An ongoing study conducted in Stockton, California, examines how the lives of low-income Americans can improve if they are simply given money—a modest, but reliable source of income with no strings attached. The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) randomly chose 125 participants from poverty-stricken residential areas and gave them $500 per month to simply use for whatever they wanted over the last two years. A majority of the participants were women (69 percent) and people of color (53 percent). Preliminary results from the first year are tantalizing for anyone interested in solutions to address rising inequality in the United States, especially as they manifest along racial and gender lines. Within the first year, the study’s participants obtained jobs at twice the rate of the control group. At the beginning of the study, 28 percent of the participants had full-time employment, and after the first year, that number rose to 40 percent.
But read to see what happened laterNew Study in One of the ‘Most Miserable’ US Cities Shows the Amazing Effects of a Guaranteed Income | The Smirking Chimp
It’s amazing just how the wealthy can argue about poverty wow $1.60 a day to $7 in 8 years is this really the destruction of poverty? Who is taking part in this conversation? They ought to see what Australia has acheived over the past 200 years to improve the lives of the first Australians who colonisers said said weren’t here until Mabo This is the reverse of the Monty Python skit on who was brought up the poorest.(ODT)
But one thing seems clear — it was decolonisation that ultimately made it possible for poor countries to start catching up. Free from the crushing burden of producing resources and crops for their colonial masters, many of these countries were able to pursue their own destinies and to experiment with economic policies until they found a mix that worked. The triumph of decolonisation is a story that even Hickel should be able to feel happy about.
A U.N.-supported human rights expert has blasted the yawning gap between rich and poor in the United States, insisting in a new report that the world’s richest country “is now moving full steam ahead to make itself even more unequal.”
The United Nations’ human rights office said Monday that Philip Alston, an independent expert commissioned to examine “extreme” poverty, prepared a report on the U.S. that faults “successive administrations” in Washington for failing to uphold treaty commitments to economic and social rights.
The Australian-born New York University law professor specifically criticized the $1.5 trillion worth of income tax cuts that President Donald Trump has trumpeted as a key accomplishment of his administration, saying the plan approved in December “benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality.”
NEWARK, N.J.—This is the story of Emmanuel Mervilus, who got locked up for a crime he did not commit, whose life was derailed and nearly destroyed by the experience and who will graduate this spring from Rutgers University. It is a story of being a poor black man in America, with the exception being that most poor black men never get a second chance.
The government’s proposed welfare reforms will push already vulnerable people further into poverty and increase stigma around addiction
“We often think it is structure or circumstance that constrains our choices, but it’s the behavior of others that alters theirs.”
It sounds like a scene ripped out of a Charles Dickens novel; a homeless man standing in court charged over a few silver coins.
From an “often ruthless” Honduran oligarch to a pair of Indian billionaires who ran a company accused of falsifying drug data.
‘Maybe the reason we are punishing the homeless for begging us to help isn’t because we object to taking some coins out of our pocket. Maybe our real objection is the guilt we are forced to carry away with us when their poverty is rubbed in our face.’
A new report to be released on Tuesday urges a radical rethink of the Victorian public transport system for young people.
ANALYSIS: Unemployed and underemployed Australians can be issued with on-the-spot fines by privately owned job agencies under a tough new Government proposal, writes Owen Bennett. Later this month the Turnbull Government will be asking the Senate to support one of the most devastating attacks launched against poor and vulnerable Australians in recent memory. The BillMore
Not only is it possible for wealth and poverty to co-exist, it’s crucial to a sense of diversity, and it leads to better outcomes for all
In the first of a series of dispatches from the US’s poorest communities, we visit Beattyville, Kentucky, blighted by a lack of jobs and addiction to ‘hillbilly heroin’
A report by St Vincent de Paul calling on the Federal Government to do more to tackle poverty highlights the day-to-day struggles faced by many Australians.
Fox News is outraged that President Obama called out the network’s horrible record on covering poverty, insisting they are simply an “honest messenger.” Media Matters looks back on the worst of Fox’s attacks on low-income Americans.
President Obama: Fox News’ Coverage Of Poverty Suggests The Poor “Don’t Want To Work, Are Lazy.” President Obama called out Fox News for their slanted coverage of poverty while speaking at the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty at Georgetown University on May 12:
THE PRESIDENT: And over the last 40 years, sadly, I think there’s been an effort to either make folks mad at folks at the top, or to be mad at folks at the bottom. And I think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leaches, don’t want to work, are lazy, are undeserving, got traction.
