FW: The Elite's Pure Greed
jcraven at clark.edu
Sun Feb 17 16:17:02 MST 2002
February 8, 2002
The elite's pure greed
By Derrick Z. Jackson, 2/8/2002
KOFI ANNAN is to the Davos crowd what a busboy is on a cruise ship. If
is lucky, he might get a good tip. As for mingling in a tuxedo at the
banquets or chatting at poolside, he might as well be Cinderella
for her two sisters. He is to be tolerated as long as he knows his job
to pick up the crumbs.
The elite met once again on how to stay elite at the World
To be completely accurate, they were forced by the terrorist attacks
Sept. 11 to display a veneer of conscience. Financier George Soros
''We need a global society and not just a global economy. We need to
address wealth disparities and inequalities.'' Bill Gates said:
who feel the world is tilted against them will spawn the kind of
that is very dangerous for all of us.'' Even Horst Koehler, managing
director of the International Monetary Fund said: ''Societies in the
advanced countries are too selfish to give up their privileges.''
Beneath the soft veneer was hard, unvarnished greed. US Treasury
Secretary Paul O'Neill said not to even bother asking the United
States to pull out its wallet to help out the world's poor, even
though the United States gives out less foriegn aid per capita than
any developed nation in the world. O'Neill said: ''Over the last
50 years, the developed world has spent trillions of dollars in the
name of aid, and I would submit that we have precious little to show
for it. How much money we spend is not the right issue. How fast we
raise every human being's standard to our own, that's the question.''
O'Neill's argument is laughable on the face of it, since the American
standard of living is possible only because our 5 or 6 percent of the
world's population consumes about a quarter of the world's energy. The
United States and the developed world comprise a quarter of the
population but eat half its cereals and two-thirds of its meat. As
for how the remaining 75 percent of the world is supposed to raise
its standard of living while having access to only half the cereals
a third of the world's meat, O'Neill has no answer. Giving aid
with precious little to show for it is the American way, from
bloated Pentagon contracts to the current $15 billion bailout of
O'Neill does not want to spend the money on the poor because a moment
fun cannot be missed on the cruise ship. The 3,000 participants at the
World Economic Forum, which drifted through the hallways of the
dropped $100 million on New York hotels, ballrooms, and restaurants,
according to the New York City tourism board.
That comes out to $33,333.33 per person. In five days in New York,
participant of the World Economic Forum spent on average what the
American makes in a year, four times what the average Mexican makes in
year, 14 times what the average person in India makes in a year, 22
what the average person makes in Bangladesh, and 74 times than
the average person makes in a year in Sierra Leone, according to
United Nations figures.
To that body, the world's spokesman for the globe's busboys and
of cheap labor made his appeal. Annan asked for $50 billion annually
new aid to cut the most extreme of world poverty in half by 2015. That
amount is quite small considering that it would still leave the
world giving less than 1 percent of its gross national product to
developing nations. In the United States alone, that is a puny figure,
given what we will do for airlines alone.
It is an eerie figure, given that President Bush just asked for an
increase in military spending of nearly $50 billion despite the stark
evidence at Ground Zero and in Israel that heavily armed militaries
do not stop suicide bombers.
Annan tried to turn the cruise ship into a ''small boat driven by
a fierce gale through dark and unchartered waters, with more and
more people crowded on board, hoping desperately to survive. None of
us, I suggest, can afford to ignore the condition of our
fellow passengers on this little boat. If they are sick, all of us
risk infection. And if they are angry, all of us can easily get
By their spending in New York only five months after Sept. 11, the
have made it abundantly evident that they still consider themselves
invulnerable to infection and in no need of an infirmary aboard their
vessel. Annan was allowed to come topside at the World Economic
Forum, but the rich showed him no tux, no pass to the pool, and
certainly no invitation to step over the crumbs to get a taste at
the banquet table.
Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is jackson at globe.com.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.
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