How much would it cost to end poverty in America? Experts have estimated anywhere from $1.74 trillion to a few billion for specific programs. But it’s incredibly challenging to visualize how much that is — it always sounds like an exorbitant sum, no matter how you slice it.
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To make it easier, we’ve compared different aspects of current U.S. spending on poverty and proposed programs with the annual net incomes of major companies like Walmart, Apple, and Berkshire Hathaway. The facts may be surprising and even upsetting.
JP Morgan Chase alone has made enough net income in one year to end homelessness in American cities.
Ending homelessness seems like an impossible goal, right? The secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been quoted as saying that $20 billion is the amount of financial aid needed for the government to effectively eliminate homelessness. JP Morgan Chase’s net income, or bottom line, for the year (what’s left after their costs and taxes), is enough to cover it. If one of the banks that was almost “too big to fail” in 2009 was feeling charitable this year, they could singlehandedly wipe out the most extreme form of poverty left in America.
But let’s not throw one company under the bus: so could Comcast ($22.71 billion), Wells Fargo & Co. ($22.18 billion), and, if they saved a little, Bank of America ($18.23 billion). If a cross-corporate alliance was formed to battle homelessness and only the top ten most profitable companies for the year had to toss $2 billion into the pot, it would be hardly a drop in the bucket for their profits.
Warren Buffet’s net worth alone is enough to end American hunger three times over.
How much would it cost to end hunger in America? While hunger cost estimates vary a great deal, some groups estimate that extreme hunger still not covered by federal programs could be solved with $25 billion, which sounds like a huge chunk of change until you compare it to one man’s net worth. It’s also only about half of the one-year net income of Apple.
Meanwhile, the costs to the American economy of poverty have been estimated to hover near $167.5 billion. Not only is it possible, but ending extreme poverty here may be in these companies’ best interest.
But why focus on just America? What’s the cost to end world hunger? The World Economic Forum has already quoted us a bill of about $267 billion. Pooling the net worth of the top companies in America alone would put a huge dent in that.
If the top 500 billionaires in the world pooled the increase in their net worth from one year, they could eliminate extreme poverty seven times over.
How much would it take to eradicate poverty in the U.S.? The answer is a large sum, but it’s also not outside of the limits of reality.