Saturday, February 18, 2006

There's a Way.... Where's the Will?

"Where's the Love?" --Black-Eyed Peas

"Martin Luther King had a dream, Aaliyah had a dream, Left Eye had a dream" -- The Game

I received these statistics (posted below) on world poverty today. My last post was "The All-American Hate Crime," and they support the point in endless ways. If we want to end hate crimes, we should regularly study these statistics and think about what they mean.

Consider how easy it would be for America to take the lead in turning all of these statistics around. Also, consider how the statistics show that we run in the other direction. I don't "blame America first." I love America. I love America because it stands for a dream of equality and justice. But I also love it enough to want it to grow up and make me proud.

What's pretty plain no matter how you slice it (because all the real power in the world lies in the hands of a fraction of 1% of the population) is that there's 99 kids on the playground who don't know how to end the tyranny perpetuated on behalf of the 1. That's not a call for violent revolution; it's a call for us to simply step up and put the runt in his place. The technological revolution is already here, and so's the violence--it's in the statistics.

Some day, hopefully soon, we'll look back at this era and wonder what took us so long to wake up to our potential. Our music tells us the same thing over and over again--because without it, without some piece of the vision, we couldn't sing. As a great man once sang, "I'm not the only one."


Shocking summary of facts on world poverty--why do we tolerate this?

Poverty Facts and Stats - Global Issues Facts and StatsAuthor and Page informationSkip this section and go straight to the main contentby Anup Shah

This Page Last Updated Saturday, June 11, 2005

This page: print full details (expanded/alternative links, side notes, etc.) use the printer-friendly version: the following poverty statistics

Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day. source 1

The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the poorest 48 nations (i.e. a quarter of the world’s countries) is less than the wealth of the world’s three richest people combined. source 2

Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names. source 3

Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn't happen. 4

51 percent of the world’s 100 hundred wealthiest bodies are corporations. source 5

The wealthiest nation on Earth has the widest gap between rich and poor of any industrialized nation. source 6

The poorer the country, the more likely it is that debt repayments are being extracted directly from people who neither contracted the loans nor received any of the money. source 7

20% of the population in the developed nations, consume 86% of the world’s goods. source 8

The top fifth of the world’s people in the richest countries enjoy 82% of the expanding export trade and 68% of foreign direct investment — the bottom fifth, barely more than 1%. source 9

In 1960, the 20% of the world’s people in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the poorest 20% — in 1997, 74 times as much. source 10

An analysis of long-term trends shows the distance between the richest and poorest countries was about: 3 to 1 in 1820
11 to 1 in 1913
35 to 1 in 1950
44 to 1 in 1973
72 to 1 in 1992source 11

“The lives of 1.7 million children will be needlessly lost this year [2000] because world governments have failed to reduce poverty levels” source 12

The developing world now spends $13 on debt repayment for every $1 it receives in grants. source 13

A few hundred millionaires now own as much wealth as the world’s poorest 2.5 billion people. source 14

“The 48 poorest countries account for less than 0.4 per cent of global exports.” source 15

“The combined wealth of the world’s 200 richest people hit $1 trillion in 1999; the combined incomes of the 582 million people living in the 43 least developed countries is $146 billion.” source 16

“Of all human rights failures today, those in economic and social areas affect by far the larger number and are the most widespread across the world’s nations and large numbers of people.” source 17

“Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished, almost two-thirds of whom reside in Asia and the Pacific.” source 18

According to UNICEF, 30,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”That is about 210,000 children each week, or just under 11 million children under five years of age, each year. source 19

For economic growth and almost all of the other indicators, the last 20 years [of the current form of globalization, from 1980 - 2000] have shown a very clear decline in progress as compared with the previous two decades [1960 - 1980].

For each indicator, countries were divided into five roughly equal groups, according to what level the countries had achieved by the start of the period (1960 or 1980).

Among the findings:

Growth: The fall in economic growth rates was most pronounced and across the board for all groups or countries.

Life Expectancy: Progress in life expectancy was also reduced for 4 out of the 5 groups of countries, with the exception of the highest group (life expectancy 69-76 years).

Infant and Child Mortality: Progress in reducing infant mortality was also considerably slower during the period of globalization (1980-1998) than over the previous two decades.

Education and literacy: Progress in education also slowed during the period of globalization.source 20

“Today, across the world, 1.3 billion people live on less than one dollar a day; 3 billion live on under two dollars a day; 1.3 billion have no access to clean water; 3 billion have no access to sanitation; 2 billion have no access to electricity.” source 21

The richest 50 million people in Europe and North America have the same income as 2.7 billion poor people. “The slice of the cake taken by 1% is the same size as that handed to the poorest 57%.” source 22

The world’s 497 billionaires in 2001 registered a combined wealth of $1.54 trillion, well over the combined gross national products of all the nations of sub-Saharan Africa ($929.3 billion) or those of the oil-rich regions of the Middle East and North Africa ($1.34 trillion). It is also greater than the combined incomes of the poorest half of humanity. source 23

A mere 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of its water, and these 12 percent do not live in the Third World. source 24

