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.
I was recently contacted by a person named Abby from the World Food Programme, which is the food aid branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organization.
Abby informed me that this year the number of chronically hungry people will reach 1 billion and at the same time the number of internet users will also reach 1 billion. The first fact of course saddens me. But the second fact brings up hope of a way to organize folks, raise awareness and take action to fight world hunger and poverty. To that end, WFP has created a web-page about using the power of the internet and online social networking in fighting world hunger: http://wfp.org/1billion
She also shared with me this clever video about their project:
You can post your comments on that video in this thread at our forums. You can also use our forums to post other videos about world hunger and poverty.
Posted by Scott Hughes
Categories: Ways To Help
By definition, a person is poor who does not have access to basic necessities, which in capitalist societies usually means they cannot afford these basic necessities.
I believe these basic necessities include sufficient food, clothes, shelter, health care, retirement, unemployment insurance, and disability insurance. The sum of the cost of those basic necessities is the cost of living. If a person or family’s income (after deducting job-related costs such as education, uniforms and transportation) is less than the cost of living, then that person or family is poor.
Unfortunately, the poverty line in places like the United States is set too low. For instance, the poverty line in the United States for a family of four is about $22,000 per year. Many people have incomes higher than that but cannot afford the true cost of living which is the cost of all of those basic necessities. (If you think you can accurately estimate how much the true cost of living in the US is, please do so in this thread.)
On the other side of the coin, many people who receive assistance from charities or government programs may buy or own luxuries, which are goods and services beyond those basic necessities. They may not truly be poor, but qualify as poor under the government’s flawed way of measuring poverty, and take advantage of the system. Or they may be people who are poor but still choose to stupidly use their funds to buy luxuries instead of the basic necessities. In both cases, this misuse of of assistance hurts anti-poverty campaigns.
Simply put, if funding from anti-poverty charities or anti-poverty government programs is being used to fund the purchase of luxuries rather than basic necessities, it is being misused. If it is being used to let a person enjoy luxuries rather than help the person avoid or escape poverty, then it is being misused. This is a terrible fraud against the charitable people or taxpayers who provide the funding, and it is a terrible disservice to the truly poor people who are being denied the helping hand that is meant to help them get what they need.
So it is very important to understand the difference between basic necessities and luxuries. To further make the distinction, I will provide a list of luxuries:
- cable television
- candy, soda and other foods with no nutritional value
- recreational drugs
- video games and video game systems
- any cellphone besides perhaps the cheapest model
- air conditioning (except where heat poses a health risk)
- high-speed internet
- automobile (when more affordable public transportation is available, or when a more stylish, more expensive automobile is purchased instead of an equally effective but less expensive alternative)
- cosmetic surgery
- fancy, expensive clothes (as opposed to basic clothes)
- music CDs and CD players (for entertainment purposes)
- DVDs (for entertainment purposes)
- dining out
If anyone receiving help from anti-poverty charities or anti-poverty programs buys luxuries such as those, then that program is being misused, and it needs to be reformed. If they want to be effective instead of having their funds misused, anti-poverty charities and anti-poverty government programs need to make sure their clients do not have any luxuries such as those listed above because that means funding is being wasted.
You can discuss the above post in this thread at the Philosophy Forums.
Posted by Scott Hughes
Categories: Aid Reform
Most of us know that numerous commendable charities exist that work to save the lives of starving children who they can feed for pennies a day. Other organizations, especially those addressing poverty in less utterly destitute places, focus more on investing in long-term solutions like changing society, turning around economies and uplifting entire communities. The long-term investments require more upfront, but if successful they will save more in the long run, just like the cost of teaching a man to fish today will cost less than just continuing to donate fish to him. Regardless, the fact is at the least we can save children’s lives for pocket change a day if not do more with it to end poverty.
However, based on my experience growing up in the United States, it seems to me the typical person in the first-world does not donate much to these charities that can save starving kids for pennies a day, nor to the ones that work to find long-term solutions. Instead, we needlessly hoard luxurious cars, expensive fashionable clothes, and bigger screen televisions, which not only puts us into a self-destructive debt, but leaves the question: How many starving children could have been fed with the extra money spent on luxuries?
But I do not think the typical person is so callous, so uncaring, so sociopathic that they would really prefer to wear a prettier shirt and let a child die than feel the joy of saving a child. So why do we do it? Let me try to guess what I think are the main reasons.
Commercialism – I think commercialism and excessive consumerism are perhaps the main reason we fail to provide more help to the needy. Unfortunately, businesspeople and corporations can get lots of money by convincing us to foolishly spend our hard-earned money on needless luxuries or other junk that we often cannot even afford. We are bombarded by billboards, TV ads, magazine ads, newspaper ads, junk mail, spam email, sales calls, and other advertisements. We put ourselves into debt for junk we do not need. People who earn enough income to not only live comfortably themselves but also help others end up in debt, unable to help others and in need of financial help themselves! We spend more but end up less happy and less secure. This is not a selfish choice, a callous choice or a sociopathic choice; this is a stupid, self-destructive choice. We cannot only blame the advertisers and businesspeople for the stupid, self-destructive choices inspired by commercialism anymore than the drug user could only blame the drug pusher. We also have to blame ourselves for our own self-destructive choices. We need to stop it.
Denial – I think denial is a common reaction to an overwhelming problem. This is especially true of problems that only bother us emotionally from our acknowledgment of them. Some kid we never met starving to death or suffering hundreds of miles away or even on the other side of the earth does not have any effect on us if we do not know about it. But because we are not sociopaths, we sympathize with them. Their pain hurts us. However, we choose to ignore it, to suppress our knowledge of it like a child suppresses memory of traumatic events. We keep it out of our mind to avoid being overwhelmed by the painful feelings of such a massive, overwhelming problem that calls for such overwhelming action to fix it. This is common, but I don’t think it is healthy. If we can be brave enough and honest enough to truly acknowledge a major problem like this and admit how incredibly terrible it makes us feel, then we can start making choices based more on reality and doing our part to work to fix it. And I think facing life’s obstacles and horrors like that will make us stronger and happier.
