A recent Huffington Post article reports that Low-Wage Workers Are Robbed More Than Banks, Gas Stations And Convenience Stores Combined. Studies reveal that most employees have some of their pay illegally withheld. Three times more money is lost due to wage theft than gas-station and convenience-store robberies. About a couple hundred million dollars of wage theft is caught per year, and much more presumably goes uncaught.

I think that is all very interesting. However, I think it misses the root issue. In a world where an entire class of people have been turned into wage slaves through more fundamental oppression like unequal ownership/access to natural resources, the violent theft has already occurred and the victims will unfairly suffer in, near or under the threat of poverty regardless of minimum wage or overtime laws. I think that’s like bickering over how many band-aids to give a stabbing victim.

What do you think?

 | Posted by | Categories: American Poverty |

Unhappy and Unsatisfied

17 October 2013

It’s been a long time since I posted regularly on this website. So I want to come back to it by telling you a little bit about how I feel

I am sad, and I don’t deserve to be so sad. I am lonely and scared, and I don’t deserve to be so lonely and scared. I’m just unhappy, and I don’t think I deserve it.

I thought I was happy for a little while. But somewhere along the way I lost that happiness that I had. I don’t know how. I suppose it was probably me. When we finally get what we think we want, do we take it for granted and loosen our grip and watch it slip away? Or in some perhaps subconscious flight do we chase happiness away to get back to the familiar grounds of stable despair that we carry from childhood? I don’t know. A lot goes on beneath the empty smile.

I don’t think I will ever be happy. I feel like I deserve to be happy, but I guess I just will never get what I deserve. I sort of want to give up on getting what I deserve I suppose. But in that emptiness I realize I can try to make other people happy. I don’t think making some other happy will make me fundamentally happy or satisfy me. I still want to do it though.

Even if I’m not happy with the plate of food in front of me, I can feed someone who is hungry. Even if my clothes don’t make me happy, I can clothe those that need clothes. A house of my own may not be the oasis of escape and happiness so often dreamed, but I can give shelter to the homeless.

I want to provide clean water and hospitals to those that are sick. I want food for the hungry, and homes for the homeless. I want jobs for the unemployed. I want freedom for those imprisoned. I want peace for the war-torn families shaking in fear that they may end up in tomorrow’s statistics of collateral damage.

I guess I’ve learned that I don’t need to be the strongest person to be able to help others or to try to make other people happy. I don’t need to be the richest or most powerful to spread happiness. I don’t need personal or financial success to treat the world in a loving way. Mainly I think I don’t need to be happy to give happiness to others.

Amassing ridiculous financial wealth or fame or popularity or career-success has never interested me much. I have always felt like an outsider among those possessing or headed for some kind of common version of success and only at home among the wayward or rebellious. My family and my children are the only things that have really kept me grounded. I love them; I do. Maybe I would be homeless or in prison myself if I didn’t need to feed my kids or want to spoil my wife in my middle-class way. But as hard as it is to say, even my family hasn’t made me happy or satisfied, instead perhaps conflicted but indeed grounded.

I suppose I am gracious that I seem unable to achieve some kind of complacent satisfaction or happiness. What kind of sick person could be happy or satisfied in this world?! This world in which children starve by the thousands each day? In which billions live in absurd poverty? In which homes sit vacant next to the homeless and food sits expiring on shelves down the street from the starving? In which millions of nonviolent people rot in prisons for twisted political and financial reasons, marijuana possessors for instance? In which millions if not billions want jobs but are denied them. In which millions or billions of people including children want education but are denied? In which oil wars and racism and misplaced hate and violent destructive profiteering plague all? A world in which there is more than enough food to feed the hungry and more than enough resources to provide food, clothes, clean water, shelter, healthcare and education to everyone, but in which so many people go without not because of their own laziness and not by their own choice but for no good reason and through no fault of their own.

And even the lucky minority who have those basic needs met are generally unhappy, more than me I imagine. That’s because they believe in a lie. One shirt might make a naked man happy, but 20 shirts doesn’t make a man 20 times as happy. A warm meal and a cottage might satisfy the homeless man, but a hundred mansions and a thousand pounds of food a day won’t make a single rich man a hundred times more happy. These people don’t get what they need either, but what they need you can’t buy and you can’t grow and you can’t build in a factory. They are broken disturbed people and they are chasing the wrong goals. Sure they make everything worse for the rest of us but even more they make things worse for themselves. Perhaps I feel more sorry for these folks than anyone. Do you feel more sorrow for the person who is stabbed by another or the person who slices their own wrist? I don’t know. Suicide rates literally increase in people who win the lottery. These kinds of people would drop bombs on innocent families of children to make a buck, but that same buck is killing them too. Those who promote greed and capital competition on utilitarian grounds are victims of circular reasoning: They measure the benefits of wealth-obsession by how wealthy it makes people. I could give a damn about an increase in the average income when children are starving. I don’t care about a percentage point change in GDP when whole families are homeless even on the streets of America. Screw the economy.

