How to spend $87 billon and really do some good
Just so we are all on the same page and in order to comprehend the enormity of a billion dollars, you can do any number of mental activities.
For instance: One billion people standing on each other would reach beyond the moon. Or, if you have a more theological bent, one billion minutes ago Jesus was walking around Palestine.
Or, for those of you who haven’t anything better to do, you could start counting now and by the time you reached one billion you would be 95 years older and be remembered by your descendents as “Crazy Uncle Bob.”
Next you have to multiply these magnitudes 87 times to arrive at the sum in dollars that must be spent in the coming year to continue our democratizing of Iraq.
To help us get a handle on that figure, please turn to the Sept. 8, 2003 issue of Newsday, where we discover that $87 billion would pay the New York Yankees entire payroll for the next 477 years which, come to think of it, probably doesn’t mean much to you unless you’re a Red Sox fan.
In any case, what we have here is a heck of a lot of money that must be collected from somewhere or, more specifically, somebody.
And since this administration is committed to the conservatively compassionate concept of continuing tax-cuts for the wealthy, you can assume that the 1 percent wealthiest of our population who received nearly 50 percent of the latest tax-cut aren’t going to be helping out a whole lot.
That leaves you and me, dear taxpayer.
Perhaps, like me, you have stayed up late into the recent nights wishing you could direct some of that $87 billion to projects other than searching for weapons of mass destruction.
Maybe you have mused, as I have, that a small fraction of that colossal tax collection might be put to better use educating our children or housing our poor or maybe even in establishing an institution where all the nations could come together and try and work out our differences. Oops.
This past week, I had the pleasure of listening to the venerable Thich Nhat Hahn. Thich is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who knows first hand what it is like to be on the receiving end of America’s righteous anger.
More than 30 years ago, he led the Buddhist delegation at the Paris Peace Talks and was subsequently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Lately he has been spending a good deal of his time floating a proposal that, considering the 87 billion alternatives, is worth considering.
Let’s say we take a small percentage of the cost of continuing our war and designate it toward developing experts in the art of listening.
For just a few million, we could build a center and invite several thousand folks to come and be trained in the art of compassionate conversation.
Our students would learn to carefully listen to the frustrations and anger of others. They could hear of the disappointments that come when poverty and oppression prevail. These men and women, maybe even boys and girls, might discover that we have much in common with people who are often portrayed as evil enemies.
Thich puts it this way: ” Reconciliation is to understand both sides, to go to one side and describe the suffering being endured by the other side and then to go to the other side and describe the suffering being endured by the first side. Doing only that will be a great help for peace.”
Before guffawing at such outrageous naivete, might we consider that the price for such a project would probably be slightly less than $87 billion.
Think of it. For a relative pittance we could develop an army of attentive arbitrators to be sent into potential hot spots to sip coffee with would-be combatants long before the would-bes turn into the now-ises.
And we’d still have money left over for educating our children, housing the poor and disappointing Red Sox fans for another 477 more years.
Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column for the Summit Daily News. He can be reached at “rich mayfield”
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