And, look, it’s still being propagated. I mean, I have to say that if you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu — they will find folks who make me mad. I don’t know where they find them. (Laughter.) They’re like, I don’t want to work, I just want a free Obama phone — (laughter) — or whatever. And that becomes an entire narrative — right? — that gets worked up. And very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress — which is much more typical — who’s raising a couple of kids and is doing everything right but still can’t pay the bills. [Remarks by the President in Conversation on Poverty at Georgetown University, 5/12/15]
Fox News Feigns Disbelief Over Criticism Of Their Poverty Coverage
Fox Hosts: Our Coverage Is “Honest,” And Those Who Don’t Wish To Be Poor Should Get A Job. On May 13 Fox & Friends hosts and Fox Business host Stuart Varney discussed their confusion over why Obama criticized the network for slanted coverage of those in poverty. Varney claimed Fox News was simply “an honest messenger.” Co-host Steve Doocy agreed, lamenting that if those in poverty “don’t want to be poor,” they should just get a job. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/13/15]
Fox Correspondent: Obama Is “Insulting The Intelligence Of The American People” By Criticizing Fox. During the May 12 edition of The Kelly File, Fox’s chief Washington correspondent James Rosen claimed that Obama was “insulting the intelligence of the American people” by criticizing the network in his speech.. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 5/12/15]
Fox Contributor: Obama Has “A Distorted View Of Fox.” On Special Report, Fox contributor Stephen Hayes complained that Obama’s comments on the network’s coverage of poverty showed he has “a distorted view of Fox [News].” [Fox News, Special Report, 5/12/15]
Fox’s Coverage Of Poverty Persistently Smears The Poor As Lazy, Entitled, And In Need Of More Stigma
Fox Repeatedly Hyped “Obama Phones” As Poor People’s Incentive To Vote For Obama. Prior to President Obamas’s 2012 re-election, Fox News repeatedly hyped a video of “an Obama supporter touting her ‘Obama phone'” to disparage recipients of federal programs. Frequent Fox guest and then-National Review writer Mark Steyn claimed on Fox & Friends that “the ‘Takers’ were able to out-vote the ‘Makers'” and that the American Dream was being thwarted by Democrats, who “bribe people with the Obama phones.” Steyn was repeating claims made by Fox’s Sean Hannity on his radio program, where Hannity suggested voters supported Obama in order to receive an “Obama phone.” Yet “Obama phones” never existed — the federal program offering subsidized phone service has existed since 1996 and was expanded to include cell phones under President George W. Bush. [FoxNews.com, 9/29/12] [Fox News, Fox & Friends,11/8/12] [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 10/2/12]
Fox‘s Poster-Boy For Food Stamp Recipients Is A “Blissfully Jobless California Surfer.” Fox’s 2013 special “The Great Food Stamp Binge” championed the so-called “blissfully jobless California Surfer,” Jason Greenslate, who misused the program, as the face of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps). Although Greenslate bears no resemblance to the overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients, many of whom are elderly, children, disabled, or rely on the program for a short time while looking for work, the network nevertheless shamefully featured him in an attempt to mischaracterize beneficiaries as freeloaders. [Media Matters, 8/9/13]
Andrea Tantaros: I’d “Look Fabulous” If I Lived On Food Stamps. In November 2012, on the eve of Thanksgiving, Fox News host Andrea Tantaros dismissed the plight of hungry Americans and claimed that she would “look fabulous” if she were forced to try to subsist on $133 for food per month for an extended period of time, the amount that SNAP participants in New Jersey receive. [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 11/21/12]
Stuart Varney On The Poor: “Many Of Them Have Things — What They Lack Is The Richness Of Spirit.” In August 2011, Fox Business host Varney defended himself from criticism by The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart by claiming he was simply “telling the truth about poor people,” before asserting that for the poor, “many of them have things — what they lack is the richness of spirit.” [Fox Business, Varney & Co. at Night, 8/25/11]
Varney: “The Rich Suffered More Than You.” During a February segment on America’s Newsroom, Varney tried to spin a report finding that income inequality had not actually risen since the recession, due in part to income losses incurred by the wealthiest one percent during the financial crisis. Despite historically troubling levels of income inequality, Varney nevertheless still concluded that that “the rich suffered more than you.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 2/17/15]
Charles Payne: There’s Not Enough “Stigma” Directed At Food Stamp Recipients. In March 2013 on America’s Newsroom, Fox Business host Charles Payne alleged that federal benefit programs trap people in poverty and complained that there wasn’t enough “stigma” directed at poor Americans for using food assistance programs:
