Published 10:44 pm Sunday, September 14, 2008
ignored in the USA
A new report from The World Bank admits that in 2005, 3.14 billion people lived on less than $2.50 a day, and about 44 percent of those survived on less than $1.25 a day. Complete and total wretchedness can be the only description for the circumstances faced by so many, especially those in urban areas. Simple items like phone calls, nutritious food, vacations, television, dental care and inoculations are beyond the possibility of billions of people.
These are the people whom David Rothkopf, in his book “Superclass,” calls the unlucky. Rothkopf writes, “If you happen to be born in the wrong place, like sub-Saharan Africa, … that is bad luck.” He goes on to describe how the top 10 percent of adults worldwide own 84 percent of the wealth and the bottom half owns barely 1 percent. Included in that top 10 percent are the 1,000 global billionaires. But is such a contrast of wealth really the result of luck, or are there policies, supported by political elites, that protect the few at the expense of the many?
Farmers around the world grow more than enough food to feed everyone adequately. Global grain production yielded a record 2.3 billion tons in 2007, up 4 percent from the year before; yet, billions of people go hungry every day. Grain.org describes the core reasons for continuing hunger in a recent article “Making a Killing from Hunger.” It turns out that while farmers grow enough food, commodity speculators and huge grain traders like Cargill control global food prices and distribution. Starvation is profitable for corporations when demand for food pushes prices up. Cargill announced that profits for commodity trading for the first quarter of 2008 were 86 percent above 2007. World food prices grew 22 percent from June 2007 to June 2008 and a significant portion of the increase was propelled by the $175 billion invested in commodity futures that speculate on price instead of seeking to feed the hungry. The result is wild food price spirals, both up and down, with food insecurity remaining widespread.
For a family on the bottom rung of poverty, a small price increase is the difference between life and death, yet neither U.S. presidential candidate has declared a war on starvation. Instead, both candidates talk about national security and the continuation of the war on terror as if this were the primary election issue. Where is the Manhattan Project for global hunger? Where is the commitment to national security though unilateral starvation relief? Where is the outrage in the corporate media with pictures of dying children and an analysis of who benefits from hunger?
Americans cringe at the thought of starving children, often thinking that there is little they can do about it, save sending in a donation to their favorite charity for a little guilt relief. Yet giving is not enough; we must demand hunger relief as a national policy from the next presidency. It is a moral imperative for us, as the richest nation in the world, to prioritize a political movement of human betterment and starvation relief for the billions in need.
Global hunger and massive wealth inequality are based on political policies that can be changed. There will be no national security in the United States without the basic food needs of the world being met.