Thursday, February 21, 2008

Destitute poverty in America: hunger

The following are from
How Poor Are America's Poor? Examining the "Plague" of Poverty in America from last August. I'll work to get information directly from the US census and other sources, but it was a challenge to find some of the hunger numbers from their poverty section; that information was retrieved from other sources referenced by the article.

  • "There were 37 million poor persons living in this country in 2005"; that's 12.6%. ("This number has varied from 11.3 percent to 15.1 percent of the population over the past 20 years")

OK, fine. I want to help everyone make it out of poverty. But I'm not going too far out of my way and I don't want any government intervention for many of that number:

  • 42% own their own homes
  • 36% own a computer

I grew up without those things; it's not a crisis if you're at that level.

The worst hardships are when it is difficult to keep adequate fo
od, clothing, and shelter. Those are the people with immediate needs that I really want to help with money and direct assistance.

  • No data at all is shown for malnutrition; I'm guessing it's too small for measurement. "The intake of nutriments is very similar for poor and middle-class children and is generally well above the recom­mended daily level. For example, the consumption of protein (a relatively expensive nutriment) among poor children is, on average, between 150 percent and 267 percent of the RDA."
  • "For example, two indicators of undernutrition among the young are "thinness" (low weight for height) and stuntedness (low height for age). These problems are rare to nonexistent among poor American children." "The World Health Organization standards assume that even in a very well-nourished population, 2.3 percent of children will have heights below the "stunted" cut-off levels due to normal genetic factors."
  • We're at 2.6%.
  • "Some 1.8 percent of all households [and 6% of poor] report they "sometimes" did not have enough food to eat during the previous four months, while 0.4 percent [and 1.5% of poor] say they "often" did not have enough food."
  • "13 percent of poor house­holds with children report that their children sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat during the past four months."
  • "For example, across the whole U.S. population, in a given month, one child in three hundred will skip a meal because of the family's lack of money for food. One child in a thousand will go a whole day without eating for the same reason."
I'll have to compile info from clothing and shelter another time.

People need help. It's very sad for kids to skip a whole day of food, and it looks like abut 78,000 go hungry for a day in any month. Sad.

But the story is a far cry from the widespread destitution that some people preach: .1% of kids go a day without food. Think of how far we've come! Don't try and let anyone convince you that our government has to get involved and force their solutions to fix this "emergency".

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My Utah legislators

I found my Utah state legislators for my part of West Bountiful:
Representative Roger E. Barrus
Senator Dan R. Eastman

I've just written them emails, thanking them for supporting HB 449, which is a start at rejecting the national Real ID.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Davis county caucus information

I finally found the caucus information for our Davis county political parties, and specifically for the Republican caucuses. It looks like they'll take place at March 25 at 7 PM in a public location (to be accessible to everyone); they should post the location my March 1 on that page. See you there!

Can government do any good?

Yesterday, I implied that government cannot do good, because I really believe that to be true. The reason is that the truly good things in this world are love, peace, forgiveness, genuineness, and good character (to name a few), and these are human-oriented qualities that can only be communicated between individuals.

But I had to think this through yesterday: is it true that government cannot do good in the world? Actually, in a loose sense, it can do good because it can establish peace or lift someone from the pressures of a difficult life or even make fine arts more available, and these are definitely good things.

What I'm really concerned with, though, is those truly good things listed earlier. So let's imagine how a government might make this happen: let's say some benevolent politicians create a program to increase love in people. The only way I can imagine is with some kind of group learning, directed by someone who is known and respected as a loving person. So I suppose it could take action to increase love for the students in that group. Then we have to figure the indirect consequences of setting up such a program: of course, there's the money taken in taxes to pay the teacher (which is always a negative drag), and the overhead of running it (which doesn't directly go toward the result). So is it worth the cost? It may be. So can government do good? Well, even in this example, the government is initiating the program but it is not what is really creating the love: that only comes by way of the teacher(s) through their creativity and example. Government is paving the way, but it requires dedicated individuals to help others get to the destination.

In addition, I maintain that even if such a program were possible, there's no guarantee that it can stay effective due to changes in bureaucratic procedure, social priorities, or funding. But of course the program would still continue. Wouldn't it be better to allow this kind of thing to occur spontaneously by people who are free to create this kind of program and people who choose which of the programs are worthwhile?

But the socialist counter-argument is that there should be a way for everyone to afford to participate in such things. Hm. I cannot see how governments will ever be more effective at providing such life lessons, and indeed it requires effort for us to seek out and learn those lessons; my opponents cannot see how everyone has the best opportunity to learn these lessons in the course of their own lives, regardless of their situation. I can't see how to convince them otherwise. Frustrating!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

US government sets roadblocks for corporate charitable giving

The very first article of the inaugural print edition of Managing & Developing had a very telling story: it showcases, a great effort for many reasons but notably because part of it's business model is to donate 50% of it's net profits to non-profit organizations chosen by it's customers. Well, it appears that the federal government actually makes it difficult to do this kind of thing! They highlight 3 challenges with their business model, and then they say "these challenges are minor compared to the governmental and tax structures that fail to accommodate social ventures." They cite one example: "the corporate limitation on charitable contributions is set at 10%." So they had to be creative to avoid the extra taxation. ("For the moment, we... operate as a subchapter-S corporation, whereby we can take advantage of the individual cap of charitable donations: 50% of adjusted gross income.")

Lovely, isn't it?

Yet another evidence that government just gets in the way when it tries to do good. Government (and any use of force) can only protect and stabilize; it takes the passion and cooperation of free individuals to do accomplish any grand endeavor in this world.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Socially Proactive Investing (SPI) vs Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)

In the latest issue of their magazine (which I cannot find online), MBAs Without Borders describes SPI as a step beyond SRI because it focuses not just on "good" projects but projects that try to be extremely effective by helping people help themselves or really lift people to the next level. Increasing profitability is a good thing. MEDA is spotlighted as an organization with such investment opportunities.

350% increase in annual income from 1950-2008

"The globalization of capitalism from 1950 to the present has increased annual average income in the world to $7,000 from $2,000. Contrary to popular legend, poor countries grew at about the same rate as the rich ones. This growth gave us the greatest mass exit from poverty in world history."

From: Why Bill Gates Hates My Book By William Easterly

Does Bill Gates want top-down capitalism?

According to William Easterly, Bill Gates' "creative capitalism" focuses on corporate-managed charitable projects. These are less effective; the best way to life the base of the pyramid (BOP) is to invest such that people will build profitable enterprises and lift themselves out of poverty permanently.

I must comment that I doubt that Bill Gates really hates his book, and may not even know about it; either way, this is a great job of marketing by Easterly.