America’s Poor Thursday, Aug 11 2016 

My sister, Patti, a stock broker and financial adviser, often says, “It’s personal. The daily numbers are mostly irrelevant to investors. If they’re making money, then they feel the market is good. On the other hand, if their losing—not so good.”

Statistics typically tell such a story. Everything depends on how those numbers affect us personally.

The federal poverty level is a measure of income issued every year by the Department of Health and Human services. This level determines eligibility for certain programs and benefits, such as Medicaid and CHIP. The 2016 levels are $11,880 for an individual, $16,020 for a household of two, and $24,300 for a household of 4. In Alaska it is $14,840, $20,020, and $30,380 respectively. And in Hawaii, those numbers sit at $13,670, $18,430, and $27,950. No doubt, millions significantly above those numbers feel the poverty pinch.

The top 1% of the US population owns 43% of the country’s wealth. That leaves 99% with vastly lower income levels.In 2014, 14.8% of Americans were considered living in poverty. (However, the Supplemental Poverty Measure stated it was 15.3%.) That comes out to 1 in 3 Native Americans (two of the US’s poorest counties are located on Native American reservations), more than 1 in 4 African Americans and Hispanic Latinos, and 1 in 10 Asians and non-Hispanics living below the federal poverty line.

Women and children face the brunt of these numbers. If things continue as they are, more than half of all children below the poverty line will live in families headed by women, as two-thirds of the minimum wage earners are women, and one in seven women lives below the poverty line.

Three fourths of the poor are unemployed. The causes and cycle of poverty and unemployment are complex and many. Job shortages (there is only one job available for every 4 unemployed people) and job outsourcing, automation, limited education, illness and disabilities, elderly and children caregiving needs, inadequate transportation, over-spending/credit debt, and lack of mentoring lead the list.

I don’t know about you, but I believe it’s challenging to live at two to three times the federal poverty levels. Rent, utilities, food, insurances, medical, phone, and auto or travel expenses are basic needs yet take a substantial amount to keep afloat.

Food is the one area we can cut when short on funds. That results in a good number of Americans going to bed hungry. This is especially so for those who make more than the level to receive assistance but too low to purchase nutritional foods.

Children comprised 21.1% of this group and seniors 10%. Every county in the US note levels of food insecurities. The states of Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Kentucky are the hungriest. And households with children reported the highest rates overall.

If we have an extra buck, feeding and caring for the poor can be the best karma. Four out of 5 (79%) Americans live in danger of poverty at some point in their life. According to the government website, most Americans will spend at least one year below the poverty line between the ages 25 and 75.

(Have you seen my posts on Mary K Doyle Books and Saint Theodora/Mother Theodore Guerin or my Facebook author page? I also have a Facebook page for each of my books with information specific to that title.)

 

Blog Action Day 2013 Wednesday, Oct 16 2013 

Human Rights

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Today is Blog Action Day 2013. Bloggers across the globe are posting on the same topic – Human Rights. You might want to do some surfing and check out the different perspectives offered.

In the first half of the 20th Century discussions took place on setting criteria for acceptable treatment of all persons everywhere. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted on December 10, 1948 by the United Nation General Assembly in Paris. Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the drafting committee that consisted of UN members of various political, religious, and cultural backgrounds.

It’s believed that everyone regardless of ethnicity, residence, gender, race, religion, and so on should have equal rights. International laws are enacted to ensure that at least a basic standard is set.

Of course we know that not everyone actually receives these rights. We all want them but do not award them to everyone without bias, particularly in some parts of the world. Even advocates for special interest groups tend to be prejudiced toward someone else.

The intention of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is to promote peace by protecting the rights and dignity of all people. When we feel we are treated unfairly, we become hurt and angry. The desire to retaliate and even out the playing field is a natural reaction. The result is tension and unrest between individuals, groups, and countries.

The sophisticated, detailed rules set in stone in the document are basic in principle. They boil down to the age-old golden rule of treating others as you would like to be treated. If everyone treated everyone else with respect, we wouldn’t need any other guidelines.

