U.S. Space Force Budget
The U.S. Space Force (USSF) emerged as the newest branch of the Armed Forces in December 2019. It lies within the Department of the Air Force, which means the Secretary of the Air Force is responsible for its overall operations. While the USSF is a pioneering endeavor meant to expand U.S. capabilities to protect Americans, the $15.4 billion proposed U.S. Space Force budget for the fiscal year 2021 is a sum that would prove transformative in fighting global poverty. The following are examples of what $15.4 billion could do in this fight, as well as a comparison to U.S. funding allocated to foreign aid in general.

The US Space Force Budget and Foreign Aid

  1. Starvation in Africa: According to Save the Children, a box of nutritious peanut paste, which could treat one child with severe acute malnutrition in Africa for 10 weeks, costs $40. Meanwhile, $100 could cover medication, transportation and all other costs that one associates with treating a single child with severe acute malnutrition. In addition, $210 could pay for a household to feed and protect livestock, ensuring stable food supply and potential income for that family. With the $15.4 billion that makes up the U.S. Space Force budget, the U.S. or world community could provide 385 million children 10 weeks worth of peanut paste. In fact, $15.4 billion is sufficient funding to help 154 million children with severe acute malnutrition or enable over 73 million households in Africa to have livestock. These are only a few examples of aid that organizations provide to a continent suffering from intense poverty, but they clearly illustrate the fact that these policies are feasible with more funding.
  2. Syrian Refugees: UNICEF requested $864.1 million and $852.5 million for the 2020 and 2021 portions, respectively, of its Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan 2020-2021. This funding would go toward humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugees and other vulnerable children in the region, including education access for refugees in Turkey, clean water supply for refugees in Lebanon and mental health support for refugees in Egypt. To complement the funding for Syrian refugees outside Syria, UNICEF requested $294.8 million to meet the needs of families and children in Syria in 2020. This intention of this funding was to provide things like vaccinations against polio, education support and improved water supply. The total for the two years of the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan and the 2020 support for those inside Syria is just over $2 billion. The U.S. Space Force budget of $15.4 billion would be enough to increase the scale of these operations about sevenfold, illustrating the clear scope of what aid groups could do with that quantity of funding.
  3. Foreign Aid: Many Americans believe that foreign aid takes up as much as 25% of the U.S. federal budget. In fact, the U.S. spent about $39.2 billion in the fiscal year 2019 on foreign aid, making up less than 1% of the federal budget. For the fiscal year 2021, the U.S. is requesting about $29.1 billion for foreign aid. The $15.4 billion for the USSF would be just over half the amount requested for the entirety of U.S. foreign aid funding. The gap between public perception and the reality surrounding foreign aid is startling, which demonstrates why this comparison is especially important.

Contextualizing Funding

While the idea is not necessarily that spending on poverty eradication should come at the expense of the U.S. Space Force Budget, these examples simply show what this level of funding could do if the U.S. or global community directed a similar amount elsewhere. Military funding is important — the U.S. cannot expect to be a dominant power without it. However, people must see this funding in the context of overall aid to countries that are struggling with humanitarian crises.

Foreign aid not only helps millions of suffering people all over the world but also addresses the root causes of many violent issues. As such, increasing funding for poverty eradication would serve U.S. security well. The U.S. Space Force budget is just one case that shows how effective a larger amount of foreign aid spending could be. In the long term, this would not only increase U.S. security but international security as well, lowering the risk of violent conflict involving the U.S. in the future while alleviating the suffering so many find themselves enduring.

– Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in EgyptNearly one-third of Egyptians fall below the poverty line, with the unemployment rate trending higher than extremely impoverished countries such as Ghana, Lebanon and Zimbabwe. In 2011, lasting poverty rates and poor living conditions caused Egyptian retaliation against the government. Political instability has complicated Egypt’s foreign partnerships since that time, subsequently affecting all areas of the economy; as a result, foreign investment in the country’s resources has had notable fluctuations. The inconsistency in Egypt’s economy leaves few employment opportunities, especially among younger generations, inevitably affecting rates of poverty in Egypt.

Travel in Egypt

Typically, travelers visiting Egypt receive encouragement to exercise increased caution, per the U.S. Global Health Advisory. The country ranks two out of four on the U.S. Department of State’s safety scale; this rating indicates that the U.S. Department of State has approved travel there although tourists should recognize the possible risks. This system is not solely unique to the United States – many countries have similar regulations. However, due to the global impact of COVID-19, regular travel ratings are momentarily on hold.

