(More math fun!)
The wealthiest 400 Americans have 1.37 trillion dollars between them.
According to the 2010 census 15.7% of all Americans live in poverty.
304 million Americans X 15.7% = 47.8 million Americans in poverty.
If all 47.8 million of America’s poor people went to McDonald’s 3 times a day and each ordered one item from the dollar menu each time they were there for breakfast lunch and dinner and then if McDonalds sent the bill to the 400 wealthiest Americans to be shared among them they would have to pay a bill of 143.4 million dollars just for that one day! (Not including tax of course) Then if the poorest 47.8 million Americans continued to dine each day at the Golden Arches on the wealthiest American’s dime, the total bill for one year would be 143.4 million dollars times 365 days for a grand total of $52,341,000,000.00 or in words, 52 billion, and 341 million dollars! Wow!
That means that those poor billionaires would have shelled out a whopper of their fortune equaling a grand total of 3.8% of their aggregate wealth! Yes, that’s right! After feeding 47.8 million poor Americans 3 times a day for an entire year, (albeit on McDonald’s dollar menu…but who doesn’t like McDonald’s?) the 400 wealthiest Americans would still have $1,317,659,000,000.00 left, or in words, 1 trillion, 317 billion, 659 million dollars!
But wait it gets better! According to Forbes magazine the richest 400 Americans increased their overall wealth by 8% in 2010 so even after feeding America’s poor for an entire year; (albeit on McDonald’s dollar menu…but who doesn’t like McDonald’s?) they would still be richer than when the year began! How cool, or sick, is that?! And by the way, let’s just forget about how rich McDonald’s would be! (My apologies to Burger King…maybe next year?)
Of course, the richest 400 Americans would never do this and we wouldn’t ask them to nor would we expect them to. In fact it would be silly to even think of such a thing and it would be un-American too because the rich people earned their money and the poor people didn’t. And besides if we gave money to the poor people then they would have money and then they wouldn’t be poor and how would that make people who already had money that they earned feel? They would feel bad wouldn’t they and cheated somehow too so we wouldn’t even consider such a thing. There are rich and there are poor and that’s the way of things because after all fair is fair. Right? The rich eat in grand style and the poor go hungry and that’s the way it is and always has been and dare I say always should be? Is this what we teach our children? That because of hunger and poverty our food tastes more delicious?
But consider this. In the history of the world there have been many great and prosperous civilizations and they have all failed. And usually at the time of the failing some few folks had all of the money and most other folks had none. They were either Kings or Queens or Popes or Emperors or Czars or Caesars or Pharaohs or whatever and they always invoked the divine right of the gods as the reason for concentrating all of that wealth in the hands of one man or one small circle of family and friends. Eventually the disenfranchised, poor populace grows disinterested and disaffected and the empire succumbs to a force of outsiders who invade and plunder. While the wealthy few run away or hide or are murdered or all 3! Then the new conquerors share in the plunder and even rejoice while sharing, and then the cycle begins anew as the new leaders emerge and invariably begin indulging in their own grandeur until…
Fortunately we no longer have empires such as those in the world today but we still have world leaders who rule with concentrated power and wealth. In the United States however, our president is not among the wealthiest men in the nation and we have no all powerful despot who rules with an iron hand under the divine rights of either religion or lineage but we still have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few and those few are now the business and corporate leaders of the world. Where we once had popes and kings we now have CEOs and corporations (The latter which ironically enough have recently been declared to be persons by our Supreme Court composed of actually real people!) and they have quite a large amount of wealth at their disposal which is growing while the wealth of the common population is shrinking. This is the historical recipe for national disaster. No matter how vast and distant the empire may reach, when the interior rots the empire always withers and dies.
Our public schools represent that interior. They are the nucleus which fuels the fire of freedom and free enterprise. We have built our greatness from the inside out and we look to replenish our strengths and our greatness through the rebirth and reaffirmation of our ideals in our children. We have never expanded our influence by conquering other nations and bending their citizens to our will. Instead we have spread our influence through the free trade and free movement of our citizens and by setting an example of economic wealth that can be earned and shared and experienced by all and not concentrated within a few.
Our public schools must be fortified and not abandoned. They must be embraced and enhanced and empowered in terms of anticipating and responding to technological, social, political, economic, and competitive change. Healthy cultures must always be willing to rethink their most basic assumptions about themselves in order to improve and grow and repair their societies and we must be willing to accept that what our schools need now more than ever is not a cut in spending but rather a renewed effort to spend more on the future and the future generations who will lead us.
Today’s students are willing to work hard but what makes us think that they are going to be willing to work hard for low wages that would suffice a life in China or India or some other-where where they don’t live? America’s corporate leaders and great men of wealth need to stop hoarding and start spreading the wealth. They can begin by first embracing the public schools of this country with largess and generosity and then by raising wages across the middle and poorer classes of society so that the term “working poor” is eradicated from our vocabulary.
Today’s students of the 21st century in America are beginning to notice that it is getting harder and harder to bring the American dream, a dream of studying hard then working hard, and then achieving affluence, into focus and for most of our poorest students that dream is nothing more than a taunting apparition of their hopelessness: a happy meal that they will never be able to afford