By Zachary J. Guiod
In this article I would like to focus on ways to fix the egregious level of global wealth inequality. It would be impossible to do this without calling out the failures of our current unsustainable system: capitalism. While there has been undeniable positive progress in technology and medicine under our current economic system, it is quickly becoming outdated, and it is literally killing millions of people every year. Nine million people die every year from hunger and hunger-related diseases, but, according to the international charity Oxfam, there is enough food to make sure that no one on earth goes hungry. In the words of Oxfam, “many people in the world don’t have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food.“
In 2017 the world’s 500 richest individuals earned a combined trillion dollars and nine million people couldn’t afford enough food to live. There is abundant evidence to show that our current economic system needs a radical transformation, but those changes often take too long. So what can we do to end global poverty by 2030, a goal shared by various international organizations?
One solution slowly moving its way into the mainstream is the idea of a universal basic income (UBI). While there are valid criticisms of this idea — giving money to poor people won’t create roads, health clinics, or electricity grids, for instance — there is evidence that giving poor people money increases food consumption and childhood health. Economist John McArthur estimates it would cost $70 billion a year to implement a global universal basic income to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.
This is my radical idea: The UN taxes the 500 wealthiest people $70 billion every year until no one lives in poverty. Instead of individual countries using public tax dollars, some of which come from working-class people, the world should put the responsibility on the individuals who were rewarded by our broken economic system.
Another option is to feed the world instead of bombing it. To quote the artist/activist Tupac Shakur, “They got money for wars but can’t feed the poor.” In 2016 the world spent a total of $1.57 trillion on “defense” spending. The U.S. outspent every country, with a military budget of $582.7 billion. In 2017 the U.S. spent $42.4 billion on foreign aid, less than 1 percent of the total budget. The United States, by themselves, could commit to ending extreme poverty and still spend half a trillion dollars on its bloated military budget.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for the ‘least of these.’”
If wealthy countries, like America, want to call themselves “great nations,” they must live up to that title by doing what Dr. King says and use their resources to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people.