To Save Ourselves?

It’s extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can’t find $25 billion dollars to saved 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases.

– Bono, rock star and anti-poverty activist

(The American Prospect blog)

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  • chessncoffee

    I’m pretty sure that Bono is talking about the people dying from diseases like AIDS and malaria, diseases that can be treated with medicine that we can get in America but those in Africa can’t get, or can’t afford.

    25,000 children die every day from disease according to UNICEF, and if $25 billion could buy the medicine to treat those diseases, then 25,000 lives could be saved every day. I think that is all that Bono is saying.

    And when Bono says we can “find” the money for this, I presume that he isn’t referring to money just lying around somewhere, it was more a reference to whenever someone says that we simply can’t afford to help the people in Africa; his point was that you can find $700 billion to help the financial markets, so certainly you can find $25 billion to help the children dying every day.

    This may be one of those ideas that is just too simple. 25,000 people die every day, $25 billion could save them, so we can save 9 million kids dying every year. It’s probably more complicated than that, but Bono still has a point.

    Anyway, the full quote gives Bono’s remark a little more context:

    “I am not qualified to comment on really what has happened in the last week where this city has changed shape, certainly psychologically, and in terms of some people’s wallets. And I’m not qualified to comment on the interventions that have been put forth. I presume these people know what they’re doing. But it is extraordinary to me that you can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can’t find $25 billion to save 25,000 children who die every day of preventable, treatable disease and hunger. That’s mad.”

  • Sorry, but Bono’s rhetorical grandstanding represents everything I detest about idealism.

    What is the basis for his factual-sounding claim that $25 billion would somehow save 25,000 lives, as though there were some mathematical formula involved? He can’t not know that the reason so many children in poor countries die of disease is only partially a function of external aid: poverty, corrupt governments, wars, poor transportation, natural disasters, and cultural and other factors all contribute, and so any statement that associates Input X with Output Y as though we were talking about the law of gravity is rubbish.

    Even in the US, where the things I cited factor in little or not at all, poverty persists despite $5 trillion having been spent in War on Poverty programs in the past 40 years. It just isn’t a matter or making it rain money; if it were, we’d have long done that (and our failure to do so would mean that every American and every Irish rock star who’s looking into a computer screen is a moral monster).

  • Isn‚Äôt it rather the case that the United States government plans to have $700 billion printed, that is, to create a new $700 billion out of thin air? If that is the case, then won‚Äôt that $700 billion actually debase the currency and be a form of inflation?

    Printing money is not what anybody is talking about — at. all.

    The $700 billion figure (assuming it passes in more or less its current form) would be an authorization for the Treasury to spend up to that amount purchasing failed mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. But then the government would actually hold the mortgages, i.e., stuff with value, and will sell them back to the private market for whatever it can get for them. In the best case, if no market stampede or bank runs happen and business- and consumer-confidence return, the government will get market value back and the actual program costs nothing in the long run.

    “Nothing” will not happen, of course, because some of the assets are objectively overvalued. And the actual cost is simply unknowable in advance because the value of the assets will depend on the market’s future response. But the point of the program (which Bono misses of course, falsely assuming there’s $700 billion just lying around for which the government has just discovered a bad-in-his-view use) is to put the government’s faith and credit into the financial markets and have the certainty of repayment that this brings let financial markets ride through the current liquidity and credit freeze.

  • Bono may be a little rough around the edges (and who isn’t?), but he’s got a heart after Christ.

  • gaith

    Hear, hear. There’s a wonderful “West Wing” episode that deals with this sort of thing; Season Four’s “Guns Not Butter”. And while the Democrats are far from perfect on this matter, I believe they’re light-years beyond the GOP, Bush’s token AIDS aid notwithstanding.

  • Preach it, brother.

  • Hear hear!

    But then…Mr. & Mrs. suburban American might have to move out of that $500,000 home and sell the 2nd SUV.

  • But it isn’t really that the United States found $700 billion, is it? It’s not as if the money was just lying around on the floor of congress.

    Isn’t it rather the case that the United States government plans to have $700 billion printed, that is, to create a new $700 billion out of thin air? If that is the case, then won’t that $700 billion actually debase the currency and be a form of inflation? And, since the new money is going to go primarily to wealthy people and the presence of the new money will drive up some prices and it will take a relatively long time for wages to change to fit with the higher prices, isn’t it possible that this $700 billion will actually hurt poor people and especially people on fixed incomes?

    Alternatively, if we want to view the $700 billion as coming from taxpayers, it still isn’t the case that we had the $700 billion lying around somewhere. It’s rather the case that some of it is coming out of the pockets of hard-workin taxpayers, many of whom weren’t involved in the Wall Street companies that are crashing in the first place, but who now have to fork over their hard-earned wages to help those companies.

    Is any of this just?

  • Good point, Bono. However — and I know he’s taking the G8 as a whole to task — but something else is being said here that I think is stale meme in need of correction. Anytime the U.S. spends money on ANYTHING we get these types of comments regarding that “money could have been better spent feeding starving infants in the third-world,” etc.

    Fair enough, but the U.S. — historically — is the most generous nation on earth both in donations to developing countries; from the private sector and government. In 2006 (the last year statistics are available) the private sector of the U.S. donated $34.8 billion to worldwide philanthropy. In the same year, the U.S. government gifted $23.5 billion in aid abroad.

    I referenced this article for those numbers:

    Switching subjects to the bailout, that’s a discussion I could rant at length on (and I don’t want to get too political on your blog, Jeffrey). ;) Personally, I think it’s a bad idea and hope it gets axed. My read is that’s the bi-partisan sentiment of many in the country.

  • i4detail

    Damn straight.

    Whoops. I mean, darn straight.

    In other news, it’s time to update your header; you’re missing a book….