Hungry, Unhealthy, Fabulously Wealthy. The New America
Global Starvation Ignored by American Policy Elites. From The New America Media, Commentary, Peter Phillips, Posted: Sep 15, 2008
- Peter Phillips is a professor of sociology at Sonoma State University and director of Project Censored, a media research group. His new book Censored 2009 is now available from Seven Stories Press.
A new report from The World Bank admits that in 2005 3.14 billion people live on less that $2.50 a day and about 44 percent of these people survive on less than $1.25. Complete and total wretchedness can be the only description for the circumstances faced by so many, especially those in urban areas. Simple items like phone calls, nutritious food, vacations, television, dental care, and inoculations are beyond the possible for billions of people.
Starvation.net logs the increasing impact of world hunger and starvation. Over 30,000 people a day (85 percent of children under 5) die of malnutrition, curable diseases and starvation. Over the past 40 years, the number of unnecessary deaths has exceeded 300 million.
These are the people who David Rothkopf in his book Superclass calls the unlucky. 'If you happen to be born in the wrong place, like sub-Saharan Africa…that is bad luck,' Rothkopf writes. Rothkopf goes on to describe how the top 10 percent of the adults worldwide own 84 percent of the wealth and the bottom half owns barely 1 percent. Included in the top 10 percent of wealth holders are the one thousand global billionaires. But is such a contrast of wealth inequality really the result of luck, or are there policies, supported by political elites, that protect the few at the expense of the many?
Farmers around the world grow more than enough food to feed the entire world adequately. Global grain production yielded a record 2.3 billion tons in 2007, up 4 percent from the year before, yet, billions of people go hungry every day. Grain.org describes the core reasons for continuing hunger in a recent article 'Making a Killing from Hunger.' It turns out that while farmers grow enough food to feed the world, commodity speculators and huge grain traders like Cargill control the global food prices and distribution. Starvation is profitable for corporations when demands for food push the prices up. Cargill announced that profits for commodity trading for the first quarter of 2008 were 86 percent above 2007. World food prices grew 22 percent from June 2007 to June 2008 and a significant portion of the increase was propelled by the $175 billion invested in commodity futures that speculate on prices, instead of seeking to feed the hungry. The result is wild food price spirals, both up and down, with food insecurity remaining widespread.
For a family on the bottom rung of poverty, a small price increase is the difference between life and death, yet neither U.S. presidential candidate has declared a war on starvation. Instead, both candidates talk about national security and the continuation of the war on terror as if this were the primary election issue. Where is the Manhattan project for global hunger? Where is the commitment to national security though unilateral starvation relief? Where is the outrage in the corporate media with pictures of dying children and an analysis of who benefits from hunger?
When is enough enough? When do the global elites ask themselves questions about their own values? When will Goldman and JPMorgan finally be able to pay their financial stars enough in bonuses and "stress-reduction spa holidays" to meet their needs? This from today's New York Times:
Goldman Can Spare You a Dime, By Frank Rich, New York Times, Published: October 17, 2009
New York Times staff writer Frank Rich
At the dawn of the progressive era early in the last century, muckrakers attacked the first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller, for creating capitalism’s most ruthless monster. 'The Octopus' was their nickname for Standard Oil, the trust that controlled nearly 90 percent of American oil. But even in that primordial phase of the industrial era, Rockefeller was mindful of his public image and eager to counter it. “His great brainstorm,” writes his biographer, Ron Chernow, “was undoubtedly his decision to dispense shiny souvenir dimes to adults and nickels to children as he moved about.” Who could hate an octopus tossing glittering coins?
It was hard not to think of Rockefeller’s old P.R. playbook while watching Goldman Sachs’s behavior when the Dow hit 10,000 last week. As leader of the Wall Street pack, Goldman declared surging profits, keeping it on track to dispense a record $23 billion in bonuses for 2009. But most Americans know all too well that only the intervention of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout money saved Goldman from the dire fate of its less well-connected competitors. The growing ranks of under-and-unemployed Americans, meanwhile, are waiting with increasing desperation for a recovery of their own.
Goldman is this century’s octopus - almost literally so. The most-quoted sentence in financial journalism this year, by Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, describes the company as a 'great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.' That’s why Goldman’s chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, recycled Rockefeller’s stunt last week: The announcement of Goldman’s spectacular third-quarter earnings ($3.19 billion) was paired with the news that the company was donating $200 million to its own foundation, which promotes education. In Goldman dollars, that largess is roughly comparable to the nickels John D. handed out to children a century ago. At least those kids could spend the spare change on candy.
As America hobbles toward its uncertain future, with it's billion-dollar-a-day war(s) and its staggering unemployment and homelessness, the less sense our politicians make to me. Locked in a battle of meaningless yammering for months over a national health care plan that could save millions of American lives and billions of American dollars, we hear nothing but tired sound-bites. "The people don't want a public option." - "It's socialism!" - "Let the poor die so we'll have more for ourselves!." - "This is Darwinian Capitalism! Only the strong survive!"
Socialism looks better and better to me every day.
I've travelled all over the world, and I've played in many "socialized" countries whose primary political goal was to take care of their people, not to take over the world. I've used their health care, as a guest in their countries, on three separate occasions.
In London, England. In Copenhagen, Denmark. And in Toronto, Canada.
In every instance, the care was far superior to American "health" care. Quick, technologically developed, and efficient.
Goldman-Sachs made enough in it's third quarter earnings (2009, 3.19 Billion dollars) to pay for health care in America, plus feed every hungry man, woman, and child on earth for a month. Our greed is abominable. I am often ashamed to admit that I live here, in the USA. I am appalled at the well-to-do's hatred of the poor. They are everywhere, they are unattractive, and they are an eyesore. They are to be arrested, beaten, castigated, burnt alive, avoided, ignored, legislated against, driven from their tents (or doorways of undergound encampments), starved, trivialized, marginalized, and summarily deprived of any form of human dignity or decency. They do not vacation in Vienna, nor do they shop at Nordstrom's. They smell bad. They have no intrinsic monetary worth.
The rich, well-lobbied politicians tell us that these people WANT to be homeless, poor, and hungry. That more children and women are homeless than ever before (6.7 million, Gallup) means nothing. The Wall Street Jubilee will not be interrupted by useless eaters (New World Order terminology, used often now by statesmen and civic leaders in open forums.)
I have few answers. Give to your food bank. Help a family out of poverty. Join an action group.
But mainly, refuse to participate in mindless capitalistic, monopolistic sadism (putting all of your money into war machines... supporting CIA operations in Nigeria... eating until you burst, and then throwing the remainder of food away... investing in polluting our planet). Find out what you can do to stop America from becoming the beast that eats the world.
A good place to start: http://uspoverty.change.org/
Take it from there. Our country is mad (as in "hatter"). We must bring sanity and order to this chaos.