I recently received an email from David Orr of the World Food Programme about a refugee
camp at Dadaab in Kenya that he just visited. Here’s an excerpt:
I’ve talked to some of the newly-arrived families at Dadaab. I’ve seen and heard about their suffering, how they have lost their crops and their animals.
Many stories are similar to that of Adan Kulo, who watched his livestock starve to death. “I realized my family would soon follow,” he says. He took his pregnant wife and children on a grueling three-week journey through the desert to Dadaab. They were robbed by bandits; food ran out; one child fell ill and his parents feared for his life.
Within hours of arrival at the camp, Adan received 21 days’ worth of food from the World Food Programme. “Now that we have food,” he says, “I’m looking for a spot where I can build a shelter for my family.”
WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger. They are 100% voluntarily funded, which means they rely on donors’ generosity to expand their operations.
Posted by Scott Hughes
Categories: Ways To Help
For years CT has been dealing with a budget crisis. Spending is greater than revenue, and revenue is down as a result of the recession. In terms of poverty this is dangerous because government spending cuts need to be made and are being made, and that means many of the government sponsored-programs that are struggling to keep this state’s poor afloat are are a risk of being cut away leaving the people to sink into poverty.
Worse yet, the alternative–increasing taxes–can be just as harmful. One new tax attempt severely hurts local online retailers many of which are small businesses including many financially struggling entrepreneurs. Here’s the issue: States cannot collect sales taxes from out-of-state businesses. By absurdly claiming online referrers, who independently contract as advertisers for companies like Amazon and happen to live in-state, are a physical presence of the business in the state. In other words, the state intends to claim that paying an independent contractor a commission for advertising is tantamount to opening up shop in the state, even though neither the advertising nor the sales resulting from the advertising are actually happening in the state. If that sounds complicated it’s because it is so absurd a rationalization for collecting an illegal tax. Being such an absurd rationalization, there is a good a chance of the new tax attempt not bringing any new tax revenue. But what is simple is that this tax hurts CT businesses and struggling entrepreneurs.
This new tax means companies like Amazon will end their affiliate programs with any and all CT businesses and entrepreneurs. This is a painful loss of revenue for many of these CT businesses. Ironically, that means the state will be collecting less income taxes from these local businesses and yet will still not be collecting taxes from the out-of-state Amazon. I know this first-hand because I was an affiliate with Amazon until June 10th when they terminated me and all other CT affiliate advertisers. Now my income has gone down as a result of a failed attempt by the CT government to collect sales taxes on a Seattle-based company.
A well-written July 1st editorial from Investors Business Daily explains the way history repeats in regards to this failed tax attempt:
There’s a bigger issue at stake here, though. Ever since the catalog was invented, states have tried to force out-of-state retailers to pay their sales taxes. The matter went all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1992 ruled that doing so violated the interstate commerce clause.
Now states think they’ve found a way around this restriction by vastly expanding the definition of “presence” in a state to include online marketing affiliates.
Also a New Haven Register editorial from May 27th summarizes the issue well in my opinion:
The budget counts on this new tax raising $9.4 million in the next year, although those following the battle over the tax, which is strongly opposed by online retailers, don’t expect it to yield any revenue next year[...] The likely loss of $9.4 million in tax revenue next year is minor in comparison to a state budget of $19 billion. Its impact, however, will be far larger on the small Connecticut companies that counted on the referral fees from Internet sales.
To balance the budget spending cuts and new taxes may both be needed. But we cannot let most of the burden of these spending cuts and taxes fall on small businesses, the poor and the struggling, who are already unfairly burdened, especially if the burden is from an ill-conceived tax or cut that doesn’t even work and won’t even provide the claimed balance to the budget.
An article on AOL News reports that Debbie Clark, known as “Storm” from the early 90s show “American Gladiator,” is homeless. Like many women and children, her son and her have been homeless since they escaped a domestic violence situation a couple years ago. Adding to the problems, she has a severe knee injury from the show that makes it difficult for her to find work. Also, the knee troubles make it hard to deal with homeless shelter programs which generally make participants leave early in the morning but be back before 5–a difficulty depicted well in my opinion in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness.
Although Clark received $1,500 a day for her famous job as Storm in the early 90s, she receives no royalties now from her time on American Gladiator. Of course, homelessness is more complicated than income or lack of income, and has a lot more to do with access to people who can help; in that department both of Clark’s parents died within a month of each other with little money due to two states both taxing them when they moved.
Hopefully, thanks to the publicity of the situation, maybe Clark will now get some help from fans, her former coworkers or anyone who hears about the story. Unfortunately, Clark is only one of millions of homeless people in the USA. And despite common misconceptions, most homeless people in the USA are not men, are not bums and unfortunately are not seen as much as the homeless people we do see. To that end, Clark says that when she gets back on her feet she wants to find ways to help other homeless people.