PAYNE: I know there’s a big thing trying to de-stigmatize food stamps, but the good part about the stigma is it actually does serve as an impetus to get people off of it. I’ll be quite honest with you. When I was growing up there was a point when we had food stamps and people in our building did, but if I was in the store buying something and my friend who lived upstairs one flight from me came in, there’s no way in the world I would let him see me using food stamps. They’re trying to take that stigma away. They’re telling more people they should use it. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 3/28/13]
Bill O’Reilly: “How Can You Be So Poor And Have All This Stuff?” In July 2011, O’Reilly Factor host Bill O’Reilly and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs cited a misleading report from the Heritage Foundation about the ownership of certain kitchen appliances by the poor in order to question the severity of poverty in the United States. Pointing the report, O’Reilly asked, “How can you be so poor and have all this stuff?” To which Dobbs responded “Amen, brother.” [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 7/20/11]
Fox Wondered If Children Should Work For Free School Meals. In April 2013, Fox News asked viewers if school children should be forced to work in exchange for free school meals, after a Republican lawmaker in West Virginia proposed such a requirement for a new law intended to combat child hunger. [Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 4/25/13]
Fox Contributor Lamented That “The Sense Of Shame Is Gone” From People Using “Entitlements.” During a May 2012 appearance on Fox & Friends, network contributor and New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin lamented that “the sense of shame is gone” from enrolling in government anti-poverty programs, which has helped lead to an “explosion of entitlements”:
GOODWIN: Well, it’s interesting. The thing I write about in here is the idea that shame used to be part of this. In other words, people didn’t want to accept a handout because they were ashamed to do it. There was a kind of social contract that said you don’t do it. You’re independent, you’re reliant. That was part of the American founding virtue, as Charles Murray calls them.
And yet now we look at them, we see this explosion of entitlements. The sense of shame is gone. So I focus this week on food stamps, which I think is a real cultural issue, because it’s now 47 million people in the country are on food stamps. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/21/12]
Steve Doocy: Are Low-Income, Disabled People Just “Moochers?“ Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy questioned why the number of low-income Americans receiving federal disability benefits had increased since 1960, asking, “Are more people getting sick and disabled, or are we just wasting more money?” Later, he asked, “Has the number of people on disability gone up because they are moochers, or because more people need help?” [Fox News, Fox and Friends, 12/6/12]
O’Reilly: Only An “Infinitesimal” Number Of People Would Be Impacted By A Minimum Wage Increase. On the January 21 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly and network contributor Eric Shawn undermined Obama’s recently proposed minimum wage initiative and diminished the number of Americans that would be impacted by the policy. O’Reilly asserted that only “a very low number” of people make “minimum wage anyway,” falsely claiming that the number of people who would be impacted by the change would be “infinitesimal” and saying Obama has been “misleading everybody” by insisting a raise would have a big effect. According to experts, such a move would give 27.8 million Americans a raise. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 1/21/15]
Payne: After Thanksgiving, People “Take Their Welfare Checks And Bum Rush” Wal-Mart. In October 2011, Charles Payne claimed one could understand why people were poor in America by going to Wal-Mart after Thanksgiving, and watching people on welfare benefits “bum rush” the store. [Fox News, Hannity, 10/3/11]
Fox Contributor Compares Public Pensions To “Ponzi Schemes,” Laments That More Stigma Isn’t Attached To Welfare. In August 2014, Fox contributor Charles Gasparino attacked government benefit programs, claiming that public pensions were in fact “Ponzi schemes” and lamenting that more “stigma” isn’t attached to receiving federal aid or “living in a housing project.” [Fox News, Happening Now, 8/21/14]
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Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released a study that found that most wealthy Americans believed “poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.”
This is an infuriatingly obtuse view of what it means to be poor in this country — the soul-rending omnipresence of worry and fear, of weariness and fatigue. This can be the view only of those who have not known — or have long forgotten — what poverty truly means.
