Letter to the editor: How is wealth really shared?

For a couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about the excellent June 11 letter to the editor by Margaret Eaton of New Haven regarding littering and tourist dollars. Well said!
But something is niggling at me. The oft-repeated assumption that tourism helps all Vermonters has been niggling at me.
This past year I was lucky enough to travel to Berlin, Rome, Paris, Napoli and Chicago. Many of these trips were paid for by my employer and I flew first class! I stayed in four- and five-star hotels! I ate at restaurants I would not have patronized otherwise (I’m more of a Rosie’s kind of guy). I was a tourist.
“Must be nice,” my friends said, and it was, but it felt weird.
Bernie Sanders wrote in these Addy Indy pages “62 individuals own the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50 percent of the world’s people.”
62 people! Own as much as 3.5 billion people!
What does this mean? Like in the real world, like in my daily life, what does this mean?
I took a walk this morning out of my Oakland, Calif., home and within a mile I had walked past two “tent city” encampments — each with a population between 50 and 100 people living in tents and boxes under tarps beneath the freeway or pushed up against a fence. I walked past five or six others housing perhaps 10 people each. From where I stood I could see the San Francisco skyline.
San Francisco! One of the world’s richest cities, which is exploding in tourist and tech wealth — the shadow of its brand new skyscrapers metaphorically cast and the shadow of its freeways quite literally cast on the homeless encampment where I stood alongside scores of others.
My father spent his career raising money, often for Middlebury College — my dad taught me not to ask 1,000 people for $100 each. “Ask one guy for $100,000. No, ask him for a million!” he taught.
62 people.
If I were a businessman why would I cater to any of the 3.5 billion?
Middlebury College’s endowment surpassed $1 billion a while ago. A couple of years back the college generously donated $6 million for the new bridge to great acclaim.
How much interest do you suppose is accumulated daily from $1 billion?
Why do I see more homeless people in Middlebury now when tourism and Middlebury College are thriving like never before?
Why is homelessness and poverty an epidemic in San Francisco at the precise moment that San Francisco explodes in tourist and tech wealth?
Why ask 3.5 billion people for anything at all?
Why could I barely afford a meal in the tourist districts of Berlin, Paris, Rome and Chicago when I had just consumed about one-tenth of my yearly income in plane and hotel money?
Does tourism really help all Vermonters?
What do you see?
Mike Sommers
Oakland, Calif.

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