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Commentary :: Labor : Social Welfare
The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
18 Mar 2005
Two magazine covers stood out in poignant contrast on newsstands last week. Forbes magazine released its 29th annual listing of the world’s billionaires. Time Magazine’s cover story wondered “How to End Poverty.”

It was a good year for the global billionaires’ club. Their ranks grew to 691, up 17 percent from the previous year. Collectively, the wealth of the world’s billionaires reached $2.2 trillion, up more than 57 percent over the last two years.

Poverty is growing as well. Time reports that nearly half of the world’s 6 billion residents are poor. Over one billion of them subsist on less than $1 a day. In the United States, according to the US Census Bureau, the number of impoverished Americans rose 3.7 percent in 2003. The number of children living in poverty rose 6.6 percent.
The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
By Scott Klinger

Two magazine covers stood out in poignant contrast on newsstands last week. Forbes magazine released its 29th annual listing of the world’s billionaires. Time Magazine’s cover story wondered “How to End Poverty.”

It was a good year for the global billionaires’ club. Their ranks grew to 691, up 17 percent from the previous year. Collectively, the wealth of the world’s billionaires reached $2.2 trillion, up more than 57 percent over the last two years.

Poverty is growing as well. Time reports that nearly half of the world’s 6 billion residents are poor. Over one billion of them subsist on less than $1 a day. In the United States, according to the US Census Bureau, the number of impoverished Americans rose 3.7 percent in 2003. The number of children living in poverty rose 6.6 percent.

Forbes seeks to explain the billionaires’ success by noting that a majority of those on the list are “self-made.” Forbes’ website features an interactive quiz that asks, “Do you have what it takes to become a billionaire?” and proceeds to explore things like marital status and hobbies. The idea is that many billionaires made it on their own.

But to suggest that membership in the growing billionaires’ club requires only a combination of hard work and character traits ignores some dramatic shifts in global economic rules that explain the cavernous divide that has developed between the very rich and the very poor.


Tax rates have fallen on upper income citizens and corporations worldwide. Fifty years ago in the United States, the highest marginal income tax rate was 91 percent; today it is 34 percent. As recently as 1979, taxes on capital gains from the sale of stock, real estate and businesses were 35 percent; today they are 15 percent. Corporate taxes as a percentage of the US economy have shrunk from 4.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 1965 to just 1.5 percent in 2002. While corporate taxes have declined throughout the world, they have plummeted in the United States, leaving only Iceland among industrialized countries with a lower corporate tax burden.

Several of the wealthiest billionaires capitalized on public assets and made their fortunes by buying formerly public assets. This was the case with Mexican Carlos Slim Helu, the world’s fourth richest man, who used inherited wealth to buy a substantial share of Mexico’s privatized national telephone company. US billionaires Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, and Larry Ellison of Oracle would not be in Forbes’ top 20 billionaires had the US government not invested tens of billions of public dollars developing computers and the Internet.

Some billionaires’ fortunes rest upon paying their employees poverty wages. Such is the case for the Walton family (numbers 10 through 14 on the Forbes list.) Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the world. Many of its US workers are so poorly paid that they must rely on food stamps and other forms of public assistance to get by. Such forms of government aid represent an indirect government subsidy to corporations whose business model does not include paying employees enough to live on. Worldwide, billions are gained by outsourcing service, production and manufacturing functions to workers who labor in sweatshop conditions in countries like China.

The role of government policy in determining who has wealth and who does not continues to expand. During the recent debate on the bankruptcy bill, federal lawmakers refused to close the “asset protection trust” loophole increasingly used by millionaires and billionaires to shelter mansions and other assets from creditors in bankruptcy. Those same lawmakers weakened protections that protect the family homes of ordinary people from creditors during bankruptcy.

Forbes is wrong; none of the billionaires did it alone. The chasm between rich and poor is not a divide between who has intelligence and drive and who does not. Rather it results from a society whose rules allow some to amass wealth greater than could be enjoyed in a thousand lifetimes, while they deny others enough money to scrape through just one lifetime.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Scott Klinger is the co-director of the Responsible Wealth project at United for a Fair Economy and co-author of “Executive Excess 2004: Campaign Contributions, Outsourcing, Unexpensed Stock Options and Rising CEO Pay.”

