Wednesday, June 25, 2008

10 Million Millionaires equals 2.8 billion in poverty

It's an old joke poor people tell ourselves:
Why are people poor?
Because we don't have money! Do away with sociological and psychological reasons for poverty; stop confusing the symptoms with the causes, and in the end, it all boils down to money, which is about distribution of wealth, which is about control of resources.

Merrill Lynch & Co reported yesterday that the world now has 10 million millionaires, with an average wealth of about $4 million. Their wealth grew 9 percent last year, some $41 trillion dollars. Those 10 million make up one fifth of 1 percent of the world population. Meanwhile, some 2.8 billion people live on less than $2 a day.

The super-rich are doing particularly well. Those with incomes of $30 million or more saw their incomes go up by 15% last year. There are about 103,000 of the super-rich.

Very few people in the U.S. earn less than $2 a day, Yet more than 20% of us earn less than $20,000 a year; another 23% of us earn under $40,000. And in this country, almost nothing is free: we pay for housing, food, utilities, water, clothes, medicine; most of us have no land to cultivate, no community well, no cotton to spin into cloth. And half of the country is cold half of the time.

The value of a house has gone down 15% since last year-- bad time to sell if you're a senior, or want to relocate, or can't handle the burden of homeownership anymore and you want to get out.

Heating oil is projected to be $479 for a hundred gallons this winter. That's my take-home pay for a week! I hear the utility companies are at their wits' end, paying nearly the same high coal and oil prices as we do. But pity the poor consumer-- we'll pay that price at least twice.

It's dangerous for people to go without utilities. Fires get started by candles and space heaters. People get hypothermia. Landlords can evict you, child protection services can take your children. All of that will happen more this year.

I worry that the margin for disaster seems so large for so many. We can be creative, we can be act collectively,
but not everybody is going to make it though this winter.

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