6 Facts About Hunger That Demonstrate the Shameful Excesses of American Capitalism
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Of all the miseries placed on human beings in their everyday lives, the lack of food may be the most inexcusable. Even in a world controlled by unbending attitudes of self-reliance and individual responsibility, the reality of children and seniors and disabled citizens going hungry is a stain on humanity, a shameful testament to the capitalist goal of profit without conscience.
The facts presented here all touch on the lives of human beings, in the U.S. and beyond, who lack food or the means to pay for it.
1. Congress wants to cut a food program that feeds low-income children.
According to the Department of Agriculture, 48% of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in 2011 were children. Either unaware or indifferent to this, Congress is considering a new farm bill that would cut food assistance by $2 billion a year while boosting the farm subsidies of big agriculture.
2. Some individuals make enough in two seconds to pay a SNAP recipient's food bill for an entire year.
Americans Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison, two Kochs, and four Waltons made an average of $6 billion each from their stocks and other investments in 2012. A $6 billion per year person makes enough in two seconds (based on a 40-hour work-week) to pay a year's worth of benefits to the average SNAP recipient. Just 20 Americans made as much from their 2012 investments as the entire SNAP budget for 47 million people.
Capitalism encourages an individual to make as much money as possible, even without producing anything. Most Americans accept that. But questions should be raised about a system that allows the yearlong needs of a hungry person to flash by in two seconds of an investor's life.
3. McDonald's profits are double the total wages of all its food servers.
McDonald's has 440,000 employees, most of them food servers making the median hourly wage of $9.10 an hour or less, for a maximum of about $18,200 per year. The company's $8 billion profit, after wages are paid, works out to the same amount: $18,200 per employee.
As noted by MSN Money, the company pays its front-line workers minimum wage or very close to it. But instead of passing along part of its profits to employees, McDonald's just announced plans for increased dividends and share repurchases.
4. Just 10 individuals made as much as all the fast-food counter workers in the U.S.
The 10 richest on the Forbes list increased their combined wealth by almost $60 billion from 2011 to 2012. That's approximately equivalent to the total annual salaries of 3,378,030 fast-food counter employees if they were all able to work 40-hour weeks, 50 weeks a year.
5. Apple avoided enough in taxes to mount a global attack on malnutrition.
The World Bank estimates the total cost for "successfully mounting an attack on malnutrition" would be about $10.3 to $11.8 billion annually. Apple alone underpaid its 2012 taxes by $11 billion, based on a 35% rate on total global income. (The company paid $8,443 current taxes on $55,763 total income, or a little over 15%.)
6. Speculation on food prices has contributed to the impoverishment of 115 million people.
From 1996 to 2011 the portion of speculative wheat market trades by Goldman Sachs and other players went from 12 percent to 61 percent. The price of wheat went from $105 a ton in 2000 to $481 a ton in 2008.
Food prices dropped after the recession, but the World Bank notes that they've jumped 43 percent since 2010. The World Food Program reported that since 2008, high prices have pushed 115 million more people into hunger and poverty.
Speculation hasn't hurt the speculators. According to the World Wealth Report 2013, the number of high net worth individuals ($1 million or more in investable assets) increased by 11.5% in North America in 2012, the highest rate in the world.
Billionaires are on the rise, and a billion people are without adequate food. The speculators should be ashamed.