Monday, December 19, 2011

A Mere $110,000 a Day in Spending Money

He'll judge the needy by what is right,
render decisions on earth's poor with justice.
              (Isaiah 11:4a the Message)

Blessed are you who are poor, 
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be satisfied.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
             (Luke 6:20, 21, 24, 25 NIV)

According to Forbes magazine, there now are well over 400 billionaires in the U.S., and 3.1 million millionaires. And their numbers--along with their assets--are on the rise, even as millions of the rest of their fellow citizens are losing jobs, homes and health benefits.

In an article entitled “Breaking the Spell of Money” in the July/August 2011 issue of Orion magazine, Scott Russell Sanders has us imagine what a billionaire (and many of these actually own multiple billions) could do with his or her wealth:

Suppose you keep a billion dollars under your mattress, where it will earn no income, and you set out to spend it; in order to burn through it all within an adult lifetime of, say, fifty years, you would have to spend $1.7 million per month, or $55,000 per day. If you took your billion dollars out from under the mattress and invested it in long-term U.S. Treasury bonds at current rates, you could spend $40 million per year, or $110,000 per day, forever, without touching your capital. It so happens that $110,000 is a bit more than twice the median household income in the United States. If you do the math, you will find that the twenty-five hedge fund managers who pulled in $26 billion last year claimed an income equivalent to roughly 500,000 households, or some 2 million people.  

But these persons, we’re being told by some, are the nation’s “job creators,” therefore we dare not burden them with even slight increases in taxes or government regulations, lest we inhibit growth and further endanger our economy.

Dare not what?

Try telling something like that to Amos, Micah or any of the Hebrew prophets. Or run that by Jesus, or try convincing his young mother Mary, who in her “Magnificat” boldly announces:

He casts the mighty from their thrones
and raises the lowly.

He fills the starving with good things,
and sends the rich away empty.

For a real mind boggler, a Libertarian candidate for Congress in our area sent me a link to a YouTube piece regarding a “$100 million dollar penny,” which helps us see how obscene--and insane--hoarding this kind of wealth really is (Note: You may or may not be interested in the controversial points made at the end of the clip on how some of the wealth of our nation is being managed, a subject I'll not weigh in on here).

Having said all of the above, to our world neighbors who are actually starving, many of us could be seen as the world's 1% who are way beyond blessed. At Christmas, we must gift with that in mind.
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