We don’t want to give it all up – Most of us would otherwise be willing to give up a portion of our luxuries or time to save lives. But that creates a slippery slope. If we admit to ourselves that it makes sense to buy a not-quite-as-luxurious car and fight poverty instead, then it blatantly follows that it would make just as much sense to buy an even less luxurious car and fight poverty that much more. I think it would be too blatantly inconsistent to give up a little bit, but at the time we fail to get ourselves to give it all up. Is it any surprise we choose to ignore poverty almost completely rather than take a so-called ‘vow of poverty’ and live with no luxuries? For some of us, the only solution may be a very drastic change to our excessively materialistic lifestyle. But also we have to remember that we do not just have to send all our extra money to another continent. We could invest it into our own children’s education or into starting our own local nonprofit. We could just work less and spend more time with our families or volunteering with friends. I think that would help end poverty and make us happier.
What do you think? We’re not sociopaths, so why do we behave like sociopaths when it comes to poverty? When it costs less than a buck a day to save the lives of children, why don’t we? Please post your comments about this blog post and discuss inaction on poverty in this thread at the Philosophy Forums.
I found some cool t-shirts made by a company called Junk Food about poverty. All these shirts say “end poverty” on them. I think this is a great way to raise awareness about poverty. Check them out:
The first is a lady’s medium. The second is a man’s extra large. The third is available in all men’s sizes.
If you know of any other online retailers selling poverty-themed shirts, please tell us about them by making a post about them in our forums.
Posted by Scott Hughes
Categories: Ways To Help
In this post I will write my answer to the question we used for a contest we recently held, “If you were given $10,000,000 and all the money must be spent to reduce poverty and hunger, how would you spend the money?”
I think we all agree that charitable handouts of food, water and shelter would not effectively reduce world hunger and poverty alone. As I wrote in a post I made in August 2006, entitled The Method To End Hunger, “if a hungry child fails to eat today, that hungry child dies tonight. However, if the hungry child eats today, then we still have a hungry child tomorrow. We cannot end hunger without food, but food alone won’t solve the problem. Simply giving food to the hungry to solve hunger is like shoveling water out of a sinking ship.”
On the other hand, neither $10 million nor any amount of money one person could reasonably have would be enough to fix the political unfairness and non-meritocracy and the destitute economies that make it so even skilled, strong people willing to work hard cannot escape poverty. In regards to unfair non-meritocracy, even the smartest, strongest hardest-working slave can still live in poverty while his lazy master lives in wealth off the slave’s labor. In regards to destitute economies, what use is a skill that might earn great wealth in a non-poor, fair economy in an economy where resources are so scarce that a new Mercedes-Benz might sell for the prize of a few apples?
So I would spend the money on helping individuals directly, rather than on trying to fix the broken economies and political corruption. Besides, when we help enough individual people directly and thus empower those people, empowered people will be able to work together to fix their political and economic environment.
I would invest the money to create an organization that can continue to grow on its own without the need for any more donations of $10 million.
This organization would focus on providing a lot of help to each person it helps, rather than providing a little help to a lot of people. As mentioned before, we cannot end poverty by only providing the bare essentials to a lot of people through handouts. We would only be temporarily relieving the symptoms of poverty until we run out of money. So instead of just giving people food, clothes or temporary shelter, the organization would find a way to help each client become self-sufficient and thus permanently escape poverty.
Namely, the organization would help people permanently escape poverty by not only providing them with food, clothes and other necessities, but more importantly by providing the following:
1. The organization would get the poor people it helps out of ghettos and bad neighborhoods ridden with crime, violence, drugs and so forth. They would be brought to affordable housing in better neighborhoods. The organization may have to temporarily help these people pay for these new homes.
2. The organization would make sure each person it helps is mentally fit, and make sure they get treatment for mental health problems and addictions if the people have them.
3. In addition to the shelter already mentioned, the organization would make sure each person it helps has food, clothes and health care. Even though we already agreed we do not merely want to provide only free handouts of basic necessities, we must at least loan the funds to get those basic necessities while we find and implement long-term solutions. We cannot expect a person to work on the fundamental causes of their poverty if they have to worry about where they will get their next meal. A hungry schoolkid cannot get the education he needs if he is on the brink of starving to death in the classroom.
4. Each person’s specific situation and needs would be evaluated to determine whether the person needs education and skills-training, needs a business loan, or just needs a better job or business. And then those services would be provided. When completed, the person would have a job or own their own business with which they make enough money after deducting job costs to repay their loans and afford the cost of living. The cost of living must include the following costs (insofar as they are not provided by the government): food, clothes, shelter (in a safe neighborhood), education, unemployment insurance, and retirement.
Of course, this help would only be provided to the people if they are also helping themselves. For example, the organization would not spend its resources providing food and shelter to someone who could escape poverty by going back to school but who refuses to go to school even with the help. We are fighting poverty and world hunger, not laziness and anorexia.
At least upfront, providing those resources to a person or family would require a large investment. But it would be ensured that the people actually escape poverty permanently and become self-sufficient. Then ideally the people could pay the organization back, perhaps even with a little extra. Then the organization could not only continue doing the same work with other people, but hopefully also grow and help even more people at once.
What do you think? Comment on my idea and post your own idea of how to spend $10 million to reduce world hunger and poverty.