African countries pledge $2 billion to defeat U.S. inequality

(Credit: Robert Couse-Baker/flickr)

Addis Ababa, Ethopia – With the problem of wealth inequality in the United States spiraling out of control, Africa is stepping up to help fill a significant funding gap.  A historic meeting of the 54 countries that make up Africa saw leaders pledge a total of $2.17 billion.

“We are at a crucial turning point.  With your support, we have made major advances,” said UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon at the event. “At the same time, financing from the international community remains a lifeline for millions of people.  We must act with resolve to preserve these gains, which remain fragile.”

The sum goes a long way to address a growing problem in the U.S. At present, the top 1 percent take in more than 20 percent of the nation’s income, up from taking 10 percent in the 1970s. It quickly becomes more stark as the top fifth alone take in 61.4 percent all income. The same group controls more than 80% of the wealth in the United States.

Source: Economic Policy Institute. 2011. “Upper Tail” inequality growing steadily: Men's wage inequality, 1973-2009. Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute. May 11, 2011.

“The chart below shows that the trend at the top of the income distribution (the “upper tail”) is not exactly the same as the trend at the bottom of the distribution (the “lower tail”).” Men’s wage inequality (credit: Stanford)

It is a problem that has grown worse over the past few decades, but accelerated in the wake of the global financial crisis that started in 2007-8. The gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S. is the widest since the Great Depression.

“Today Americans across the country are frustrated. They see only a small portion of the population riding the economy’s up escalator,” said potential presidential candidate Jeb Bush while in Detroit last month.

A divided federal government and upcoming presidential elections have prevented progress. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin say that there is a correlation between health outcomes and levels of income inequality. They determined that its effect was “equivalent to a difference of about 11 days of life between high- and low-inequality places,” reported the New York Times.

Ban announced the launch of a new program: #Africa4America. He encouraged Africans to tweet their support for the U.S. by using the hash tag on social media. He also hinted at the soon to be dropped track from Africa’s biggest musicians. It will be available on iTunes starting Friday with all proceeds benefiting the UN appeal.

Median weekly earnings of full-time workers (workers 25 years old & older, 2006 dollars) credit: Stanford

Median weekly earnings of full-time workers (workers 25 years old & older, 2006 dollars) credit: Stanford

“On this day we are using the universal language of music to show solidarity with the millions of people around the world suffering from poverty, human rights abuses, humanitarian crises and the effects of environmental degradation and climate change,” said Ban in a press release.

The conference in Ethiopia was expected to bring in $2 billion, nearly half of the $4.5 billion UN appeal for the U.S. African nations heeded the call to provide an emergency lifeline for suffering Americans by exceeding expectations.

“There is no doubt that this will require significant resources, perhaps even a Marshall Plan… We believe however that this can be achieved through allocation of the additional resources committed by the African Union,” said Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

However, there are concerns about how the money will be spent. With a history of pork-barrel spending and resources allocated based on political dealings, the African Union will implement innovative funding schemes to ensure money is spent effectively.

“We will never tolerate corruption, and I pledge to do all in our power to build upon our strong fight against it,” said World Bank president Jim Kim.

Note: The ruse may have been rather obvious from the start, but here is the real trick – take away the parts about African countries donating and everything else is true. And, all the quotes are real. They are just taken out of context.

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.