Factors responsible for Egypt’s pre-pandemic, level-two status include levels of terrorism and lingering tensions with the U.S. Embassy. This score is an improvement from a travel rating of four in 2011. Egypt received this high rating during a violent national rebellion that broke out against police brutality, the poor economy and religious divides. When a country has a level-four rating, the U.S. Department of State tells Americans not to travel there.

Tourism’s Impact on Egypt’s Economy

In February 2019, research expert Amna Puri-Mirza provided a statistical analysis that demonstrated that a decline in tourism impacted the Egyptian economy. From 2010 to 2011, national profits from the tourist industry dropped 32 percent in reaction to the Egyptian rebellion. In 2015, news of a Russian airline crash that was traveling to Cairo decreased tourism from 14.7 million to 5.4 million people in 2016.

The connection between tourism and poverty in Egypt correlates with the market value of different services and goods that the country produces; profits from tourism hold a large percentage of the country’s overall income. In 2018, tourism supported 2.5 million jobs, indicating heavy reliance on the industry. When situations adversely impact tourism around the globe, this substantially impacts the economy, and in turn, poverty in Egypt.

Efforts to Reduce Poverty in Egypt

Working to ease economic stress, the Egyptian government succeeded in obtaining a loan from the International Monetary Fund in 2016. While there might be uncertainties for the future of the loan, it is certainly aiding the nation in the return of tourists. Research on Egypt’s travel and tourism show promising signs of continued recovery, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. In 2019, Egypt’s tourism level improved by 16.5 percent from the previous year, which is higher than the global average. Such an incredible growth rate is a promising sign for the rates of poverty in Egypt.

Foreign Relations with the U.S.

Despite past tensions, the partnership between the U.S. and Egypt has greatly improved. The established relationship could substantially impact the state of poverty in Egypt. The Trump Administration announced a priority of aid for Egypt; specifically, it intends to provide economic reforms and military funds to combat radical terrorism in Egypt. “Our relationship has never been stronger. And we’re working with Egypt on many different fronts,” said President Trump. Upon continuing a solid relationship with the U.S., the Egyptian government could utilize the support in developing a sustainable economy post-loan.

Other Initiatives

Egyptian President El-Sisiis and his officials are also working on economic reform needed to reduce poverty in Egypt. Like many nations, the sudden 2020 Coronavirus outbreak presents additional obstacles in accomplishing this goal. Experts expect that Egypt’s tourism industry will lose more than 40,000 workers to unemployment as a result.

Now, more families will be at risk of falling into poverty, causing a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19. On March 20, 2020, The World Bank Group donated $7.9 million to fund Egypt’s emergency response. The nonprofit is working with Egypt to create financial, technological and health strategies to protect citizens. Ideally, the country should be able to avoid the anticipated increase in poverty in Egypt through this aid. Assisting the Egyptian economy has become an international effort. Not only is does The World Bank intend for the aid to provide the government with resources, but it also intends to disperse it among Egypt’s citizens, especially those experiencing poverty in Egypt.

Tourism is a key source of income for the country but has recently halted. Additionally, tense international relations and a poor global image have further damaged the already struggling economy. Fortunately, new global partnerships with Egypt have aided in encouraging tourism in Egypt. While the 2020 pandemic puts this travel on hold, the response of increasing aid will support the economy and prevent further poverty in Egypt. If aid continues, Egypt will receive a great opportunity to sustain its economy and people.

GraceElise Van Valkenburg
Photo: Pixabay

Migrant Poultry Workers
Chicken is one of the most consumed meats in America. According to the USDA, estimates determine that the per capita American consumption of chicken will rise from 28 pounds per person in 1960 to 94 pounds per person in 2020. This is in contrast to the per capita consumption of beef in America, which projections determine will fall from 94.1 pounds in 1976 to 57.5 pounds per person in 2020. This certainly reflects the rising demand for broiler meat, or commercial chicken farmers breed and raise for meat production in the U.S. However, not many Americans wish to work in poultry processing factories. In response to this shortage of workers, many poultry companies use migrant workers to fill their processing lines. Recent reports suggest that these migrant poultry workers are in danger of harsh working conditions and labor exploitation.

Issues with Poultry Processing Plants in the U.S.