Posted by Scott Hughes
On Oct. 4, Habitat for Humanity will join efforts around the world to mark World Habitat Day–a day the United Nations has set aside to call attention to the dire need for affordable, adequate housing. Liza Peiffer of Habitat for Humanity put together and informed me about a microsite with facts, videos, photos, banners and even a way to submit your own photo to the World Habitat Day Photo Wall:
Here are two interesting and frighetening facts posted on that website:
Every week, more than a million people are born in, or move to, cities in the developing world. As a result, the urban population of developing countries will double from 2 billion to 4 billion in the next 30 years. (Kissick, et al: 2006)
By the year 2030, an additional 3 billion people, about 40 percent of the world’s population, will need access to housing. This translates into a demand for 96,150 new affordable units every day and 4,000 every hour. (UN-HABITAT: 2005)
To put in my two cents, let us remember that the world has more than enough resources to provide more than adequate food, clothing, and shelter to everyone. In that sense the world is not overpopulated, but rather people are starving to death outside overstocked grocery stores and suffering homelessness next to usable, vacant houses and across the world from accessible unused lumber and other building materials and desperately unemployed construction workers. The problem is not as simplistic as a lack of houses or natural resources; that is not a problem we have. The problem is human action. It is up to us to take action to end poverty and make this world better for everyone.
Posted by Scott Hughes
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 13.7 million single parents in the United States. 26 percent of children in the United States live in single parent homes. About 1.7 percent of single mothers and less than 1 percent of single fathers were widowed. 52.7 percent of fathers ordered to pay child support do not pay all that they owe, and 53.8 percent of mothers ordered to pay child support do not pay all that they owe. In other words, most single parents who are supposed to be receiving child support are not receiving it all. 27 percent of custodial single mothers and their children live in poverty. 12.9 percent of custodial single fathers and their children live in poverty.
It doesn’t take a statistic to tell us that a child who is only being supported by one parent has more of a chance of being in poverty than one who is supported by two. If one parent takes custody and the other supports the child financially, that may work out fine. But a poverty-causing problem arises when one parent does not provide their fair share of support to the child.
I believe it goes without saying that poverty in the so-called first world is often caused in great part by deadbeat parents.
For example, 62% of custodial mothers in the United States do not receive child support. Needless to say, many of those children are in poverty but wouldn’t be if they received proper financial support from their fathers.
I don’t think anyone would deny that the prevalence of deadbeat parents is a major social problem and that it significantly contributes to poverty. So I have made a thread in the Philosophy of Politics Forum to discuss ways to prevent or otherwise deal with deadbeat parents. Check it out and post your comments and ideas.
Posted by Scott Hughes
Categories: American Poverty
Like many states and like the nation, my home state of CT is facing massive budget deficits that require significant budget changes to avoid bankruptcy and crisis.
I believe there are large amounts of wasteful spending that could be cut from the budget that would close most if not all of the deficit. Unfortunately, what is wasteful for taxpayers is often considered a sacred cow by special interest groups, lobbyists and and the politicians collecting the campaign contributions and other kickbacks from the ones receiving government handouts that they do not need. The regular folks and the poor would be much better off if this type of spending was cut regardless of whether we had a deficit or surplus, but it won’t be cut because of undemocratic, bipartisan corruption and cronyism.
So when cuts are made, they are made on the services that are needed most by the taxpayers, particularly the poor. Shelters are closed. School programs are cut. Emergency services like ambulances and fire departments are cut back. Social workers are let go. Poverty is increased. The poor are told to make sacrifices so the rich don’t have to make the sacrifices.
The alternative to these cuts is more taxes. Politicians may try to increase taxes on the non-rich, again telling us we all need to make sacrifices but really expecting the regular folks and the poor to make all the sacrifices so the rich do not have to. But on this blog I have often pointed out that the rich already pay less in taxes than the rest of us as a percentage of income. Even worse yet, today I read an excellent but upsetting article in the Hartford Current by Jon Green about how big corporations in this state use tax loopholes and avoidance schemes to swindle millions of dollars from the state and thus make the struggling working people and the poor to pick up the tab.
For instance, he explains how AT&T pays itself to use its own logo to avoid paying taxes. Jon Green writes, “Over a period of 2.5 years, AT&T shifted about $145 million in Connecticut earnings to a subsidiary in Nevada, ostensibly paying licensing fees for the right to use the company’s own name and logo. Nevada has no corporate income tax, so the shifted earnings went untaxed and Connecticut lost out. If it sounds fishy, that’s because it is. AT&T is not alone. Many large corporations use sham transactions designed to move profits generated in Connecticut to a different state where they won’t be taxed.”
EndWaterPoverty.org provides the following facts and statistics about water poverty:
- 884 million people don’t have clean water and 40% of the world’s population suffer without a safe toilet, that’s 2.5 billion people.
- This crisis kills many and dramatically affecting life in developing countries.
