The One Percent Solution

More than a billion people now live on less than the purchasing power equivalent, in their own country, of what can be bought in the US for $1.00. In the year 2000, Americans made private donations for foreign aid of all kinds totaling about $4 per person, or roughly $20 per family. Through their government, they gave another $10 per person, or $50 per family. That makes a total of $70 per family.

In comparison, in the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center, the American Red Cross received so much money that it abandoned any attempt to examine how much help potential recipients needed. It drew a line across lower Manhattan and offered anyone living below that line the equivalent of three months' rent (or, if they owned their own apartment, three months' mortgage and maintenance payments). If recipients claimed to have been affected by the destruction of the Twin Towers, they received money for utilities and groceries as well.

Most residents of the area below the line were not displaced or evacuated, but they were offered mortgage or rent assistance nonetheless. Red Cross volunteers set up card tables in the lobbies of expensive apartment buildings where financial analysts, lawyers, and rock stars live, to inform residents of the offer. The higher the rent people paid, the more money they got. New Yorkers, wealthy or not, living in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, were able to receive an average of $5,300 per family.

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