By Kishan Gandham
As a culture, we thrive off listening to others’ success stories. It’s no surprise that a nation founded on the tenets of idealism and independence finds solace in the promises and security of the American Dream: that anyone in this country can become something.
“Bill Gates is the richest man in the world. This is how he gives away his billions.”
“Warren Buffett is worth $87 billion—here are 24 facts about him.”
“Jeff Bezos net worth: Amazon CEO now the richest person in history.”
The gold-plated narratives of these men never seem far away from headline news. However, sometimes, against our better judgment, we miss the headlines that matter.
“Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett are wealthier than the poorest half of the US.” Despite how much we believe in the American Dream, it’s time to wake up.
Income inequality and poverty only begin to describe the myriad of problems affecting thousands of people in this country—which is why it is so important to do something now. When Jeff Bezos announced that he was looking for a new location for the next Amazon Headquarters, a place set to employ 50,000 people, nothing short of a bidding war commenced, with cities offering donations, money, and gifts in order to convince the richest man in America to move his warehouse to their streets and grab a piece of the resulting profits. However, it's not New York, Sacramento, or even Newark that deserve those jobs. People from any of those cities will agree that it’s places like Keyser, Huntington, or Boone County, West Virginia who need these jobs, places that have seen staggering drops in coal jobs for the past decade. Move the new Amazon HQ here, Mr. Bezos. The New York Times notes in September of 2017, that with the shift towards natural gas and the increase in green energy projects, coal mining in places like Wyoming or West Virginia has become nothing more than a pipe dream. But the politics of coal mining jobs in America’s heartland affect far more than we think it does. Consumers make the world go round. Yet, when people lose their jobs they don’t have the wages to actually go out and spend—neither unemployment insurance nor welfare can cover spending that would produce an economic impact. Why’s that bad? Keynesian economics calls it the paradox of thrift—essentially the spending that one household pours in the economic system is the income that another household brings in, and so on and so forth. When coal workers lose their jobs, and the mines close for the last time, opportunity closes too. When people don’t spend and hold onto whatever money they have, local businesses surrounding the area of these mines don’t see enough revenue or profit to keep all of their employees. In turn, people working in local industries who have their jobs could actually lose them. The cycle continues, as jobs are lost, more jobs are lost, and more jobs are lost until coal towns turn into shantytowns. Truth be told, the loss of coal jobs is indicative of a move towards the future, where automation has become a new norm. However, that’s exactly why big corporations need to move to areas like these: corporate giants like Amazon, Google, or Facebook could have the potential to change the norm themselves.
Here’s how we fix it. Mr. Bezos, I know you’ve created a short list of 20 different cities that you plan to move your headquarters to, but throw out your list. Consider, instead, the benefits of bringing back jobs to sectors and regions that currently have none, of bringing jobs to West Virginia. Here’s how this works—first, it brings in thousands of high-earning, highly skilled workers to this area that can spend. The fact that these individuals pull more than $100,000 at the least, means that the local diners and grocery stores will finally see customers filling their dust-caked aisles and tables. Furthermore, with the added rise in populations, other businesses must follow. Places in West Virginia and Wyoming oft lack large populations which means that when 50,000 new jobs and people show up in these small towns, local laundromats, dry cleaners, plumbing services, car mechanics, convenience stores, movie theaters—you name it, have to be there to provide services for all these added people. That’s job creation or job immigration. For people who work in the coal mines who are laid off, living on welfare, these low-skill, high-need jobs are perfect especially because they do not necessarily require much educational training. This fills the gap in jobs that exists in the status quo. But, regardless of whether Amazon is employing these West Virginia natives, the new businesses that are created can. Nevertheless, when people have more money to spend, this, in turn, bolsters local businesses and expands them, encouraging them to start higher more people and potentially, increase wages throughout. If people in these small economies began to spend more, if more people move into these areas, those are more people paying SALT taxes and federal income taxes in these poor states. This in turn not only gives state governments more money to attempt public works programs or to get pork barrel projects to again, stimulate jobs, but also gives the federal government revenue when more and more people began to get employed rather than lose their jobs.
So Mr. Bezos, whether you decide to listen is your prerogative, but if not you, convince your contemporaries to do something. I don’t suspect that your net worth will fall anytime soon, but the disparity of your wealth compared to a poor America will only continue to grow.
Mr. Bezos, you, unlike the government, unlike the state, have the ability to do something important and impact thousands of lives. In your keynote address to Princeton University, you addressed the graduating class with advice that you once received yourself: “It’s harder to be kind than clever.” So please Mr. Bezos, choose kindness.
Just like we’ve done in the past, success stories will continue to make headline news. Except for once, I think it’s time we stop listening to the headlines and starting thinking of the people starving in the breadlines.
By: Kishan Gandham
A series of unfortunate events. It seems like those are the only five words that can truly encapsulate the Syrian crisis. The impact of conflict in Syria however, stretches far beyond the region, affecting people and governments across the world. Therefore, in order to comprehend the scope of Syria—let’s start from the beginning.
There are three major parties in Syria. The first, Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Next, the rebel factions fighting against Assad’s corrupt government. And finally, the third, ambiguous party, involved in the conflict: the Islamic State (ISIS).
The reason that the Syrian conflict has had such a role in international affairs is because of its implications. Quite simply, the needless violence against the Syrian people prompted a mass migration of nearly 11 million people to other Middle Eastern and European nations. This migration came about because of violence and human rights abuse on all three sides of the spectrum of conflict, specifically, the torture of prisoners of war, the use of chemical agents such as chlorine gas, and the coordinating bombings by the Syrian government.
Additionally, refugees have an impact upon their host nations. The BBC reports in March of 2016, that Germany and Hungary have increasing numbers of asylum applications every single year. But to some degree, refugees have bolstered the economies of the countries they migrate to, taking a toll on the people as well.
Many nationalists believe refugees take jobs from the people living in their respective European nations. Thus, in France, face-veils such as the burqa, the niqab, and most recently the burkina have all been banned. Meanwhile, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and even Germany have either approved or called for bans on ‘Islamic attire’, proving the rising xenophobic tendencies within European nations.
Nevertheless, the desire to put an end to support for people coming out of these Muslim nations has not ceased there. Forbes reports in November of this year, that European leaders such as Francois Hollande, the leader of France, prevented aid from non-governmental organizations by failing to designate certain slums as refugee camps. All that European leaders are doing is creating a negative culture associated with those flocking into their nation just because they are Muslim.
With the rise in coordinated attacks by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Europe, people are afraid. As the LA Times explains in August of 2016, Europe has been riddled by false alarms and terrorist threats prompting religious conflict all across the continent. But, when the people fear, governments cannot work. And when governments do not work, nations fall, and Germany and the United States are no better than the failed state of Syria. However, with the American people apprehensive of admitting more refugees into the country due to their ‘radical tendencies’ and with president-elect Donald Trump proposing bans on people entering the United States from Muslim nations, it seems as if, no matter where these innocents go—governments, including our own, fail them, adding another step to the series of unfortunate events plaguing refugees.