American_PovertyWith the 2016 Presidential election approaching rapidly, candidates are beginning to differentiate themselves from the competition by advocating for unique platforms. While some candidates have built a large portion of their campaign around illegal immigration, one candidate has made it clear that he will focus on an issue here at home. Bernie Sanders has emerged as the champion for reducing poverty here in the United States.

Sanders uses the increasing disparity between the wealth classes in America to illustrate his point on the problem of American poverty. Continuing to hammer his point home, Sanders then puts the blame on Wall Street’s influence over economic poverty, unfairly favoring those with more income. Sanders is directly quoted as saying, “There are a lot of great public servants out there, great economists who for years have been standing up for the middle class and the working families of this country, who know that it is an international embarrassment that we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth.” Sanders makes a bold claim with this statement, but one that is shockingly valid.

Sanders’ campaign website lists some alarming figures about overall U.S. poverty as well as child poverty on an international scale. According to the site, 46.5 million Americans live below the poverty line making that figure the largest in U.S. history. In addition to this number, Sanders’ website cites a 21.8 percent child poverty rate, the “highest of any major country on earth.” It is important to distinguish here that by “major country,” he is referring to all countries part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED).

In March of 2014 Sanders organized a subcommittee to examine in depth the differences in life expectancy across the United Sates as a direct result of varying poverty levels. Some of the findings reported that almost as many people die from poverty as from lung cancer. Life expectancy was also shown to have decreased over the past 20 years in 313 U.S. counties, and the United States has 6 million more people in poverty today than it did in 2004.

Poverty is as crucial an issue as any from presidential hopefuls this elections. Senator Bernie Sanders has made it one of his top campaign priorities to reduce this number drastically if elected, by working vigorously to improve the system of the American economy and reduce the vast gap between wealth classes in America.

Diego Catala

Sources: PolitiFact, Senate
Photo: Bernie Sanders

Wall Street
Does making millions really help the world’s poor? Many Wall Street employees who earn more than the average worker are making the argument that it is more important and worthwhile to make a lot of money first to be able to donate a lot of money later. These people point to billionaire do-gooders like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Mark Zuckerberg to prove that those who give the most are those who have the most to give.

At first it seems logical that Wall Street could end global poverty. Take a simple scenario of a Wall Street employee. If that person earns hundreds of millions of dollars per year, for example, they could choose to donate all but a few million to charities that help alleviate global poverty. They and their family would still be able to live a very luxurious lifestyle, and millions of people around the world would reap enormous benefits from all the donated money. Now, imagine if every millionaire and billionaire did the same thing. It would make a huge difference. But the important question to ask is will Wall Street end global poverty with employee earnings?

John Paulson, a hedge fund manager, earned $5 billion in 2010. While he did donate a portion of that money to charity,  most of the money went to organizations that were less about social change. Paulson’s largest donations went to a business school in New York ($20 million) and the Central Park Conservancy ($100 million). Those donations aren’t bad, since giving any money to any charity is certainly commendable, but that $120 million may have gone further if it had gone to help starving children or provide clean drinking water to the poorest areas of the world.

Paulson certainly isn’t the only person to do this, since many people (billionaires and everyday employees) choose to give money to charities that are closest to them personally. Whether it’s the college from which they graduated, an animal shelter, or even a videogame organization, many people feel compelled to give back to charities or organizations that helped them, and may not consider the fact that there could be better uses for their money. So while it’s certainly not a bad thing for Wall Street millionaires and billionaires to donate to charities that touch their personal lives, in order to benefit the most number of people in the most significant ways, it could be wiser to donate to a charity that focuses on saving lives.

Katie Brockman
Source: New York Magazine
Photo: American Security Project