The most important trend, however, is the global wealth distribution. According to the report, the world’s millionaires represent 0.9% of the world’s population but control 39% of the world’s wealth, up from 37% in 2009. Their wealth now totals $47.4 trillion in investible wealth, up from $41.8 trillion in 2009.
The economic polarization continues creating huge differences, not just in wealth, but also in values and perspective of the world. This will create enormous tensions ni all societies on the planet the coming decades of increasingly limited resources.
Frederick Mardlin is a 32-year old married father of three who spent three years in jail for a crime that he did not commit. He was wrongfully convicted of burning down his house to collect the insurance. His court-appointed public defense attorney was unable to obtain the funds to retain an electrical expert to testify at his trial. That expert could have testified that the fire was not set intentionally but caused by faulty wiring.
So Fred sat in jail for three years before he was paroled. Because he insists on clearing his name, he is appealing his conviction. Although he is entitled as a matter of law to a court-appointed appellate attorney, the State of Michigan refuses to pay that attorney’s bills. Fortunately, the attorney has agreed to work on Fred’s case free of charge. The attorney has also located a pro-bono electrical expert who is willing to help Fred overturn his conviction.
Fred’s story illustrates how Michigan’s public defense system is often unable to effectively represent its clients and how, despite constitutional guarantees, a court hearing does not ensure a fair just decision. Too often, innocent people go to jail, those who have broken the law receive sentences that are harsher than the facts of their crime warrant.
Faces of Failing Public Defense Systems, a new report issued by the ACLU, ACLU of Michigan and the Campaign For Justice, shows how Michigan’s crumbling public defense system allows innocent individuals to become collateral damage as a result of inadequate legal representation. The report tells the stories of men who were charged with crimes, were inadequately represented by public defense attorneys and consequently incarcerated for years.
The government gives patent monopolies to provide an incentive for drug companies to carry through research. This is an incredibly backward and inefficient way to pay for research. It leaves us paying huge amounts of money for cheap drugs. It also often leads to bad medicine.
We can do better – and Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed a way. He has introduced a bill to create a prize fund that would buy up patents, so that drugs could then be sold at a free market price. Sanders’s bill would appropriate 0.55% of GDP (about $80bn a year, with the economy’s current size) for buying up patents, which would then be placed in the public domain so that any manufacturer could use them at no cost.
This money would come from a tax on public and private insurers. The savings from lower-cost drugs would immediately repay more than 100% of the tax.
Bernie Sanders is making the practical and realistic suggestion to stop the enforcement of patent monopolies that would pay for itself. It would allow increased competition among researchers, lower costs for the consumer and stop our skyrocketing medical costs. Of course, since all that would be at the cost of corporate exploitation of the sick, it’s a nonstarter in Congress.
Someone should tell Sen. Tom Coburn that just because he doesn’t understand a scientific research project doesn’t mean it’s not important to our nation’s science. Here’s a few examples where he gets it wrong …