Friday, December 09, 2011
92,000,000 = 6
The man sitting at the front door of Wal-Mart last night was someone I once knew. As an elder in our church, years ago, I visited over there when the family was in deep distress and losing their farm. It was mid-80s, and this family wasn't the only one forced to leave.
Last night he sat in motor cart with a wide front basket, a vehicle made for navigating the store. Inside that basket stood an oxygen tank to which he was hooked up. There he sat, greeting customers, and I told myself that Wal-Mart was a wonderful place because that man--now well into his 70s--would have trouble finding employment anywhere else in town, and here he was. "Night, Jim," he said, kindly.
This is not about Wal-Mart. I was there last night. I likely stop in three times a week or so--they've got wonderful day-old bread, cheap cashews, and printer ink. Most everything else too. Maybe too often, I count on Wal-Mart.
But a news story this morning makes clear what's happening in this country. Sam Walton's six children own as much wealth in the United States of America as 30% of the entire population. There are no typos there, no misprints.
Let's do the math. Google tells me that this morning, the population of the United States of America is right at 307 million. I'm no math hot shot, but it seems to me that we're talking about roughly 92 million people. Let's just get this straight--the six Walton heirs own as much capital as the lowest 30%, or the lowest 92 million Americans. Here: 6 = 92,000,000 Yes, it does.
Let's be graphic about it. The six Walton heirs own as much money, geographically (you might say) as the entire populations of the five most populace states--California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois. We're just counting heads here, but let's say it again--those six Walton kids have as much wealth as the total population of this country's five most populace states.
Or this way. Those six kids have more wealth than the numbers of people in Arkansas, Kansas, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, West Virgina, Nebraska, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming, and, oh yeah, Washington DC--combined!!!
I don't want to be misunderstood. I'm not saying those six kids have more money than those states, only that those six kids own as much wealth as a number approximate to the entire populations of approximately 18 states of the Union.
Sylvia Algretto, who's a labor economist--and therefore almost certainly a socialist or communist, right?--makes the case here. Read it for yourself.
I just don't understand the Christian right. That kind of income inequality isn't a sin? Do good righteous people simply avoid reflecting at all about the gospels?
Okay, let's play ball with Mitch McConnell. These Waltons--they're the job-creators, right? Let's stay out of the way of the super-rich and let them do their noble work. This is America, land of the bootstraps. Freedom means freedom from government. Liberty means the pursuit of happiness, my happiness. Oh, beautiful for spacious skies. . .
"The share of wealth held by the top fifth [of Americans] is about 87.2 percent while the bottom four-fifths share the remaining 12.8 percent of wealth," or so says Ms. Algretto. But there's more. "The riches of those in the top 1 percent are about 225 times greater than that held by the typical family--it was 125 times in 1962. . ."
That's an arc that looks alarmingly like the dorsal fin of a great white shark.
Somewhere along the line we'll reach a tipping point, don't you think? While good Christian patriots may fly the glorious flag of freedom, income equality is not only growing more and more unimaginable, it has to, eventually, spell real trouble in this country, trouble as in violence.
I'm sitting in a warm basement on a cold December morning. I'm overweight, I'm not suffering, and I'm more than comfortable. Last night, at a local church, I served up a free dinner to tons of folks much, much more poor than I am. But it seems very, very clear that this nation can't go on peaceably the way it is. It just can't.
Perhaps the sky isn't falling yet, but if you look up, you've got to be blind not to see more than a few cracks in the ceiling.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 5:26 AM