This work is in the public domain.
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not to hijack but this goes hand in hand
19 Mar 2005
Today Saturday march 19th 3005 the second anniversary of the Bush Holocaust, has inspired millions across the country to ivest a beautiful day in protest a true grass roots effort and a great success. No matter corporate medias ignorance the shear weight of the world's peoples will not be ignored. Let out voices be heard across the lands "no war for oil" "no war to enrich billionaires" " and end to war on the meak".

I organize in North Haven Connecticut, we are planning a drum circle and speak in at ct state university along with a vegetarian pot luck. Come help!!!!

203-239-9659
Re: The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
19 Mar 2005
Hurrah. I quite like billionaries and aspire to be one myself someday.

PS - To the previous poster, it's "sheer" and "meek". I hope you didn't misspell your cardboard sign too.
Re: The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
21 Mar 2005
I note the post in response to Ann doesnt leave their name! Yet Ann will be protesting for you to keep the right to have your misguided opinion....It seems to me that it is not just wealthy corporations that are parasites, alot of wanna be's are also happy to bludge of the courage of those strong enough to stand up for themselves hoping to make the world a reasonable place for our kids... 'educated idiocy' -Just goes to show, neither money or education necessarily equals decency.Stop wasting time correcting peoples spelling mistakes and start using that brain to get a real grip on the world.
Re: The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
21 Mar 2005
Exactly how is anyone showing "courage" by posting messages on Indymedia?

And for that matter, there is nothing "courageous" about bashing the "greedy corporations". It's fashionable, cheap, easy, and meaningless.
Re: The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
21 Mar 2005
Let's get something perfectly clear here Kerrie. Ann's protesting does nothing to help Americans keep their rights to express their opinions - misguided or otherwise. At best, protesters like Ann, and I assume yourself, only give comfort to those who would do us harm and to convince the meek that they should accept handouts - that self made billionaires such as Bill Gates owe them something. People like An actually help to perpetuate the existence of a "poor" class. Standing on the streets waving signs does nothing to preseve rights. I suggest that if Ann wants to help to preserve the rights of Americans, she should walk into her local military recruiters office and enlist in the Armed Forces. Not only will she be defending the freedoms and rights of all Americans but she will learn self discipline, teamwork and respect for the country in which she resides.
Re: The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
21 Mar 2005
So...if Ann enlists in the military, she will be defending the freedoms and rights of all Americans?

When the U.S. military destroyed the city of Falluja in Iraq in November of 2004, killing and maiming thousands of Iraqis, were they defending the freedoms and rights of all Americans?

Do you feel safer, now that Falluja has been destroyed?

If destroying Falluja makes us "safe", then it follows that destroying even more cities in the Middle East would make us "safer".

So should the U.S. military proceed to destroy Baghdad, Teheran, Amman, Cairo, ...?

We would really be "safe" then, would'nt we?

The same bullshit about having the U.S. military killing people half way around the world in order to make us "safe" was spewed by right wingers during the Vietnam war. The U.S. military killed 2 million Vietnamese, and still, even the military was not safe in Vietnam.

In the end, the catastrophic results of this line of action were clear to everyone as the U.S. military suffered a stunning defeat in Vietnam.

