Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Student Reaction to $2 per Day

The most eye opening thing I have learned in this class came from the book $2.00 A Day. I am appalled and shocked that how many adults and children are going without food. Families that have no cash safety net, because Clinton signed a welfare reform bill passed by a Republican Congress that was supposed to lower the amount of people on welfare by getting them into productive employment. He and the Congress, in reality, started an epidemic of people living well below poverty levels. How can we as Americans, not see what is right in front of our faces? Children are going days and maybe even weeks without eating. Their parents are selling SNAP cards for cash, which they need for bills, such as water and electricity. How do we give a family a card to purchase food and think this is going to help their situation? Take Rae, the mother of Azara, she lost her job at Walmart because she didn’t have enough gas to get to work, even though she had previously never missed a day. Now Rae has no job and no money for gas to go out looking for another job. It is a vicious cycle of sometimes having over $2.00 a day and than enduring spells of misery living under that.

This book helped me see, not only that I could be more appreciative of my life, but to feel more empathetic when I see people using the SNAP card in the grocery store. Reading the story of the town of Delta made me sick to my stomach. Children were turning to prostitution just to be able to pay the bills or put food on the table for their children. Clinton enacted the EITC, which is a policy that helps the working poor, however so many people are living without an income that this tax credit does nothing to help them. In this situation the policies force mothers to sell their children’s social security numbers for someone else to claim, just to receive not even half the amount the person who bought the number will be getting. Americans are so worried about the starving children on the television that need $1 a day for a meal, when we need to be worrying about the homeless children in our own neighborhoods. We need to care for children that take a shower in the library bathroom sink or move from shelter to shelter when their families time has lapsed at that location. 

In conclusion, I don’t understand why people still think that welfare was reformed? If President Trump wants to make America a better pace, he needs to start with the welfare system. We cannot have a program that has no cash safety net. We need a program that encourages people to work, however, once they do we cannot just take away their benefits; intern leaving them poorer that before they were working. I don’t know the solution, but something must be better than what we are doing now.

I think that outrage is the appropriate emotion when we read $2 a Day, or consider the lifestyles and hardships of any of the Americans who are trying to survive at the lowest 2% or 3% of the income distribution. These people really are suffering at a level that approximates what people endure in much poorer societies, and the emotional costs of this poverty are probably greater in North America, since by comparison the rest of our society is so affluent.  I do want to caution you about the moral issue of “why do we worry so much about X, when we should be worrying about Y” statements. Compassion and altruism are universally good.  Most ethical or religious teachings suggest that humans ought to feel compassion and altruistic concern for all other persons, and perhaps even all other manifestations of Life.  The persons you don’t know, who live far away from you, and have different experiences than you have, are not less valuable than the people you do know, who live near you, whose life experiences are shared in common with you.  So, in this sense, we “owe” people far away and people yet to be born just as much as we owe the people in our immediate families.  But, on the other hand, ethical thinkers and moral philosophers have generally reached a sort of consensus that there is just too much suffering and need out there in the world, and it is impossible for individuals to take care of all the people or all the beings on the planet, those now living and those yet to live, and so, we do as a practical necessity owe more to the people closest to us, and ought to concern ourselves mostly with the people we can see, where we best understand their problems, and can most directly help them. From this perspective, we do owe more to the poor in our cities and our nation than we owe to the poor of distant lands or remote future times. 

This leads to a practical suggestion: give more of your time and wealth to help local humans than you give to help far-away humans, but give to both; and give more of your time and wealth to humans than you give to plants and animals, but do give something to help animals and plants.  It’s not so much, “why do we care so much about distant problems when local problems are pressing” as it is, “we need to care about distant problems and attend to them, but we need to give more attention and concern to local problems and attend to them more.” 

You may know of the logical fallacy of the “false dichotomy” where an issue is framed as an “either this or that, but not both” problem when in fact that is no reason to exclude “both” or bring in alternatives to the limited choices (of “this” or “that”) presented in the argument.  It’s worth keeping this in mind.  Human minds seem especially vulnerable to simplifying problems into false choices between two positions or actions when in fact there are many positions or actions possible, and choices often do not stand in opposition so that one choice excludes the other. 

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