“A house may be large or small; as long as the neighboring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all social requirement for a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace, and the little house shrinks to a hut. The little house now makes it clear that its inmate has no social position at all to maintain.” Marx, Wage Labour and Capital (1847)
Forbes Magazine’s new list of the wealthiest individuals has just been released. I usually find these lists tell only a small part of the story about who has wealth and who doesn’t. But what is clear is that in the previous couple of years where I live as well as across this region has seen mass lay offs, emigration, foreclosures and an increase in both real poverty levels and, not coincidentally, the prison population. I was laid off in 2005 and many of my comrades in the auto industry have either been laid off or taken buyouts finding themselves competing for entry level wages at service industry jobs.
Fortunately for Warren Buffet, who recently stored much of his billions in a tax-free “philanthropic trust”, the bad economic reality for most us has passed him by. Forbes says his wealth is estimated at 62 billion. That’s four times the entire Gross Domestic Product (also a dubious indicator of wealth) of Haiti, population 9 million. Or put another way; one year of the costs of the Iraq war. I won’t bore you with the details of what that money could be spent on like food, education, health care and housing or the new Richard Thompson box set for The Rustbelt Radical. Instead you can figure out for yourself and your community what Buffet’s stolen billions might better be allocated to at the website of the National Priorities Project.