Consider the global priorities in spending in 1998--

Global Priority $U.S. Billions

Basic education for everyone in the world 6

Cosmetics in the United States 8

Water and sanitation for everyone in the world 9

Ice cream in Europe 11

Reproductive health for all women in the world 12

Perfumes in Europe and the United States 12

Basic health and nutrition for everyone in the world 13

Pet foods in Europe and the United States 17

Business entertainment in Japan 35

Cigarettes in Europe 50

Alcoholic drinks in Europe 105

Narcotics drugs in the world 400

Military spending in the world 780 source 25

Number of children in the world 2.2 billion--

Number in poverty 1 billion (every second child)

Shelter, safe water and health--

For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are:

640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3)

400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5)

270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7)

Children out of education worldwide 121 million

Survival for children--

Worldwide,10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (same as children population in France, Germany, Greece and Italy)

1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation

Health of children--

Worldwide,2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized

15 million children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS (similar to the total children population in Germany or United Kingdom)source 26

The total wealth of the top 8.3 million people around the world “rose 8.2 percent to $30.8 trillion in 2004, giving them control of nearly a quarter of the world’s financial assets.”

In other words, about 0.13% of the world’s population controlled 25% of the world’s assets in 2004. source 27Notes and Sources1)

This figure is based on purchasing power parity (PPP), which basically suggests that prices of goods in countries tend to equate under floating exchange rates and therefore people would be able to purchase the same quantity of goods in any country for a given sum of money. That is, the notion that a dollar should buy the same amount in all countries. Hence if a poor person in a poor country living on a dollar a day moved to the U.S. with no changes to their income, they would still be living on a dollar a day.

In addition, see the following:Ignacio Ramonet, The politics of hunger, Le Monde diplomatique, November 1998The 9th International Anti-Corruption Conference Plenary Address by James Wolfensohn, August 2000March recognizes the billions living on less than two dollars a day,, October 24, 2000

The poverty lines: population living with less than 2 dollars and less than 1 dollar a day from provides two maps showing the concentration of people living on less than 1 and 2 dollars per day, around the world.

Also note that these numbers, from the World Bank, have been questioned and criticized. The World Bank has been criticized for almost arbitrarily coming up with a definition of a poverty line to mean one dollar per day (of which they say there are about 1.3 billion people). That figure and how it has been chosen has been much criticized by many, as shown by University of Ottawa Professor, Michel Chossudovsky in the previous link.

In addition, in the United States for example, the poverty threshold for a family of four has been estimated to be around eleven dollars per day. The one dollar a day definition then misses out much of humanity to understand the impacts. Even the two dollars per day that I have pointed out here, while affecting half of humanity, also misses out the numbers under three or four, or eleven dollars per day. These statistics are harder to find, and as I come across them, I will post them here!

More fundamental than that though, for example, is a critique from Columbia University, called How not to count the poor. The report describes an ill-defined poverty line, a misleading and inaccurate measure of purchasing power equivalence, and false precision as the three main errors that may lead to “a large understatement of the extent of global income poverty and to an incorrect inference that it has declined.” (Emphasis added).

This allows the World Bank to insist that the world is indeed “on the right track” in terms of poverty reduction strategy, attributing this “success” to the design and implementation of “good” or “better policies”.

But the statistic is not lost on some of the most prominent people in the world The New York Times in one of their email updates, in their Quote of the Day section, for July 18, 2001 provided the following quote: “A world where some live in comfort and plenty, while half of the human race lives on less than $2 a day, is neither just, nor stable.” — President Bush

See also James Wolfenson, The Other Crisis, World Bank, October 1998 who said: “Today, across the world, 1.3 billion people live on less than one dollar a day; 3 billion live on under two dollars a day; 1.3 billion have no access to clean water; 3 billion have no access to sanitation; 2 billion have no access to electricity.” (See also note 21 below.)

Koffi Anan, UN Secretary General, in a speech on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, 17 October 2000, said “Almost half the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day, yet even this statistic fails to capture the humiliation, powerlessness and brutal hardship that is the daily lot of the world’s poor.”

2) Ignacio Ramonet, The politics of hunger, Le Monde Diplomatique, November 19983) The State of the World’s Children, 1999, UNICEF4) State of the World, Issue 287 - Feb 1997, New Internationalist5) See the following:Holding Transnationals Accountable, IPS, August 11, 1998Top 200: The Rise of Corporate Global Power, by Sarah Anderson and John Cavanagh, Institute for Policy Studies, November 20006) The Corporate Planet, Corporate Watch, 19977) Debt - The facts, Issue 312 - May 1999, New Internationalist8) 1998 Human Development Report, United Nations Development Programme9) 1999 Human Development Report, United Nations Development Programme10) Ibid11) Ibid12) Missing the Target; The price of empty promises, Oxfam, June 200013) Global Development Finance, World Bank, 199914) Economics forever; Building sustainability into economic policy PANOS Briefing 38, March 200015) Human Development Report 2000, p. 82, United Nations Development Programme16) Ibid, p. 8217) Ibid, p. 7318) World Resources Institute Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems, February 2001, (in the Food Feed and Fiber section).

