Lately, I have been reading and re-reading The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World, by His Holiness The Dalai ...
Here are some things that I find very concerning…
The unemployment rate in the US got to a record high of 14.7% when the pandemic began.1
Since then it has fallen to 7.9% yet millions of Americans continue to not be able to find a job.2
Meanwhile, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos saw his net worth grow by $13 billion in one day!3
Between March 18 to June 17, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison collectively witnessed their already incredible wealth increase by $101.7 billion.4
Households in the poorest fifth—as measured by their pre-crisis income—have been hit hardest in terms of earnings, with a fall in their median household earnings of around 15%.5
So far in 2020, the combined wealth of the billionaire class in the United States had increased by over 80%.6
As the world is presently hyper-focussed on politics and the pandemic, I feel much of this has flown under the radar media-wise. I honestly can’t fathom that we live in a world that has experienced so much collective challenges in the past months to allow such a travesty to happen. You often hear of altruistic stories of billionaires giving away much money. Does this cloud our view that they are part of the problem? Is having billionaires donate money an effective system to help bridge the income gap and help those most in need?
I don’t think it is. I think we need concrete initiatives that have the ability to bring more financial equality to all. Policies that are objective and not based around political dogma or rhetoric. Policies that allow those most in need to become more self-sufficient while also respecting our business leaders and visionaries ability to be ambitious and create opportunities…all at the same time.
The best framework/suggestions I’ve seen are from the Hass Institute at UC Berkeley…
1. Increase the minimum wage.
2. Tax reform ensuring that the wealthy pay the same tax rate as everyone else.
3. Lower the cost of building assets (like a savings account or retirement plan) for working and middle class households.
4. Invest in education and improve the quality of schools that primarily serve children from poor and working-class households.
5. Make the tax code more progressive.
6. Eliminate residential segregation by income and race.
Don’t think some innovative ideas can make a difference? Here’s a wonderful case study from the west coast of Canada… 50 homeless people were each given $7500 cash. On average, cash recipients spent 52% of their money on food and rent, 15% on other items such as medications and bills, and 16% on clothes and transportation. Almost 70% of people who received the payments were food secure after one month.7
Even during the pandemic, anything is possible!