FW: The Elite's Pure Greed

Craven, Jim jcraven at clark.edu
Sun Feb 17 16:17:02 MST 2002



      Boston Globe
      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
he 
      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
sweeping 
      for her two sisters. He is to be tolerated as long as he knows his job
is 
      to pick up the crumbs. 

      The elite met once again on how to stay elite at the World 
      Economic Forum. 
      
      To be completely accurate, they were forced by the terrorist attacks
of 
      Sept. 11 to display a veneer of conscience. Financier George Soros
said: 
      ''We need a global society and not just a global economy. We need to 
      address wealth disparities and inequalities.'' Bill Gates said:
''People 
      who feel the world is tilted against them will spawn the kind of
hatred 
      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
world's 
      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
and 
      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 
      shoddy airlines. 

      O'Neill does not want to spend the money on the poor because a moment
of 
      fun cannot be missed on the cruise ship. The 3,000 participants at the

      World Economic Forum, which drifted through the hallways of the
Waldorf, 
      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,
each 
      participant of the World Economic Forum spent on average what the
average 
      American makes in a year, four times what the average Mexican makes in
a 
      year, 14 times what the average person in India makes in a year, 22
times 
      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
buswomen 
      of cheap labor made his appeal. Annan asked for $50 billion annually
in 
      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
developed 
      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
hurt.'' 

      By their spending in New York only five months after Sept. 11, the
elite 
      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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