400 Billionaires


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Each year, Forbes magazine presents readers with a list of the 400 richest U.S. citizens. As usual, no Socialist Appeal readers were on the list. And in 2006, for the first time, all 400 of these people were billionaires. A thousand million dollars, that’s a lot of money. 

As Marxists we know that money doesn’t appear out of thin air. It comes from extracting surplus value from the working class. To put it in the simplest possible terms, the lower the wages paid to a worker for his or her labor, the more profit is pocketed by the capitalist. This is why the concentration of so much wealth in the hands of so few people means a terrible lack of wealth and quality of life for the majority of the population. 

If we do the math, we see that in the U.S., the richest country on earth, 47 million people don’t have health care and 37 million people live below the official poverty line ($9,973). On a world scale, 2.6 billion people lack basic sanitation. At least 425 million children do not have access to water free from fecal matter and other bacterial agents. 1.8 million children die each year from diarrheal diseases. Another 2 million children die each year due to pneumonia or other acute respiratory infection.  To think, access to clean water and basic housing could prevent most of these deaths. These figures aren’t intended to shock – they are simply the reality of life under capitalism. 

So no matter how often Bill Gates and Warren Buffet pat themselves on the back for donating money to charitable organizations, it still will not solve the problem. So long as the multinational companies they run scour the earth to exploit the cheapest resources and the cheapest labor, they only contribute to the problem far more than they could ever fix it. Even if they gave all of their money away, another capitalist would step in to fill the void.  There is no such thing as “kinder, gentler” capitalism. The lifeblood of capitalism is profit.  The source of profit is exploitation, pure and simple.  

Only through a democratically planned socialist economy can poverty, starvation, and preventable diseases be permanently eliminated. By ending the exploitation of the capitalist system, workers will be able to share in the wealth that they alone have created, ensuring that everyone on the planet has a high quality of life. In a socialist society you may not have the “opportunity” to be a billionaire, but at least millions won’t be literally dying as a result. 


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