I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just an unhappy man rambling here. I know there is a lot of people who do feel like me. I know there is thousands if not over the lifetime of this website a million people who have read things I wrote here, many who agree and some who are inclined to reach out to me. I wish I could be more of a leader for you. I don’t have the confidence of a natural leader. I don’t have the decisiveness. Despite this kind of rambling, I’m not opinionated enough. I don’t have the perfect plan for you—or what I falsely believe to be the perfect plan. I just have some of these beliefs. I believe this world is crazy and I believe only a deeply disturbed person could feel sane living in this crazy world. I hope you believe as I do, but if you do I feel sorry for you because I know it’s not a recipe for happiness. It’s being dissatisfied with where you are but without a destination or even a map.

The thing I am most surest of though is that I do love you. I may have never met you and I may never meet you, but I love you. We’re in this together.

Let me know what you think.

 | Posted by | Categories: Articles by Scott Hughes |

Sandy Hook Elementary

9 January 2013

I think we often see the best of humanity in the face of the worst. Even within the terror and brutality of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, we find the sadly beautiful heroism such as that of Teacher Victoria Soto and Teacher’s Assistant Anne Marie Murphy who each died using their own bodies to try to shield the young children from gunshots.

In the broader sense, we find a similar bittersweet positive side to the statewide and national reaction. The horror at this unfathomable tragedy comes hand-in-hand with an amazing outpouring of sympathy and support and of well-deserved nationwide attention.

I post about this on this blog now because I cannot help but juxtapose this horrible tragedy that entailed the murder of 20 young, innocent children against that to which we have otherwise become accustomed: the over 18,000 children who die from world hunger every single day, and the 6,000 more that die from lack of clean water, and the thousands more from other preventable and treatable diseases. That’s over a 1,000 kids an hour; that’s nearly a Sandy Hook level devastation every minute.

Please in no way take this to mean that I think the 20 brtually slaughtered children and other victims — including not only the dead but their loved ones — of the Sandy Hook shooting deserve any less attention, help or sympathy than they are getting. They deserve all that they get, more maybe. My heart breaks for every single one of them.

I can understand in many ways how the tragedy that occurs minute-after-minute, day-after-day feels like too much to bear and its regularity lends a hand to complacency. I am guilty myself. I am guilty of being too complacent about the horrific tragedy of children dying by the thousands every hour of painful, sickening hunger — in a world that has more than enough food to feed everyone and more than enough resources to provide clean water, clothes, shelter, healthcare and education to everyone. I truly believe it is literally child murder — and one in which you and I are accomplices. To think of it must make one sick — sick of all humanity, sick even of oneself.

Again, as I already said, in the face of tragedy we find some of the best examples of humanity. By being out of the ordinary, I think the Sandy Hook tragedy breaks through that sickening complacency, shattering the selfish shell the hides our true, suppressed humanity made up of our deep philanthropy and willingness to be dissatisfied.

The victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy deserve this huge public outcry and the Sandy Hook victims and their families deserve all this wonderful support and demonstrations of philanthropy. Do not at all think I would diminish that in the slightest. I would not have our hearts break any less for any one of those poor children at Sandy Hook, the dead and the unimaginably scarred living. I just wish our hearts would break just as much every other day and every other month and every other year for every other child who tragically starves at our hands, by our decisions. We have been unusually woken up by this unfathomable, horrific, devastating nightmare at Sandy Hook; let’s stay awake this time.

 | Posted by | Categories: Child Poverty |

My younger brother has been training for months to run the Boston Marathon in April. In addition to running a sum of more than 900 miles in training, he has pledged to raise over $5,000 for Harvard’s Summer Urban Program. Neither of these are easy tasks.

What is the Summer Urban Program? “The Summer Urban Program is one very busy summer camp or, technically, 12 camps spread out through Boston and Cambridge. Together, these Harvard student-run programs teach some 800 school children a variety of subjects: science, English, history, music, and visual arts. Harvard students also take their campers on field trips to museums, parks, forests, and more in pursuit of building a truly rewarding and enriching summer experience. To tap into the youth perspective, local high school students help with curriculum development and direct activities for the campers. In addition to the 12 day camps, the Summer Urban Program also includes an evening English as a Second Language program.”