“Easy” is a word not easily spoken among the poor. Things are hard — the times are hard, the work is hard, the way is hard. “Easy” is for uninformed explanations issued by the willfully callous and the haughtily blind.
Allow me to explain, as James Baldwin put it, a few illustrations of “how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”
First, many poor people work, but they just don’t make enough to move out of poverty — an estimated 11 million Americans fall into this category.
So, as the Pew report pointed out, “more than half of the least secure group reports receiving at least one type of means-tested government benefit.”
And yet, whatever the poor earn is likely to be more heavily taxed than the earnings of wealthier citizens, according to a new analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. As The New York Times put it last week:
“According to the study, in 2015 the poorest fifth of Americans will pay on average 10.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the middle fifth will pay 9.4 percent and the top 1 percent will average 5.4 percent.”
In addition, many low-income people are “unbanked” (not served by a financial institution), and thus nearly eaten alive by exorbitant fees. As the St. Louis Federal Reserve pointed out in 2010:
“Unbanked consumers spend approximately 2.5 to 3 percent of a government benefits check and between 4 percent and 5 percent of payroll check just to cash them. Additional dollars are spent to purchase money orders to pay routine monthly expenses. When you consider the cost for cashing a bi-weekly payroll check and buying about six money orders each month, a household with a net income of $20,000 may pay as much as $1,200 annually for alternative service fees — substantially more than the expense of a monthly checking account.”
Even when low-income people can become affiliated with a bank, those banks are increasingly making them pay “steep rates for loans and high fees on basic checking accounts,” as The Times’s DealBook blog put it last year.
And poor people can have a hard time getting credit. As The Washington Post put it, the excesses of the subprime boom have led conventional banks to stay away from the riskiest borrowers, leaving them “all but cut off from access to big loans, like mortgages.”
One way to move up the ladder and out of poverty is through higher education, but even that is not without disproportionate costs. As the Institute for College Access and Success noted in March:
“Graduates who received Pell Grants, most of whom had family incomes under $40,000, were much more likely to borrow and to borrow more. Among graduating seniors who ever received a Pell Grant, 88 percent had student loans in 2012, with an average of $31,200 per borrower. In contrast, 53 percent of those who never received a Pell Grant had debt, with an average of $26,450 per borrower.”
And often, work or school requires transportation, which can be another outrageous expense. According to the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights:
“Low- and moderate-income households spend 42 percent of their total annual income on transportation, including those who live in rural areas, as compared to middle-income households, who spend less than 22 percent of their annual income on transportation.”
And besides, having a car can make prime targets of the poor. One pernicious practice that the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. — and the protests that followed — resurfaced was the degree to which some local municipalities profit from police departments targeting poor communities, with a raft of stops, fines, summonses and arrests supported by police actions and complicit courts.
As NPR reported in August:
“In 2013, the municipal court in Ferguson — a city of 21,135 people — issued 32,975 arrest warrants for nonviolent offenses, mostly driving violations.”
The story continued:
“ArchCity Defenders, a St. Louis-area public defender group, says in its report that more than half the courts in St. Louis County engage in the ‘illegal and harmful practices’ of charging high court fines and fees on nonviolent offenses like traffic violations — and then arresting people when they don’t pay.”
The list of hardships could go on for several more columns, but you get the point: Being poor is anything but easy.
Congratulations on all your achievements. You have all played the game of capitalism like absolute champions, and you are, without doubt, superlative operatives of the capitalist system. Kudos to you.
Obviously it has taken a huge amount of vision, hard work, guts and determination to get you to where you are now, and I think every one agrees you should be duly compensated for all your (and your employees) efforts; and I am personally relieved to know that you have all been sufficiently remunerated so as to never want for anything ever again. Once again, kudos to you.
While I am absolutely dazzled by your stellar successes, there are a few things about the way you conduct your lives and businesses that I find quite baffling, and I was hoping you might be able to clear up my confusion.
Firstly, I want to share a little something with you that we in here 99% have known for quite some time…
YOU’VE WON ALREADY!
With the richest 85 people in the world now owning the same amount of wealth as the 3.5 billion who make up the poorer half of the world’s population, there can be no question, in the game of acquisition you are the undisputed winners. NO CONTEST!
