What would it really cost to end global hunger? The United Nations estimates that it would take at least $30 billion per year to solve the food crisis, mainly by boosting agricultural productivity in the developing world. Over the decade that it would take to make sustainable improvements in the lives of the 862 million undernourished people, that amounts to $300 billion. Three hundred billion dollars is a lot of money, and the U.S. government won’t foot the bill alone. But it’s less than half of 1% of the world’s combined gross domestic products, not an unreasonable sum to invest in ending the misery and degradation of hunger. After all, Congress shelled out $21 billion last year for foreign aid and this week it approved $162 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for fiscal 2009.
It never ceases to amaze me. Americans are willing to countenance the pouring of untold billions into maintaining and upgrading our ability to wage war. Meanwhile, we label the idea of spending millions here at home on things like education, housing, health care, and infrastructure as “Socialism.” We worship our men and women in uniform, and yet we disdain those who educate our children, collectively regarding them as unmotivated parasites sucking at the public teat.
If you think I’m falling back on my Liberal beliefs, I’m probably guilty as charged, but let me give you something to consider. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a storm that almost literally wiped New Orleans off the map, many Republicans were willing to write the Crescent City off. Then-Speaker of the House, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) came out and said that it might be better if we just allowed New Orleans to perish and fade away. Call me cynical, but the fact that New Orleans has a majority African-American population that neither votes for nor donates to Republican causes had nothing to do with it, right? Somehow I think that if it had been the Hamptons instead of New Orleans, Republicans would have been tripping over each other to authorize assistance and relief funds.
Partisanship aside, though, I’m concerned that Americans collectively have come to accept our highly militarized culture as a fair price to pay to “remain safe” after 9.11. Except that most of what our military does has nothing to do with preventing terrorism and protecting the homeland. The American military has a presence in something like 150 countries, yet the voices asking why this is necessary are nowhere to be heard.
$30 billion. That’s what seems to be the best estimate of what it would take to end hunger worldwide, at least insofar as it’s possible to do so. The world spends that much every eight days on the implements and conduct of war, with the vast majority of those expenditures coming from American taxpayer.
Call me silly, but if this isn’t an indication of our back asswards priorities, I don’t know what would be. The only conclusion I’m able to draw from this is that we view killing people to be infinitely preferable to feeding and caring for them. After all, if we use our money to feed someone, isn’t that Socialism??
Fixing our problems (which would go a long ways towards fixing the world’s problems) is not a difficult or complicated process. All we need to do is re-examine and change our priorities. We need to put people over profits. We need to value ending hunger and saving lives over creating implements of death and destruction. We need to take care of business here at home- education, health care, housing, employment, and infrastructure would be good places to start. And we need to begin demanding that the wealthy pay their fair share. No more gaming the system to protect the interests of the 1%. No more allowing the wealthy to pay a lower effective tax rate than their secretaries and gardeners. It’s time to demand that the wealthy pay their fair share.
I’m not saying that the 1% need to pay a higher tax rate than those farther down the economic food chain, but that’s not a new (or inappropriate) concept. Time was in the 20th century when the top earners were taxed at 94%. That seems a bit onerous, but when you consider that Mitt Romney’s effective tax rate is less than 15%, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to understand that things are horribly out of whack.
In that same vein, the Bush tax cuts need to be allowed to expire, certainly for those at the upper end of the spectrum. People forget that Bill Clinton left the American Sheeple a budget surplus. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 made short work of that, leading to the largest deficit in American history. Regardless of Republican propaganda and talking points, THEY are primarily responsible for the mess our economy is currently in. Instead of taking care of the best interests of the country, they took care of their rich benefactors to the detriment of their country.
The way out of our current predicament is not difficult, nor is it impractical. It requires only the political will and courage to recognize and admit reality…and then working to make the changes that will allow America to do things differently:
- stop projecting military power around the globe
- drastically reduce the Pentagon’s budget
- take care of needs here at home
- require the rich to pay their fair share
- end the Bush tax cuts
- create a single-payer health care system
None of these things are difficult to do. Individually they’ll make a huge difference, but in concert they can and quite likely would fundamentally change America for the better.
The question is whether or not anyone in Washington will have the balls to pursue this agenda. Understand that I’m not holding my breath in anticipation of this actually happening.
Are you listening, Mr. President?