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Excess Wealth in the USA

Peter Singer has done a lot of study on world poverty and has some solutions to offer the world based on his findings. I completely agree with Peter Singer’s solution to world poverty. Everyone who has excess wealth should be donating at least some of it to charities. Anyone who does not do this is immoral and should be ashamed. You may think it’s not that black and white, but it truly is.

Anyone who has wealth that will be spent on luxuries instead of necessities should give some of it away. Most Americans spend thousands of dollars a year on things that they don’t really need. That’s fine. I believe people should have the right to spend money on themselves, and enjoy their wealth. However, it doesn’t take much to make a substantial difference in someone’s life. “…$200 in donations would help a sickly 2-year-old transform into a healthy 6-year-old—offering safe passage through childhood’s most dangerous years” (Singer 364). If a person is going to spend thousands of dollars on luxury items a year, it really isn’t too much to ask for at least a small donation. People don’t have to donate large portions of their money. If everyone donates something, it will add up to massive amounts. Some people may say that it isn’t their problem. They think that just because these starving children are far away, it makes it more acceptable to let them die. They’re wrong. As a human being, it is our moral obligation to help one another. This is what separates us from animals. We have compassion, empathy, and many other complex emotions that make us want to help one another. The day the human race loses these traits is the day we stop being human. It really is our problem if another person is starving. It really is our job to help them if they are. We are the only ones who can make a difference.

Imagine Poverty for Yourself

Put yourself in the shoes of a starving child. Imagine you live in a poverty stricken country, and don’t have any money, any shelter, or anyone to look out for you. However, you know that out there are millions or even billions of people out there, who compared to you, have everything in the world. You, who only ask for the basic necessities of life, are denied because these people don’t care enough about you to give even the smallest slice of their wealth to save you. When you look at it from their point of view, you really start to understand how wrong it is not to give something.

People may think that their small donation won’t have an effect on anyone’s life. They’re absolutely wrong. Let’s make up a scenario, just to see how big of an effect these small donations can have. There are roughly 300 million people living in the United States of America. Let’s assume that only 60 million, or one fifth of them are well off enough to make a $200 donation. That comes out to a total of 12 billion dollars. That’s 12 billion dollars, just from one fifth of one country’s population donating a relatively small amount. To think that these donations don’t add up to a meaningful amount is crazy. All donations to charities like UNICEF or Oxfam will greatly impact the life of someone less fortunate.

“How could it be morally wrong to spend my hard earned money the way I see fit?” Someone may ask. It really is quite simple, “An American household with an income of $50,000 spends around $30,000 annually on necessities, according to the Conference Board, a nonprofit economic research organization” (Singer 366). That leaves $20,000 that is left over for luxuries like buying a new television, or remodeling the house. That means potentially, in a best case scenario, where every $200 donated would save a life, a household like that could save the lives of one hundred children. That household could still spend 99% of its excess wealth and be able to save a child’s life. 1% of your excess wealth is worth more than the life of a child to you, then you are morally compromised.

Government isn't Helping Enough

Even the United States Government isn’t putting forth the effort that it should be. “…In the next year, the United States Government is not going to meet even the very modest United Nations-recommended target of 0.7 percent of gross national product; at the moment it lags far below that, at 0.09 percent” (Singer 366). How can we call ourselves moral people when our government isn’t even giving up one one-thousandth of its gross national product to help the needy people of the world? Letting this continue is the same as telling starving, disease riddled children that they are worth less to us than one one-thousandth of our gross national product. A moral person, let alone a moral country, should not have to think about this to realize that giving more isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the only logical choice to make given these circumstances.

In the end, the main point of this whole thing is that one small piece of what we have can make the largest difference in someone else’s life. Not giving up a portion of our wealth so small that we, most likely, won’t even notice its gone is just plain wrong. While giving a large piece of your excess wealth is going above and beyond, giving none is not morally right. All it requires is a meager amount of money from everyone who has money to give, and we can make a meaningful impact on this world. Sadly, I am all too familiar with the people of this planet. I know that it is very unlikely that the wealthy population will see the error of their ways and start to give up a bit of money. But there is always hope, that sometime in the near future we will be able to call ourselves good and moral people. Sadly, the way we are headed, that doesn’t seem likely.

Citation

Singer, Peter. “The Singer Solution to World Poverty” The New World Reader. Ed. Gilbert Muller. Boston: Wadsworth, 2011. 361-367. Print.

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