But that was 30 years ago. Today, a new generation of right wingers, raised on a steady diet of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, clueless about the history of their own country, spew the same nonsense of 30 years ago.
Re: The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
22 Mar 2005
"Birds of a feather".... How you concluded that Ann was asking for a handout I'm not sure? Personally, I dont for one minute think Bill Gates owes me anything. I do resent that wealthy companies have access to numerous tax deductions and exemptions that "Hard working" citizens are not entitled to. Can you not read or do you just choose to ignore what you would rather not have to know? I dont have to debate the issue, I can see whats going on around me..Are you trying to imply that poor people are poor because they dont work hard?????
Re: The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
22 Mar 2005
Kerrie. Many poor people are poor by choice or due to poor life style choices. These would include the choice to pay 5 bucks for a pack of cigaretts each day; The choice to drink heavily; The choice to ignore birth control and have children; the choice to go on welfare rather than get an education; the choice to get into abusive relationships; the choice to be jobless, etc. Contrast that with the choice that MOST people make to be well off or wealthy. Those choices include getting a good education; not asking for government handouts; actually going out and finding a job...then moving UP the ladder rather than complaining about the rich keeping you down. Yes...economic status is largely a choice.
Re: The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
23 Mar 2005
Wow Damian, what a fitting name for someone who truly represents the "Omen" of white upper-class privilege. (not saying that you actually are white per say you could easily be an UncleTom, whic in some ways is even worse at least rich white people w/ your viewpoint are sheltered by the ignorance of their status) Your position is one of safety, one which justifies the undesirable poor. Though, the direction things are going this poor-person status you so loathe will engulf the vast majority which means you. And if you are among the super-elites untouched poverty then watch out cuz your head might end paraded on a stake in the villiage square.
You talk of handouts yet make no mention of corporate handouts and corporate welfare. Oh, wait thats justified because Big Business is just being pragmatic and capitalising on the poor people who bring it on anyway.
Uncle Tom?
23 Mar 2005
Bolivar, re you saying that Blacks who are wealthy are uncle Toms? The fact that you used such a racist term to begin with is disgusting. The fact that you seem to believe that blacks owe it to other blacks to remain in poverty is criminal.
Re: The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
23 Mar 2005
Thats Not what I said actually. What I was referring to was ideology of class-privilege that Damian so expressed in his post. The identity is rooted in Anglo supremicism, the kind that sought justification for oppressing natives, blacks, etc.. by denegrating them as less than human. Now I don't what Damian is but all I was saying is that if he is of color and is spitting that class bigotry that his post was filled with then he would be disevowing the struggle rooted in his cultural heritage, that unfortunately still plagues many parts of the present community. Now that's racist. It's self-hate racism
Re: The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
28 Mar 2005
I've traveled throughout the third world and seen some of the most abject poverty in the world.

That being said, I have absolutely no respect or patience for America's poor. I've seen people working their ass off to live on a minute fraction of what the poor in the US squander everyday.

Everyone in the US receives free eduction. Yes, our schools are flawed, but at least they exist. Everyone can get free food or ermergency medical care. Again, imperfect, but still available.

Fuck the American poor. They had their chance and blew it. There are millions of people more deserving of my help.
Idiots and the idiotic ideologies that they idolize.
01 Apr 2005
Posted by . "Hurrah. I quite like billionaries and aspire to be one myself someday."
Well good luck to you but theres a slim to none chances that you are going to get there unless your parents are already rich.PS - You said you quite like billionaries (plural). Exactly how many do you know personally.

Posted by .. "And for that matter, there is nothing "courageous" about bashing the "greedy corporations". It's fashionable, cheap, easy, and meaningless."
You try going to a protest and have a NG soldier on a roid-rage point a fully automatic rifle at you face, survive and then go back to another protest. Then you can tell me how cheap, easy and cowardly protesting is. (yes this happened to me personally)

Posted by Sid "Ann's protesting does nothing to help Americans keep their rights to express their opinions" I'm pretty sure that Ann and most of the people at the protest are American, so yes she is helping them keep their freedom of expression.

Posted by Sid "At best, protesters like Ann, and I assume yourself, only give comfort to those who would do us harm and to convince the meek that they should accept handouts " Unless 'those that would do us harm' are reading Indymedia sites, I don't see how this is possible. No major media news has the balls to cover all these protests with any type of insight. (Got to keep those advertising dollars rolling in)

Posted by Sid "that self made billionaires such as Bill Gates owe them something."
You may be interested to know that Bill Gates used to steal phone service from major corporations long before he was this "self-made" billionaire. He even stole the idea that mad him a billionaire in the first place. I hate absolutes and generalizations, but from where I'm standing, most people with too much money seem to be liars, thieves, criminals or all of the above. If all it took to be rich was hard work, don't you think that masonry workers and truck drivers would own this country?

