A look into the inequities of wealth

Last year, I got a frustrated email from a reader.

The writer was upset that I’d chosen to report on the presidential campaign donations contributed by our friends and neighbors. They didn’t think that type of reporting belong in the paper.

I understood that the reports stood out from the types of things we typically cover here, but I am also a huge fan of data. Data of any sort on our community or the world at large tests our assumptions.

Data artist Matt Korostov put together a visualization of wealth in America and what even small fractions of the treasure owned by the richest Americans could do. There is, without question, a political message contained within it, but the display is striking no matter what side of the political coin you land on.

For instance, 3% of the nearly $3 trillion owned by the 400 richest Americans could put an end to malaria:

“Malaria is one of the worst infectious diseases ever visited on mankind, possibly killing more people than any other infectious disease in history. In the 20th century alone, malaria killed more people than the Black Death.

Coronavirus has shown us all the horrors of living with a deadly disease. Sadly, for much of the world, this horror was a constant feature of daily life even before coronavirus.”

5.7% of that wealth would could lift every person in the country (estimated at 38 million) out of poverty:

“A wealth of data now supports the idea that one-time cash transfers can permanently transform a local economy. Given a sudden windfall, people invest in their future. They go back to school, obtain transportation, pay for childcare, pay down debilitating debts, and do any number of things to improve their career prospects and financial future.

In the US, for all of the people that escape poverty in any given year, about half stay out of poverty for at least five years afterwards. About a third are still out of poverty ten years later.”