. That’s incredible when stood up against countries like Switzerland at 28.9 gallons per person per day and Botswana at 19.3 gallons.

In a statement before the United Nations in 1982, President Ronald Reagan began by saying, “I speak today as both a citizen of the United States, and of the world.” That statement still resonates today, I dare say, in people like Barack Obama. It’s not that I endorse him, but I do endorse a society that extends compassion to ailing nations and values the preservation of life over voracious capitalism.

In Plato’s “Apology” and also in “The Republic,” his distaste for democracy comes through strong. He did not believe that ordinary citizens were fully capable of making wise choices because everyone has natural biases, myself included. Instead, Plato believed that the wisest and most publicly aware among us should guide and govern.

I doubt a strategy like this would ever work in the U.S because the spirit of cooperation is so hard to foster in a capitalist society. While it has its virtues, Karl Marx might have been on to something when he said capitalism was a market that catered more to profit than to social need. Hence, about 5 percent of the population controls 95 percent of the wealth in the U.S.

Right now, I am giving $24 a month to a child named Beatrice Musonda living in poverty-stricken Zambia. I know it’s not much, but can you imagine if every working person in America gave that much to curb poverty and hunger in the world? According to my calculations of the eligible working-age index, that should ideally generate $3.75 billion a year in humanitarian aid for destitute nations.

I guess the question is, how much are we willing to give up to battle hunger, to make sure our 1.6 million square miles of arable land is cultivated efficiently, to put an end to the 6 million tons of carbon being released into the atmosphere every year and the 230 millions tons of trash generated every day, less than a quarter of it recycled.

It’s all matter of prerogative. If Maslow’s physiological needs, including adequate food and water, take a back seat to profit and self-sufficiency, then we’re in the perfect country.

But it should really be the other way around. Individual success should wait on clean air, clean water and enough food for everybody. It should wait on life.

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