So here’s what puzzles me… Do you not realise the game is over and that you have won? Because quite honestly the way you are carrying on, it’s like a boxer relentlessly pummelling an opponent that is passed out on the ropes, it’s just not sportsmanlike, and really, it’s not making you look good.
In spite of all your wealth and unmitigated successes you continue slash real wages, cut costs, off shore, out source, trim benefits, buy off politicians, lobby for favourable legislation, dodge taxes, and exploit loopholes with a staggering rapacity. In your relentless drive for profit you mercilessly exploit sub living wages, control the public discourse through your media domination, and poison and pollute our world with utter impunity.
So my question is this…. why are you continuing to play hard ball when you have so clearly already won? Surely at a certain point the figures displayed on your profit statements must start to seem fairly abstract? What on earth are you hoping to achieve? Do you really need a better quarterly result? What for? You already have everything that money could possibly buy you. And quite frankly if being stupefyingly wealthy hasn’t made you happy yet, it’s bordering on disillusion to think that a few more zeros on your balance sheet are going to do the trick.
And if you are truly happy with all you have achieved, then don’t you think it might be just the teensiest bit psychopathic to keep on punching when the fight is so clearly over?
While I personally find your unabated appetite for capital acquisition somewhat unfathomable, it obviously makes perfect sense to you, (either that or you have never actually sat down to analyse the broader costs and benefits of your chosen course).
Given the utter pain, despair and deprivation suffered by the worlds poor, (such as the average Bangladeshi garment worker who works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week in dangerous, overcrowded conditions for a paltry $38 a month), I am sure you must have some very good reasons for your steadfast persistence in squeezing those at the bottom ever harder. Although I struggle to understand what those reasons may be I have, in my speculations, come up with a few possibilities.
1. You are competing amongst and against yourselves.
I suspect there is a fair bit of this going on among you 1% ers’. It’s not enough that you have well and truly surpassed the 99%, (it would appear that that victory has long since lost it’s taste); now it’s just a competition between you 1% er’s to see who’s got the biggest bank account/company/summer house/yacht.
I find it difficult to attach any other motive to the recent attempt by Rupert Murdoch (one of your most famous poster boys) to acquire Time Warner. At 85 years of age, the builder and controller of the largest News Empire on the planet is still playing for more? Doesn’t he realise that to most people this just looks like the chest beating, ego pumping manoeuvre of a recently cuckolded old man trying desperately to prove that he’s still top dog? Kind of tragic really, and a little undignified.
The sad fact is this is not a game that can be won, no matter how much you’ve got you will always want more, it’s a bottomless bucket of desire.
So let me say it once again ; if you in the 1% can not be content with what you have already achieved, then trust me, one more victory is not going to help.
2. You are simply acting out of blind habit and you have never bothered to stop and question what you are actually doing?
I am willing to bet that this is bottom line for quite a number of you. You learnt the rules, and you’ve played the game so hard and so long that it’s the only game you now know. You live for the sport of it, the hunt, the chase, the endless craving for that next conquest; the ruthless reduction of wages, the corporate take over, the quarterly profit statement, the pumping up of your share price, the tucking of another politician snuggly into your pocket, this is your heroin.
You are, for want of a better word, addicted to the game. If this indeed is the case then let me remind you of something I am sure you already know; addiction is not a road to happiness! It is an itch you can never scratch in an endless cycle of craving and pain, and it effects every one around you (and not in good way).
3. You are completely ignorant about the suffering you are causing others?
This is a bit of a stretch, but I am prepared to concede that SOME OF YOU may have spent so little time out in the big, wide, underprivileged world, have spent your lives so steeped in privilege as to have no idea of the havoc you are wreaking, the pain you are causing, and the abject poverty you are creating.
That said it’s worth remembering that ignorance is no excuse, neither in the eyes of the law, or in the eyes of those whose necks you are so gleefully standing on.
4. You still feel genuinely insecure?
I realise that most people wouldn’t suspect it, but there is some research that suggests the richer you are the more insecure you feel, if this is true then you 1% er’s must be living in an absolute paranoid lather; worried that people don’t really care about you and are just drawn to your money, or maybe just fearful that you might loose your money. Clearly your answer to this is to get more money (so you will still have some left if and when you loose a wad) and surround yourselves with other hyper rich people, (who have enough money not to be eyeing off yours).
At the risk of repeating myself; if you in the 1% can not feel secure with what you have already have, then trust me, a bit more money is not going to help.
