Sometimes statistics can be employed to mislead and to lie; other times they can shine the light on startling realities. I offer a few this week, which, I believe, fall in that latter category.
First, consider some stats from around the world:
• The wealth of three individuals now exceeds the GNP of 48 developing nations;
• The combined wealth of 225 individuals equals that of 2.5 billion people – more than one-third of humanity;
• The richest 10% possess 49.6% of the world’s income; the bottom 60%, 13.9%;
• Of the world’s 100 largest economies: 47 are nations and 53 are corporations;
• 50% (3 billion) of the people of the world earn $2 a day; 1.3 billion people earn $1 a day;
• The USA – 4.7% of the world’s population – owns 32.6% of the world’s wealth; India 16.8% of the world’s population, owns 0.9% of the world’s wealth.
The question we might consider: Is this an intelligent way to organize the resources and opportunities of the world’s people?
But, lest we become too smug in this best- of-all-possible nations of ours, consider the following stats in the U.S. of A.:
• Defense spending: USA, $522 billion; The next 2-10 industrialized nations, $356 billion
• The wealth of 400 USA billionaires equals that of 57,000,000 households (half of the USA population)
So it would seem that similar inequities exist within our own shores. Yet, one rarely hears Congressional debate about the disparities of wealth in America. Why? The question virtually answers itself.
We used to content ourselves with acknowledging that the playing field is a wee bit un-level but, nevertheless, with good old American ingenuity, initiative and gumption, anyone can make it to the top: The old Horatio Alger myth. Well, I think we need to bid a fond adieu to that myth. Why? Well, consider these stats:
• A child born into poverty has a 1% chance to reach the top 5% in income;
• Of the Forbes/Fortune 400/500 wealthiest individuals, 42% inherited their wealth;
• Since 2000, poverty has risen and is now 13% of the USA, or 37,000,00 people;
• Three decades ago economists thought that 20% of a son’s income was determined by his father’s income; two decades ago it was closer to 40%; now, economists argue it is more like 60%.
And, a recent study of the top 164 colleges in the nation showed that 75% of the students came from the top quarter of America economically, while only 3% came from the bottom quartile.
So finally, we might consider what the implications of these stats are for the future of our democracy, and whether we think it is important to do more than consider.