Note, that dispite the food production rate being better than population growth rate, there is still so much hunger around the world.

19) See the following:Progress of Nations 2000, UNICEF, 2000;Robert E. Black, Saul S Morris, Jennifer Bryce, Where and why are 10 million children dying every year?, The Lancet, Volume 361, Number 9376, 28 June 2003. (Note, while the article title says 10 million, their paper says 10.8 million.)State of the World’s Children, 2005, UNICEF (this cites the number as 10.6 million in 2003)Note that the statistic cited uses children as those under the age of five. If it was say 6, or 7, the numbers would be even higher.20) The Scorecard on Globalization 1980-2000: Twenty Years of Diminished Progress, by Mark Weisbrot, Dean Baker, Egor Kraev and Judy Chen, Center for Economic Policy and Research, August 2001.21) James Wolfenson, The Other Crisis, World Bank, October 1998, quoted from The Reality of Aid 2000, (Earthscan Publications, 2000), p.1022) Larry Elliott, A cure worse than the disease, The Guardian, January 21, 200223) John Cavanagh and Sarah Anderson , World’s Billionaires Take a Hit, But Still Soar, The Institute for Policy Studies, March 6, 200224) Maude Barlow, Water as Commodity - The Wrong Prescription, The Institute for Food and Development Policy, Backgrounder, Summer 2001, Vol. 7, No. 325) Consumerism, Volunteer Now! (undated)26) State of the World’s Children, 2005, UNICEF27) Eileen Alt Powell, Some 600,000 join millionaire ranks in 2004, Associate Press, June 9, 2005

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The All-American Hate Crime

"Where the poor have now become the enemy"--Iris DeMent

Yesterday, I was called upon by a colleague to write letters in support of an initiative to make sure that my college's anti-discrimination policy includes language protecting the rights of everyone despite sexual orientation. I, of course, am supporting this work, and I am also biting my tongue until March 9th when this is decided one way or another because one of the tools being used against the organizers is the notion that opening the doors to sexual orientation is going to result in an unrealistically long list of groups claiming discrimination.

Still, I have been interviewed innumerable times by diversity committees on campus, sat in on their meetings and petitioned my grievances and never, not once, had them do anything to address another concern even more pervasive. They give lip service then turn around and ignore it.

What I always bring up is the issue of class. There are innumerable ways in which students on this campus face hostile environments and bigotry if they are from poor or lower income homes, and this is made doubly and trebly insidious by the fact that many of my county's poor are white and because the stereotype of the county is that everyone here is relatively comfortable. It's not true. 40,000 people in my county alone, as many people as ever lived in my hometown (before downsizing) live at or below what the Federal government calls the poverty line (which is a ridiculously conservative estimate in real economic terms). Many more live in economic desperation, and of course at the community college where I work, a greater percentage than the county as a whole struggle with poverty to try to put themselves through school.

Just last year, despite petitions of support and the voiced sympathy and concern of a number of school guidance counselors I talked to, I watched a student friend of mine lose her financial aid because of the small amount of life insurance money she inherited (less than enough to pay for her remaining tuition) when her father died. I've had innumerable students bounced from my rolls and then have to plead for me (not that they had to plead to me, but that was the dynamic) to let them back into class because their tuition check bounced--standard operating procedure. It's a regular thing to hear hate speech about people on welfare from some students assuming that no one in ear shot is on welfare (although almost always one of their fellow students is and, sometimes, lets them know).

I certainly raise these issues with my classes, but there is no language--even in our toothless anti-discrimination diversity committee mission statements--that takes a stand on discrimination against the poor. And, of course, that's because our entire society is based on discrimination against the poor. It's American to declare the poor the enemy. We can't address this without addressing economic justice issues, and we won't address fundamental economic justice issues because it is "un-American" to do so.

I, of course, don't believe that's the part of the American identity that should go on living, any more than racial slavery should (and, believe me, I'm not naive enough to think that's over), but that's the reality of the identity as it currently exists--that identity promoted by all conventional two-party politics.

People talk about hate crimes being on the rise without ever addressing this issue. I listened to a 15 minute broadcast about the church burnings in Alabama without hearing any one once suggest this was some sort of significant common denominator. But what do 10 churches in the area of Bibb County, Alabama have in common? They are all poor.

What did the three homeless men beaten (one to death) by white thugs in Florida have in common?

What do the vast majority of the victims of Hurricane Katrina have in common?

The victims of Hurricane Delphi in Detroit?

The 45 million Americans without medical insurance (not to mention the many who die from medical neglect and inadequate insurance coverage)?

The 2269 service men and women who've died in Iraq (not to mention the minimum estimate of 28, 427 civilians who've died since the war started)?

They're almost all poor, and we discriminate against the poor as a matter of course.

Until America seriously rises up and demands economic justice for all, this will be the one category of hate crime all but universally sanctioned by our government--and by my workplace--leaving none of our hands clean.

Until "poor-on-poor crime" is understood as a symptom of genocide just as it's understood when we talk about "black-on-black" crime, then we haven't made a baby step out the back gate toward this reckoning.

But I'm biting my tongue until March 9th.

I wonder how many Americans will die for being poor between now and then?