5. You simply don’t care about others?
I admit I find this highly unlikely. I am sure you love your family and friends, and would go to great lengths to protect them. What maybe the case however is that you do not experience yourselves as part of the broader human family; and thus those that are not known to you personally are too abstract to you to evoke your natural caring human instincts.
This disconnect is broadly supported by a media narrative that casts the “have nots” as either lacking in the smarts to get ahead, or as shiftless lazy leaners trying to gouge a free ride, which makes it much easier to see them as deserving of their wretched fate, (after all, they are not hard working, self made actualisers like you and your cohorts).
While I understand you may find this narrative very comforting, and a perfectly adequate justification for your modus operandi, that doesn’t make it true. Even here in the west there are plenty of people working 2-3 jobs, 80 hours or more just to subsist, so you could not call them lazy. And does a person possessed of an average or lower intelligence really deserve to be denied a decent life just because they were born sub-brilliant?
6. You have never read the history of the French Revolution?
Perhaps you are not aware that history is awash with stories where the peasants decide that quietly starving is not a viable option and have taken up arms against their wealthy oppressors. And as a general rule when they get their hands on them, they kill them!
Now I’m not agitating for that, I don’t want to see you, or anyone else killed; but it’s worth noting that when legislation is passed making it illegal to feed the homeless, when you cut off the water to supply to poorest 1/3 of a city, when you squeeze wages and benefits to the point where employees need to work 3 jobs, never get to see their children and can barely make rent. When you smash unions, or fail to pay your taxes so their is no money for social support…. you need to understand you are creating an environment you may not be able to control. Keep playing hard ball and eventually THE PITCH FORKS WILL COME!
7. You are genuinely unaware of your power to effect change?
With the stroke of a pen the Walton family could raise tens of millions out of abject poverty, and it wouldn’t make a whip of difference to them personally; they wouldn’t have to go without anything. NIKE could raise the wages of it’s manufacturing staff to a living standard, and all it would cost them would be one or two less basketball players in an ad.
How is it that you guys are not doing this? Don’t you get it? YOU HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE A BETTER WORLD for millions and millions of people.
I realise the system has it’s own momentum, and you are just going with the flow, but the system is causing insane amounts of grief and suffering for billions of people.
We have more than enough food to feed the planet, but people are starving; we have cities full of empty houses and streets full of homeless people; we have amazing medicines and people dying for lack of access; there are cities with water supplies denying clean water to citizens. Does this seem right to you?
What kind of life should a person working full time be able to afford? Should they be able to afford a house, food and water, healthcare and an education for their children? I really want to know your thoughts on this, because it looks to me like you think a living wage is way too high?
But seriously, would it kill you to pay living wages?
So I am asking you, the 1% er’s, what exactly is your end game? Pushing billions of people into crushing poverty so you can die with a bigger bank balance? Is that really what you want for your legacy? Does that make you happy? Because if not, then maybe it’s time you guys stirred things up a bit; raised some wages, paid some taxes perhaps, who knows, maybe working towards a better world for ALL of our human family will be the trick! It might seem like a crazy idea, but it’s worth a try.
What a week! First President Barack Obama announces a massive climate agreement with China designed to lower both countries’ carbon emissions while doubling down on clean energy development. Now this morning, the New York Times is reporting that the president will soon announce a $3 billion contribution to the Green Climate Fund, a UN-administered account that will help developing countries clean their energy sectors and adapt to the impacts of global warming.
A $3 billion pledge from the United States would double the size of the fund; the biggest donations up to this point were $1 billion each from France and Germany. More countries are expected to make commitments at a UN meeting in Berlin next week. The fund’s stated goal is to reach $15 billion before a key meeting next month in Lima, Peru.
Obama’s pledge “is a strong and important signal to developing countries that the US is serious ahead of climate negotiations in 2015,” said Alex Doukas, a sustainable finance analyst at the World Resources Institute.
From the Times:
It is not clear whether Mr. Obama’s $3 billion pledge will come from existing sources of funding, or whether he will have to ask Congress to appropriate the money. Since 2010, the Obama administration has spent about $2.5 billion to help poor countries adapt to climate change and develop new clean sources of energy, but Republicans are certain to target additional requests for money linked to climate change and foreign aid.
