In a packed auditorium at the World Bank Monday night, world leaders, an ambassador, professor and other global health experts debated whether governments should still be investing as much as they do in HIV/AIDs in a "resource-constrained environment."
Arguments against continued investment in HIV/AIDS received boos from the crowd; arguments for the investment received cheers and claps.
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Especially well-received was a politically-tinged, if not saturated, argument by Jeffrey Sachs, Director of Columbia's Earth Institute, a network of research centers and scientists focused on sustainability.
"The proposition is a bit of sham, because we are not in a resource-constrained environment!" Sachs began, to hearty applause. "Mitt Romney is not resource constrained!" (Laughter.) "His Cayman Island bank accounts are not resource constrained! The $20 trillion in offshore bank accounts are not constrained!"
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has an estimated wealth as high as $250 million, an unknown amount of which is stored in offshore tax havens like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. The Romney campaign has repeatedly said he does not use these havens to avoid paying his taxes.
Sachs argued that this level of wealth shows the "kind of illogic in this town" that prevents the government from investing in the health issues it should.
"This is a rich world in which rich people don't pay taxes," he said.
For perspective, Sachs laid out other costs that were equivalent to $40 billion —the amount he said was still needed to fund AIDS and other primary health care systems.
He said $40 billion was equivalent to 20 days of Pentagon spending, or 1 percent of the net worth of all 1,226 billionaires on the Forbes rich list.
"We could also take 20 cents of all the 100 dollars in offshore accounts," Sachs proposed. "Or the next time Mitt Romney goes to visit his money in the Caymans..." (More laughter) "He could bring 20 cents for every 100, and maybe some of his friends can too."