Apr 062010
Authors: Samuel Lustgarten

Twenty thousand people die from dire poverty every day, 7.3 million per year. They need food, potable water and shelter — basic necessities that we take for granted here.

Meanwhile, Americans greatly overestimate, by as much as 30 times, how much foreign aid is contributed per year. We give less per capita than almost all other industrialized nations. Faith in individuals’ donations and support to charities has led to a relaxed tax structure. We’ve privatized the act of giving.

There’s a video on YouTube of a victim of Parkinson’s sitting in front of Tea Party protestors as the health care bill passed in the House.

Teabaggers scolded the man, exclaiming, “If you’re looking for a handout, you’re in the wrong end of town. Nothing for free over here, you have to work for everything you get.”
Another man began to throw money at him, yelling, “I’ll decide when to give you money.”
Though anecdotal and domestic, I fear it mirrors our international perspective. We’ll decide when to donate and what to donate to – our government won’t. Unfortunately, when given the choice, we don’t give as much.

Americans’ standard of living is unmatched among much of the world. Americans make more than $40,000 per year on average. The impetus to change is scarce. In the meantime, average incomes in tropical Africa are a stagnant $350 –– born and subsequently trapped in poverty.
A propagandist machine manufactured by the wealthy, paints our government as Scrooge –– taking what’s rightfully ours.

But it’s the other way around; we’re the Scrooges, we’re storing money in tax havens, we’re reducing foreign aid and we’re creating and simultaneously perpetuating a caste system much like India’s. Born into a class, the freedom and autonomy to advancement is vanishing.
Whether you look domestically or internationally, plutocracy and corporatocracy are leading to vast differences in wealth. The poor are vilified as lazy and money-grubbing. The wealthy are held in high esteem –– a classic case of good vs. evil.

We’re interconnected. Not only is it in our best interest to give unconditionally, it’s also most beneficial for developing or third-world countries. Instead, conditional agreements are rectified and a vast reduction in federal foreign aid furthers the crime.

Continuous globalization has led to a domino effect –– causing one recession to systemically affect other countries. This supports the idea that helping insolvent nations may be in our best interests. I can only hope that we’ll realize this before it’s too late –– before our American empire implodes.

Recently, the reactionary relief effort in Haiti has been touted as a major charitable success. But the underlying infrastructure was already in shambles –– before a natural disaster ravaged the land.

The people of Haiti needed help before the earthquake. We allowed for American companies to pay them peanuts –– a magnificent example of free-market exploitation –– and gave little in foreign aid.

It’s novel to help those in need –– especially when you don’t have a relationship with them. But it’s a moral imperative to shed our entitlements. We must embrace those that have been stigmatized.

Private groups, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have sprouted up to fill the need. Even with billions of dollars at their disposal, they can’t fill the burgeoning gap. A greater government system needs to take effect.

Working within the boundaries of our relaxed tax structure, I created my own foundation for scholarship and awareness of something very personal –– suicide prevention. The experience and progress has been great, but it’s a heavy dose of realism –– the foundation is filling a gap that our government (state and federal) should be filling.

A dynamic, governmental method for domestic and foreign aid with increased taxes is needed –– especially to the affluent of this country.

Suggesting tax increases on the wealthiest individuals, especially during a recession and amidst groups of conservative capitalists, is often the death of an idea. You would’ve thought I suggested becoming a Fascist totalitarian state that resembles Nazi Germany.

The status quo won’t be accepted; selfishness and greed are trumping aid. America’s recalcitrance has greater implications. We can do more to save the impoverished masses, both domestically and internationally.

Samuel Lustgarten is a junior psychology major at CSU. His column appears weekly in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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