When we shout Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, Fathers Rights, and Civil Rights we are isolating people into special groups when in fact, what we want is for everyone to be treated equally. Actually, it isn’t even equality we seek but justice for each as an individual with consideration to our unique needs.

We are not all in a position to correct the injustice of a group of people in the world but we can promote justice in small ways every day in our own little world. If we treat everyone we encounter in our daily life with kindness and respect we will promote justice and peace one relationship at a time.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Trading Fairly Friday, Oct 4 2013 

The global market offers an endless assortment of products, but not all laborers producing these products are working under ethical conditions. As consumers we are becoming more aware of our responsibility to be aware of the treatment of employees and the environment in the production process.

Fair Trade USA is a non-profit organization that certifies and promotes the fair trade of products in this country. According to Fair Trade USA, their mission is to enable sustainable development and community empowerment, benefiting farmers, workers, consumers, and the planet. Their goal is to teach farmers in developing countries how to build sustainable businesses and positively influence their countries socially, economically, and environmentally. Considering the cultural differences in various countries, they encourage communities to determine for themselves as to how funds are best used.

Fair Trade products are not necessarily organic, but they do promote organic farming and offer farmers training on how to accomplish that. They also ban all GMO (Genetically Modified) products, restrict pesticides and fertilizers, and help protect water and other natural resources.

Fair Trade USA does not monitor business practices. They focus on products such as coffee, tea, herbs, cocoa, fresh fruit and vegetables, sugar, beans, grains, flowers, nuts, oil, butter, honey, and wine.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) also is working toward fair labor practices. Their Fair Food Program offers education on labor rights. The difference with CIW is that they are a worker-based human rights organization. They also have a third-party that monitors compliance and conducts regular audits. In addition, they also are a leader in the movement to end human trafficking.

After a national boycott of Taco Bell, the company agreed to meet the CIW’s demands to improve wages and working conditions of Florida tomato pickers. McDonald’s and Burger King soon followed as well as Whole Foods, Subway, and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

CIW’s work is recognized worldwide and honored with awards including the 2013 Freedom from Want Medal from the Roosevelt Institute; the 2012 WhyHunger Food Sovereignty Award; 2012 National Resources Defense Council’s Food Justice Award; from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the 2010 Hero Acting to End Modern-Day Slavery Award; the 2009 Benny Award from the Business Ethics Network; the 2007 Anti-Slavery Award from Anti-Slavery International of London; the 2006 Paul and Sheila Wellstone Award; a 2005 commendation from FBI Director Robert Mueller, the 2005 Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award from World Hunger Year, the 2003 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award; and the 1998 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

The promotion of fair labor treatment across the globe is important for several reasons. When we purchase products where people are treated improperly we participate in that injustice. We are a party to that sin. On the other hand, when we purchase products produced in a just manner, we promote the laborers and their ability to support themselves which helps to maintain peace in those regions, and ultimately, the world.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

For more information on Fair Trade USA and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, see:

www.Fairtradeusa.org or http://ciw-online.org

What’s Right? Thursday, Mar 28 2013 

How can one person know without a doubt what is right and just and another person be as certain it is the complete opposite? We all have access to the same information. If something is obviously right, why don’t we all see it that way?

Gay marriage is in the forefront of the news right now. This issue as well as abortion and immigration raise the boiling point of people on both sides of the fence. It is the current fuel for political debate. As a nation we are desperately trying to sort these things out. Perhaps out culturally diverse country makes this more challenging to accomplish.

These hot topics are morally based, and our religious beliefs and teachings typically guide our moral viewpoint. So we might think that, at the very least, everyone within a religious group would see the issues in the same light. But we know even this isn’t so. Nearly all congregations have members whose beliefs vary greatly.

Gay marriage is an emotionally charged issue because it is of the heart. It involves love, family, and relationships. I’m not sure how we reach a peaceful and fair resolution but do know we must tread lightly and with love and compassion.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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