- Preventable illnesses spread by the crisis heavily overburden health systems. More than half of hospital beds in Sub Saharan Africa are occupied by patients suffering from sanitation and water related diseases.
- 4000 children die from these diseases every day – they’re the biggest killer of young children, killing over five times more than HIV/AIDS and twice as many as malaria.
- With children too ill to go to classes, education is suffering. Young girls simply don’t attend as there aren’t toilets at school, or they aren’t safe and private. Other girls spend hours of their day walking to fetch water or caring for ill siblings and have no time for an education at all.
Eradicating water poverty may not require years and years of charity. Simply building and repairing the infrastructure that cleans water and delivers it can eradicate water poverty in the entire communities in which the infrastructure is present.
I would ensure people, particularly children, get clean water by combining this effort with the other major aspects of poverty. I would do this by building high quality, comprehensive schools in poor communities. These schools could offer high quality education for children and adults, including skills training for jobs or for self-employment. These schools would offer nutritional food and clean water. I believe this would solve the three most devastating aspects of poverty which I believe are also the three main self-perpetuating causes of the poverty cycle: lack of education, lack of food and lack of clean water.
Posted by Scott Hughes
Categories: Clean Water
Some people brush off those advocating the end of poverty as unrealistic. They falsely label the goal to end world hunger or to end poverty as impossible. In reality, we can end world hunger. We can end poverty.
The world has way more than enough food to feed everyone. To illustrate, people in the United States alone waste 100 billion pounds of food, but only 4 billion is needed to feed all the hungry people in the world. World hunger is not caused by a lack of food. Similarly, poverty is not caused by a lack of resources. The world has much more than enough resources to provide food, clothing, shelter, clean water, health care and education to everyone in the world.
Poverty continues because of decisions made by the people on this planet. It has social and political causes and social and political solutions.
Some corrupt or uncaring people may not want to end poverty, but they can not deny that we can end it.
We can debate which methods are most effective or efficient at alleviating poverty and which ones are fairest. But what is not debatable is that we can end poverty.
As for what’s most effective, most efficient or fairest, there are thousands of posts on this website about that, as well as other websites, books and so forth. Basically, I think almost all of us can agree that unconditional handouts continuously given to the same people over and over are not efficient, effective or fair. In fact, unconditional handouts are often counterproductive by increasing dependency, wasting taxpayer money and subsidizing irresponsibility. In contrast, I think we can all agree that certain other methods are relatively effective and efficient. These methods include student loans, business loans, equal access to quality public education, providing education, job-training or jobs for the unemployed, and treating treatable physical or mental diseases that disable people from working and taking care of themselves. Additionally, I think we can all agree that putting conditions on charity or welfare makes it more efficient and effective. A poor person who wants and needs welfare from a government or private charity can be required as a condition of that help to do their part to help themselves. For example, they can be required to not do drugs or alcohol, to not spend money on luxuries, to go to medical treatment if they need it, to either go to school if they are unqualified or look for full-time work if they are qualified.
Those basic points aside, the discussion and debate about what methods are most effective, efficient and fair will need to be long and in-depth. But what is simple, clear and beyond debate is that we can end poverty.
Chris Sorbi recently contacted me about his Transcontinental Humanitarian Expedition. He’s going around the world on his motorcycle to raise awareness about world hunger. He travels around on his motorcycle while also posting updates about his expedition and about hunger in general.
I love the idea! First of all, I think motorcycles are cool. More importantly, it’s working. He gets press coverage, and he’s on the ground talking to people personally about these issues. I bet he has inspired lots of people to donate and get more involved.
I have read through quite a bit of his website and subscribed to his feed. His passionate shows in his writing.
I really like that Chris understands and stresses that the problem stems from social and political issues not a lack of food or global wealth. For instance, on his mission page he wrote, “Although our planet produces twice the amount of food needed to feed its population, we still have a crisis in every developing, and under-developed country.”
On his most recent post, he made a great point by showing how little attention the world’s biggest killer, world hunger, gets compared to other problems that kill significantly less people:
Sadly, I think it will be a long time before politicians finish spending their time doing favors for special interests instead of actually helping fix the fixable problem of world hunger, the world’s number 1 killer.
Luckily we have folks like Chris.
Posted by Scott Hughes
Categories: Ways To Help
Lowering the cost of health care would make it much easier for people to afford the cost of living, considering that the cost of health care costs make up a big portion of the cost of living. Lower health care costs would make it easier for poor people to escape and avoid poverty and easier for anti-poverty programs to help people escape and avoid poverty.
Earlier today, I published an article with the top ideas I support for reducing health care costs. Here they are:
- Tax Unhealthy Behaviors and Promote Healthy Habits
- Lower Insurance Company Profits
- Base Insurance Premiums on Habits
- Health Care Pooling
- Lower Health Care Fraud
Please read the whole article because it greatly elaborates on those ideas and provides links to the forum threads in which you can discuss the ideas.