Posted by Sid "People like An actually help to perpetuate the existence of a "poor" class. Standing on the streets waving signs does nothing to preseve rights. I suggest that if Ann wants to help to preserve the rights of Americans, she should walk into her local military recruiters office and enlist in the Armed Forces."
Last rip on Sid, I promise. Now doesn't it make total sense when he sums it up that way. Practicing your right to protest doesn't protect any rights, it make people poor. While on the other hand, killing people and blowing up their places of work, roads, hospitals and national infrastructure protects rights and makes people rich. (well at least he's partially right)

Posted by Damian "Many poor people are poor by choice or due to poor life style choices."
I really shouldn't touch this one since the "arguement" that he is putting forward is as dead as the pope. (what? too soon?) but...
You go and work in a homeless shelter, food kitchen or rehab center and ask people when they made the choice to be that way. After they are done kicking your ass, they might tell you some stories that will give you some perspective on life.

And now, what you all have been waiting for:
The TOP 6 CHOICES THAT MAKE PEOPLE POOR! (as posted by Damian)

#6 "the choice to pay 5 bucks for a pack of cigaretts each day". Because poor people don't ask for cigarettes from other people, they use the little money thay have to buy them instead. And we all know how that $150 a month will make or break a person.

#5 "The choice to drink heavily" Yes! Alcoholism will ruin your life every time, no matter what. There no chance of becoming... oh, I don't know... President if you drink alot. *cough cough*

#4 "The choice to ignore birth control and have children" If having kids makes you poor then America is much worse off than anyone could possibly imagine. I mean I see those damn leaches everywhere. Lazy little, snot nosed brats. YOU GET A JOB!
As for birth control, it must be a giant conspiracy by the man too keep poor people down because I see a whole lot of media coming from the American government telling kids not to use condoms. I guess its because, in a culture where sex and violence are the main form of entertainment, ignoring everything that the TV, radio, movies, magazines and the internet tells you and just being abstinent works so much better. Either way, damn the man for telling me to throw away my rubbers and making me poor.

#3 "the choice to go on welfare rather than get an education" That's strange because I know this girl that was in high school getting an education when her dad got laid off. She dropped out to get a job to help support the family but couldn't make enough money. She applied for welfare and they went and sent her to school so she could get an education and get a better job and not be poor anymore. Isn't it ironic? Don't you think?

#2 "the choice to get into abusive relationships" Those stupid bitches and bastards. Making their lovers be irresponsible and abusive and choosing to stay with them, not out of fear for their lives or hope for their children, but becuase they like being poor and to make you feel bad. They REALLY deserve to be poor, don't they?

and the #1 chioce that makes people poor "the choice to be jobless" Now I have personal experience with this one. I myself have been jobless and let me tell you, it was GREAT! Having no health insurance so if I getting sick will cost me an arm and a leg (literally). Having to worry about getting evicted abd being homeless, thus making sure that I never get a job again and get to stay poor until I die. Being hungry and cold all the time. It was like going to Disney World! I wouldn't even have dreamed of trying to get another job, not that it would matter if I did since the company I worked for closed down and there are no other companies that required my skills. I plan on loosing my job again as soon as possible so I can go back to being scared and lonely. Its the only way to live!

I could go on, but I won't for the sake of the storage space on the BIM server. I really hope this atleast makes someone who held one of these myths as truth realise that, until you or someone close to you has been poor and an adult with no parents to bail them out, you have a completely uneducated opinion of why people are poor and what it is like.
Re: The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
30 Aug 2005
How does one contact Mr. Carlos Slim Helu?
Re: The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
30 Aug 2005
How does one contact Mr. Carlos Slim Helu?
Re: The Cavernous Divide: More Billionaires, More Poverty
14 Oct 2005
i am law gruduates having great insrest in study and reasearch now i want to master in crimnology but i have no resources please help me thanks