If you had a billion U.S. dollars, how would you spend it?

Throughout the month of January, WordPress is sending participating bloggers a writing prompt each day. It’s a way to find some creative inspiration and perhaps make connections with other bloggers. My entries in this blogging challenge will appear here under the tag #bloganuary.

If I had a billion dollars, I believe I would probably spend at least some of it on travel. Not for myself, nor even for my family and friends, but for every member of the United States House of Representatives and every member of the United States Senate. In this fantasy scenario, I would divide as many of them as possible into bipartisan pairs, and send each pair of politicians on a two-month trip to some of the most difficult places in the world. Some would be sent to Haiti, for example, to live with the residents of Cité Soleil, a crowded “suburb” of Port-au-Prince and perhaps the single worst location to live in the Western Hemisphere. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians live there in abject poverty, in horrific housing conditions, plagued with diseases like cholera and with the violent oppression of gangs, in a country where the government has more or less packed up and left.

There would be a wide variety of other destinations available for these 60-day politician trips, such the IDP camps in northwest Syria, and in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Other destinations would include Yemen, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and many of the countries in Central and South America, from which so many of the immigrants at the U.S. southern border have come, many as refugees and asylum-seekers.

After years of taking small groups of people on short-term mission trips to Haiti, I have seen what those experiences can do in the lives of those who participate. Cynicism can be replaced with compassion. Once eyes have been opened to the realities of poverty, injustice, and suffering, they tend to remain open and those people tend to become more generous, more caring, more open to helping others, even in their own communities.

My hope would be that these politicians would return to their seats in the government having been genuinely transformed, and with a new resolve exchange their efforts to retain their power and position for relentless collaborative work toward compassionate, bipartisan solutions, and to focus their energy and their influence on leading the wealthiest nation in the world to use its great wealth and resources to alleviate suffering, to fight injustice and do constructive things like, say, ending world hunger. I’ve seen indications that it could take an annual investment of from 25 to 40 billion dollars per year to adequately feed food-insecure populations world-wide. Given the current U.S. defense budget, which is over a trillion dollars for FY2023, one wonders how hard it would really be to make a significant difference in just this one area of global concern.

Perhaps a couple of months in proximity to real people who truly suffer would give at least some of those politicians a new perspective on their responsibility to their country, and to their world. Perhaps being immersed among people who have to deal with unimaginable real-world problems might help them decide to do something with their elected offices besides obstruct one another’s efforts to move legislation through Congress and bicker like blithering idiots about “wokeness” and such.

According to my back-of-the-envelope estimates, this project would cost maybe as much as $20 to 25 million, for the actual travel costs and accommodations. (It occurs to me that having the entire Congress out of the country for a couple of months might be a very good thing in itself, and well worth the money.) Double that figure for administrative costs and such, and I’d still have over $950 million to invest in providing clean water wells, mosquito nets, AIDS drugs, vaccines for COVID and other diseases, and maybe even purchase a large tract of the Brazilian rain forest to protect it from deforestation. And I might still have plenty left for a nice dinner out with my wife.

Just spitballing here.

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