You can help my brother and support the Summer Urban Program by donating at: crowdrise.com/hcmc12/fundraiser/BrianHughes — Anyone who donates $26 dollars or more before the 20th of February has a chance to win an iPad2.

 | Posted by | Categories: Education |

What is Martin Luther King Day? If a child asked you this question, you might respond confidently, ‘This is a day we remember a great man, Martin Luther King.’ But is it? Sure the day is named after King, but do we remember him on it? Do we really remember him at all?

Considering the overwhelming santaclausification of King into some jolly impotent figure from long past history, I would say that the fearless radical anti-war activist criminal alive just a few decades ago who the FBI called “the most dangerous man in America” is hardly really remembered. Misremembered, yes. Truly remembered, no.

As Professor Cornel West said back in 2010, “We have to resist the ‘santaclausification’ of Martin Luther King. I don’t want to sanitize Martin Luther King. I don’t want to deodorize Dr. Martin Luther King. I don’t want to disinfect Dr. Martin Luther King, and we’re not gonna domesticate Dr. King!”

We misremember King as an unreal impotent, PC black Santa Claus politely asking if his friend Rosa can sit down when what makes him worth remembering is quite the opposite: He was a fiery, controversial, unresting activist arrested multiple times whose powerful, radical challenges to the war, economic inequality and of course segregation scared the living hell out of not only the average white conservative but the governmental powers that be. His commitment to non-violent methods and focus on love only made it harder for his enemies to undermine him and undermine his powerful criticisms in the eye of the public. While arguably most of his grand, vast, radical vision was shot to death with him in 1968, much of the hard progress that was made then and since then is thanks to him.

Although racial equality and non-racism in America is still far off, and although King’s unrelenting, vociferous attack on the Vietnam war may have garnered him the most dangerous enemies, this is after all a blog about poverty. The adamant, revolutionary critic of poverty demanding economic equality has been greatly forgotten not remembered. The man who was brought to tears upon seeing schoolchildren in Mississippi fed their meager lunch of a slice of apple and some crackers is generally not remembered.

“The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization,” Dr. King said. “The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.”

Of course he was more revolutionary than one just asking for more charity and handouts: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin at a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring,” Dr. King said.

Unfortunately, Martin Luther King’s “Poor People’s Campaign” was unsuccessful after his assassination. Globally, 18,000 children die every single day from world hunger. In the United States, millions suffer in poverty including millions of children as well as millions of working poor. Like his dreams of a colorblind society and an end to American militarism, Dr. King’s dream of abolishing poverty has also gone unfulfilled and its creator misremembered.

 | Posted by | Categories: Politics and Commentary |

I have already made many posts about taxes on this blog. The most stunning point to me in those posts is that the rich pay less taxes than the working class in terms of percentage of income–at least in the USA.

I didn’t want to make yet another post about taxes on a blog that is supposed to be about poverty, but I read an article this morning that got my blood boiling. In part, the Buffalo News Editorial says:

Congressional Republicans, who seem to have sworn some kind of blood oath to the preposterously unfair Bush tax cuts–regardless of the damage they do to the economy–now want to eliminate the reduction of the payroll tax they helped to enact last year. The reduction in payroll taxes, while it puts additional stress on Social Security, which it funds, is of greatest benefit to the middle class and working poor.

That’s because it’s a “regressive” tax, taking the same percentage of everyone’s pay, regardless of income level. The amount of income subject to the tax is also capped, meaning a portion of the income of higher earners—sometimes a very large portion—goes untaxed.

In other words, these politicians want to keep the regressive tax system we already have but also make it even more regressive! This is done by simultaneously lowering taxes disproportionately for the rich while increasing government spending and disproportionately increasing taxes on the working poor and middle class.

I understand the psychological complications of a two-party pseudo-democratic system that enable politicians from both parties to get away with a lot of selling out the many to the wealthy special interest few, but I am still surprised these politicians who openly try to make a regressive tax system even more regressive are not overtaken and tarred and feathered or some such by a stampede of angry masses fighting not only for what they think is fair but for what is clearly in their own self-interest. Maybe what gets my blood boiling with this issue is not so much the politicians who I personally have been long convinced are all—that includes both parties—special interest bought self serving liars. Rather what really gets my blood boiling about this kind of issue may be that the masses of people who have the real power in terms both of sheer numbers and productive ability just let themselves get so blatantly exploited.

What do you think? Please comment on this post, comment on any other posts about taxation or discuss the relationship between poverty and taxation in this thread about taxation and poverty in the forums.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Politics and Commentary |
Children suffering from Poverty