A doctor named Matt Bivens has written an article for a web site called Tomdispatch.com that leaves me with tears of frustration and rage. He describes some of the deadly diseases the powers-that-be could have cured if they had allocated US$4 trillion to medical crusades instead of propping up Wall Street. He talks about plagues like the dreaded guinea worm, which burrows into the skin of humans and grows up to two feet long in their entrails. When it matures, the worm works its way to the skin surface and spews its larvae into drinking water to infest more humans. He talks about polio and leprosy, and about the success of some crusades and the failure of others. And the bottom line is that US$4 trillion could have eased the suffering of vast numbers of the earth’s people.
Bivens also compares the huge sums the super-rich have saved from tax cuts with the good that much money could have done in the service of mankind:
The following celebrities have saved the following estimated sums each year on their taxes, courtesy of Bush-era tax cuts: movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer, $5.8 million; L.A. Laker Kobe Bryant, $1.6 million; rapper 50 Cent, $6 million; real estate mogul Donald Trump, $1.2 million.
Oddly enough, $200 million is reportedly the tax deferral enjoyed by former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson – he of bailout infamy – when he joined the Bush cabinet as treasury secretary.
So there you have it, finally: For $200 million of public money we can take a walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ himself, curing millions of leprosy. A truly inspiring future is, as always, easily within reach, if we choose it.
Railing against the criminally wrong bank bailout and the Bush tax breaks for the super-rich is understandable, of course, but it is old news. It was the introduction to the article that gave me new grounds for despair. Written by Tomdispatch.com founder Tom Engelhardt, it highlights the continuing wickedness of America’s public spending. Here’s an excerpt:
With up to 61% of Americans, according to a recent poll, convinced that things are going badly indeed in Afghanistan and an official 9.8% of Americans unemployed, Congress is set to respond. This week, it’s slated to pass a $636 billion appropriations bill for the Pentagon that will include another $128 billion for our Afghan and Iraq Wars. Meanwhile, the president and his advisors are about to consider the latest plan by our Afghan War commander, General Stanley McChrystal, to gainfully employ up to 40,000 more Americans in Afghanistan.
By the way, as in the Bush years, all dollar figures associated with the Pentagon budget and our wars should be considered underestimates. Various military expenses like the upkeep of our nuclear arsenal aren’t even in that budget. Depending on who is doing the figuring, estimates of all U.S. defense-related expenditures – and this first budget of the Obama era is already larger than the last monster one from the Bush era – can run upwards of a trillion dollars. As for the war expenses, they invariably prove short of the mark and end up having to be supplemented…
It costs more than $750,000 a year simply to keep a single U.S. soldier in the field, while the cost of delivering a single gallon of gas to the war zone is estimated at up to $100.
And then, don’t forget the Afghan army. Its U.S.-NATO upgrade program is already costing an estimated $8 billion a year and is clearly about to be expanded by the Obama administration. As the Afghan government is essentially poverty-stricken, that means its army is going to be U.S. property for years to come.
And that’s just the money involved. There’s an even more heartbreaking cost in lost lives and severed limbs. And for what? To punish Osama Bin Laden? To save the Afghan people from themselves? Or to further enrich the “merchants of death” who produce the bombs and bullets, and other necessities of war?
Why is it that governments can always find trillions for bankers and trillions more for war, yet when it comes to easing human misery the cupboard is always bare?