So there are still some details to work out. But like the US-China climate deal, the most immediate impact of this pledge announcement will be to encourage other countries to up the ante on their own commitments.
Public Health and poverty are bigger issues than Ebola. Had the outbreak occurred in a poor country like Cuba the world would not have thought twice about contagion.
The mural on the wall outside of Chandramani Jani’s home is more message than art. It depicts a sari-clad woman relieving herself behind a bush, looking worried as a man advances. A large thought bubble suggests the woman wishes for a toilet of her own, clean and complete with the privacy of a door.
To Jani, a 34-year-old sarpanch, or elected village head, in the hilly Koraput district of India’s Odisha state, the mural represents a personal mission. She boasts that ever since she had toilets built in her village of Chakarliguda last December, no one in her community defecates outside. A few steps behind every home in the village, well-maintained latrines stand amid kitchen gardens and chicken coops.
“Before we had toilets people used to search for a place to squat. Now it’s easy access,”she said. A few elderly women were hesitant to use the new toilets at first, “but now even they’ve gotten used to the comfort.”
Jani’s pride is not unfounded. The success in her village is rare despite India’s repeated attempts to stop open defecation, a serious risk to health and safety that is on newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda. More than 620 million people in India defecate outdoors — a much higher rate than in poorer countries like Bangladesh or those in sub-Saharan Africa. Exposure to fecal matter is a leading cause of diarrhea, which kills 600,000 people in the country each year, a third of them children. And as Gardiner Harris reported in July, open defecation and rapid population growth fuel bacterial growth that contributes to malnutrition and stunted growth in 65 million Indian children under the age of five.
The impact goes beyond health, as the mural on Jani’s wall displays. Women, who venture farther from their village than men or children to relieve themselves face additional threats to safety. The link between defecating outside and security was further emphasized by advocates like Wateraid after a fatal rape of two teenage girls in Uttar Pradesh who were walking to a field to relieve themselves earlier this year.
When the government started building toilets en masse in 1999, under an 18 billion rupee ($300 million) initiative to eradicate open defecation by 2019, authorities came up against a problem that has plagued developmental solutions from oral rehydration therapy to mosquito nets: people just weren’t using them. The Research Institute for Compassionate Economics’Sanitation Quality, Use, Access and Trends (SQUAT) survey, which interviewed 22,000 people in five Indian states on sanitation habits, found that 40 percent of households with a working latrine have at least one member who continues to defecate outdoors. That’s partly because, in rural India, defecating far away from the home is considered cleaner than using toilets, said Payal Hathi, one of the authors of the SQUAT survey,
“It’s not enough to build toilets, because even in households that have their own latrines, people do not use them,”said Arundati Muralidharan, a senior research fellow at the Public Health Foundation of India. “There are massive social, cultural norms and behavioral practices that we are looking to influence.”
Changing those norms will be a major challenge for Modi, who has pledged to end open defecation in the country by 2019. In October, he started a nationwide sanitation drive called Swachh Bharat, or Clean India Campaign, which promotes hygiene and sanitation. But any new initiative will have to avoid the fate of the thousands of government-built toilets that remain unused— one major reason a recent study in The Lancet, a British health journal, found that a toilet-building program in Odisha may have had little impact on health.
Jani made it her personal mission to make sure people received and used the new toilets in Chakarliguda, a poor tribal village with relative low literacy levels in southern Odisha. She understood the value long ago, when she built a latrine outside her hut, but the villagers only knew that their families were getting sick from unclean drinking water.
When the leader learned that the district administration would be providing toilets to select villages last May, she knew that she would have to sell the idea to her community first. Although Chakarliguda wasn’t initially picked for the sanitation campaign, Jani, who left school after seventh grade, fought with district officials, repeatedly visiting their offices and drummed up community support from her neighbors.
In July 2013, district sanitation officers worked with Jani and a few young community volunteers to start an intensive campaign called “triggering.”In order to educate and “trigger”community ownership of toilets, the team staged street plays and regular workshops that explained how open defecation was making children sick. (As with most villages in the Koraput region, diarrhea and malaria were the two biggest ailments in Chakarliguda.)
They also used waste mapping and calculations, two viscerally provocative methods that have proved effective in Bangladesh. Sanitation officials had villagers mark on a map where they defecated, and then demonstrated how excrement moved from the fields into their drinking water and food. They also calculated the total weight of human excrement, which for Chakarliguda — a tiny mountainside hamlet of less than 300 people — came out to 52 tons each year.
