Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
"Put simply, the United States is changing the way we do business," Obama said at the summit of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, an ambitious agenda world leaders set 10 years ago to tackle global poverty, which has grown amid the world economic recession.
The program has four approaches. One is changing the definition of development. [...]
Second, the administration is changing how "the ultimate goal of development" is viewed. [...]
The third pillar is putting an emphasis on "broad-based economic growth," Obama said.[...]
[T]he fourth pillar is insisting "on more responsibility -- from ourselves and from others."
Let's take him at his word that this policy is genuine, and take a closer look at it. In this instance, "development" will supplant foreign aid, in many cases. Right now, much done in the name of development is to give food and humanitarian aid to a region, with a little actual development on the side. According to Obama's policy, that will change slightly. There will be a transition from aid to economic development, so that a region can become self-sufficient and competitive on the global market.
Aid is fine. It's a short term boost to a people. It doesn't solve the underlying problem, which is how to get those people on their feet and able to fend for themselves. This meme has been particularly true in Africa, where for any number of reasons, economic development has been slow to non-existent. This is particularly ironic for a continent that has perhaps the best climate on the planet. It should be a world leader.
There are any number of benefits for America in this policy. For one thing, poverty tends to breed terrorism. Somalia, as we have seen over the past twenty years, is a hotbed of terror activities, and provides a harbor for international terror groups to incubate plots.
For another, poverty breeds disease. It's not a coincidence that Africa and Asia, the two poorest continents on the planet, are home to some of the nastiest illnesses in human history. Eradicating malaria, for example, is a top priority of American health officials, and Africa is Ground Zero for the disease. In this day and age of near-instantaneous international travel, a bug in Africa is a bug in New York City inside of a week.
For a third, in the wake of really the first global economic catastrophe that occured simultaneously across the world, we need more trading partners. A safe, secure and viable Africa provides this.
But looming over all of this is China. China has made huge strides in Africa, securing contracts with Nigerian oil companies, for example. America simply cannot, for its own economic health, afford to let China have the run of the table. We have to be competitive there. We have to maintain a stake in the economy of the continent.
The final pillar of this plan, responsibility, is a key. For too long, America has looked the other way as regimes and tyrants have raped and pillaged nations all around the planet. We let Saddam Hussein have his lead, we've let the Saudis practically dictate our foreign policy, we've given free rein to the Mugabes and Taylors of the world. and we've given all of them, all of them aid over the years. Hell, we just signed a $60 billion dollar defense contract with the Saudis!
We drop a bagful of money or food off, pat the leader on the head, and then turn and walk away. That's no way to do business, nor is it a way to be humanitarian. We have to make sure that not only does a nation receive help, but that the people in that nation who most need the help get it.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Older workers who lose their jobs could pose a policy problem if they lose their ability to be self-sufficient. “That’s what we should be worrying about,” said Carl E. Van Horn, professor of public policy and director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, “what it means to this class of the new unemployables, people who have been cast adrift at a very vulnerable part of their career and their life.”
Forced early retirement imposes an intense financial strain, particularly for those at lower incomes. The recession and its aftermath have already pushed down some older workers. In figures released last week by the Census Bureau, the poverty rate among those 55 to 64 increased to 9.4 percent in 2009, from 8.6 percent in 2007.
But even middle-class people who might skate by on savings or a spouse’s income are jarred by an abrupt end to working life and to a secure retirement.
“That’s what I spent my whole life in pursuit of, was security,” Ms. [Patricia] Reid said. “Until the last few years, I felt very secure in my job.”
Back story. For more than fifteen years, Reid worked as an auditor for Boeing. She's 57, college educated, and has been unemployed for four years.
She could conceivably never work again. Worse, she could conceivably be bankrupt before she can officially "retire" at age 62 1/2. With no job, and no pension, and likely a 401(k) wiped out by the recession, she is in very serious danger of falling into and then through the safety net.
Social Security was designed to protect the elderly, among the most vulnerable of us when they are not seen to. Yes, it was a back up plan, meant to supplement a pension. Before we had SSI, we had elderly folks dying in our cities and towns for want of income. Literally. The elderly were the poorest citizens in society up to the 30s and 40s. After the advent of SSI (and Medicare) the elderly actually saw their life spans increase after they turned 65. And they could survive life.
Retirement, which should be the end of stress, is suddenly now the largest stressor in many people's lives. Retirement is a very delicate balance of health and money. Destabilize one, and you end up pulling the whole house down.
It's not uncommon now to work past 65. Hell, it's practically encouraged! If one is healthy enough and can manage to summon up the energy to perform, a person over 65 bring a boatload of experience to a job.
Now, it may become mandatory. Not just because we've allowed the corporatocracy to do away with pensions, but also because Social Security itself is under attack, from enemies external and internal. Republicans want to privatize it, to move that much more profit into the hands of the greedy rich. And people are living longer, contributing less (fewer young workers and well, see above), and the system is draining money faster than its putting it away.
The balanced system, pension with the supplemental insurance, is in danger of collapsing. People who have worked all their lives, have wanted to support themselves in retirement, cannot and will not be able to.
All for want of some vision on the part of our national leaders. All for the sake of boosting the bottom line each quarter for companies that are already embarrassingly rich.
Shame on us.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says illegal immigrants do essential work in the U.S. and he has firsthand knowledge of that -- because they fix his house.
Powell, a moderate Republican, urged his party Sunday to support immigration generally because it is "what's keeping this country's lifeblood moving forward."
This points out another facet of the curious breakdown in the Republican party. On the one hand, you have a vocal and growing minority (yes, minority, even in the Republican party) of Teabaggers, screeching about scary government intervention in their homes and their health while begging the government to keep the scary brown people out of their backyards and hospitals.
Ironic, ain't it?
On the other are the corporatist and more socially moderate Republicans who see an opportunity to exploit a weakness in the social net of America and will move heaven and earth to do so.
In other words, they like progressivism, so long as they don't have to pay for it.