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William Rivers Pitt: The End of the Beginning of the End

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HungerA report released early this year by the organization Oxfam International revealed that the combined income of the richest 100 people in the world is enough to end global poverty four times over, and that the gap between rich and poor has exploded by some 60% in the last 20 years. Rather than hinder this division, the recent global economic crisis has exacerbated it. Money does not disappear, you see, but tends to be translated up the income ladder in times of financial distress.

According to UNICEF, nearly half the world's population lives on less than $2.50 a day. One billion children live in poverty, and 22,000 of them die each day because of it. More than one billion people lack access to adequate drinking water, and 400 million of those are children. Almost a billion people go hungry every day.

The incomes of 100 people out of the seven billion on the planet could fix that, and then fix it again, and then fix it again, and then fix it again. The exact total of the wealth of these individuals is actually something of a mystery, thanks to the tax havens they use to hide their fortunes. There are trillions of dollars squirrelled away in those havens - no one knows quite how much - and the subtraction of that money from the global economy has a direct and debilitating effect on the people not fortunate enough to be part of that elite 100.

In America alone, some $150 billion in tax revenue is lost each year because of these havens, money that could be used for education, food assistance programs, infrastructure repair and health care. Instead, Americans are told the country is going broke, and are force-fed austerity measures by the same politicians who passed the laws allowing the wealthy and corporations to wallow in treasure like Tolkien's dwarves hiding under their mountain.

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