“We basically showed them how they were eating and drinking” their own waste ,said Kasi Prasad Nayak, who oversees water and sanitation in the Koraput district. “And that had a lot of motivational impact.”
Triggering is a component of the ongoing national toilet-building program, known as Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, or the Total Sanitation Campaign. But so far, the success of such programs — which are allocated 15 percent of the total campaign budget — has varied wildly. Unlike building toilets, triggering is an abstract effort that’s hard to oversee, and the money for it is often unspent. But, as the case of Chakarliguda shows, the right investment in local leadership goes a long way in changing a community’s attitude.
Here, Jani’s campaigning won over most of the village — important because the health risks of open defecation remain unless most of the community has switched to latrines. To persuade holdouts, the sarpanch used a more aggressive, less kosher, approach.
“I told my people that if they didn’t build toilets and start using them, they wouldn’t get their subsidized rice or pension from the government,”she recalled with a laugh. The villagers knew it was an empty threat — a sarpanch does not have the right to withhold welfare benefits — but it nudged them into compliance.
Every family was on board when the village received toilets last December. The government covered most of the cost and sent engineers to guide them, although households were required to build their own toilets and contribute 900 rupees ($15) toward construction. Free to customize, some families invested in tiles and water storage units, while others expanded theirs to include a bathing room.
Dena Kila, a local resident in the village, said her family bought extra cement to make a solid latrine, and was now installing a pipe for running water. Sitting at her clay stove, Kila said building toilets kept the village pathways cleaner, and that more people washed their hands with soap. And women felt safer.
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“I used to only go in the early morning and evening, when it was dark enough to not be visible,”she said. “I had to go in a group and worry about safety risks like wild animals.”
The project has changed daily habits for men, women and children in Chakarliguda, but has had much less impact in villages that didn’t use a similar community strategy.
In 2004, a large nonprofit organization called Gram Vikas built toilets in the hilltop village of Phulband, also in the Koraput district. But 10 years later, most of the structures serve as sheds for lumber and live chickens. Devendra, a 25-year-old laborer and social worker from the village, said Gram Vikas conducted community activities while introducing the toilets, but there was little follow-up, and villagers soon returned to their old habits.
“We need to understand what is driving people to defecate in the open even when they don’t have to,”Muralidharan said of similar failed attempts. “Behavioral intervention needs to go beyond telling people to use toilets to really address some of these underlying factors.”
For Jani, the follow-up was essential. Throughout the process she led a monitoring committee to check in with villagers and their facilities. And she now regularly checks the latrines to ensure that families are using and maintaining their toilets.
This active leadership makes all the difference, said Kuldip Gyaneswar, a fellow with the Ministry of Rural Development who works with the Koraput district administration. While thousands qualify for the Total Sanitation Campaign funding, many Indians slip through the cracks because panchayat leaders and citizens don’t know that they are eligible to benefit. Meanwhile, Jani has become an expert on sanitation in her village and was invited to Delhi to participate in a Unicef-led discussion about promoting sanitation.
You need someone in each village to anchor the program, Gyaneswar said. “Wherever there are strong leaders they are working well.”Toilets built by community demand, he said, were far more effective than supply-driven measures by the government.
But more diverse, large Indian communities may prove more difficult a challenge than Chakarliguda — said Muralidharan.
“How do you transpose that success to an urban slum where you have highly mixed communities?”she said. “What can be the binding force in a heterogeneous community for an issue that really affects everyone?”
As the Modi administration prepares to invest millions of dollars in building toilets, they will have to address the challenges that come with a country of one billion people. But examples of success are as close as Chakarliguda, or, on a larger scale, right next door in Bangladesh, which has all but eliminated open defecation.
Hathi, of the SQUAT Survey, said that during a recent trip to the country, she was struck by how freely people discussed sanitation, and by how common it was for people to use simple, low-cost latrines that are difficult to find in India. While most people in India could afford the simple latrines found in Bangladesh, they don’t build them because they don’t prioritize owning a toilet.
“Everyone in Bangladesh is working on it. Here we are struggling to have the same kind of dialogue on sanitation,”she said. “It needs to start with Modi and it needs to come down to the local level. We need cricket players, politicians, sarpanches, Bollywood people — everybody.”