Although poultry processing plants use machinery, much of killing, deboning and packaging of chicken still depend on human hands. The processing rooms’ temperature is usually at 40 degrees Fahrenheit in order to reduce microbial growth. However, this cold temperature makes it harder for the line workers to safely use their sharp cutting tools since their hands get stiff from the cold temperature. The factories’ demand to process chicken at a faster pace further compounds this hardship. The U.S. Department of Agriculture caps the speed of these processing lines at 140 chickens per minute. However, reports suggest that many processing plants increase their line speed in order to meet their company’s quota. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data further reflects these dangerous conditions. In addition, line workers repeat the same motion while performing their job of disassembling a chicken. Some reports suggest that 86 percent of line workers suffer from wrist pains, swollen joints and chronic pain in their hands and arms.

Migrant Poultry Workers in the U.S.

Migrant poultry workers fill the labor demand of the poultry industry. The EB-3 visa allows poultry companies to hire migrant workers. As long as a company places two want ads seeking American workers in a local newspaper and a notice on the state jobs board, poultry companies can justify hiring an immigrant instead of an American. Many migrant poultry workers, if documented, agree to what might be less-than-ideal working conditions for a promise of green-sponsorship by their employers.  Responding to this high demand, there are migration consultants outside of the U.S. who charge between $20,000 and $130,000 to help a migrant worker immigrate to America. This high fee can be a cause of poverty for many migrant poultry workers since the majority of them will make less than $20,000 a year.

According to the Human Rights Watch’s 2019 report, nearly 30 percent of meat and poultry workers were foreign-born non-citizens in 2015. Among this number, an estimated one-fourth of the migrant workers were undocumented. This visa sponsorship by poultry companies makes it harder for the migrant workers to protest against the harsh working conditions of poultry processing factories. Whether a migrant worker is documented or undocumented, the recent rhetoric of the U.S. government toward migrants is making many workers in the poultry industry nervous. In 2019, for example, accusations emerged that multiple poultry companies conspired to keep the wages down for their immigrant workforce.

Improving the Poultry Industry in the U.S.

There are many people and organizations that are striving to improve the working conditions in the poultry industry. Many human rights groups encourage the consumers to voice their dissatisfaction with the current state of working conditions in poultry processing plants. By voicing their dissatisfaction, humanitarian groups believe that this will give more power to the migrant poultry workers to voice their plights.

Tyson, one of the biggest poultry meat suppliers in the U.S., made a pledge in 2017 that it will improve the working conditions in its factories. In the pledge, Tyson stated its commitment to reduce worker injury rate by 15 percent until it reaches zero, increase employee retention by 10 percent each year and improve the transparency between the public and its factories. In 2020, the Humane Society of the U.S. and other groups sued the USDA for increasing the line speed at U.S. poultry processing plants. In its 2019 report, The Human Rights Watch encouraged the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to take charge of improving the work conditions.

The harsh working conditions and treatment of migrant poultry workers in the poultry industry certainly presents a complicated picture. Chicken is becoming America’s favorite choice of protein as it is surpassing beef in terms of per capita consumption. However, behind every piece of chicken, there are migrant workers who must face constant hardships on a daily basis. The cold temperature of the factories causes numerous physical ailments for the workers, while many forego voicing their plight in fear of deportation. The solution is not to stop eating chicken. Instead, as many human rights organizations have demonstrated, consumers must voice their dissatisfaction with the poultry industry. With the recent surge in the public interest for the working conditions of the poultry industry, many hope that better and more fulfilling working conditions are coming for the poultry workers of the U.S.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Complex Problems with Asylum in the U.S.It is no secret that the U.S. immigration system is broken. With thousands of immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S., Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is detaining them at the border. CBP has effectively jailed immigrant children in detention camps. There are somewhat secretive limits on asylum applications. In order to fix a system, it is necessary to first understand its complexities. The U.S. immigration structure as a whole is a huge and complex system that cannot be simplified into one article. This article will discuss the asylum process and specific areas that have begun to undermine asylum in the U.S.

What is the asylum process?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website defines asylum applicants as people who are “seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.” The process begins after an immigrant enters the U.S. either under a different status or as an asylum applicant. An immigrant seeking asylum is required to file a form with USCIS  within one year of entering the country. They must provide extensive evidence that the applicant has a credible fear of returning to his or her home country.

As per regulation, applicants for asylum in the U.S. are able to make a claim at the U.S. border crossing or while they are in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes custody with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In fact, there is no way to request asylum in advance. Olga Byrne, Director of Immigration for the non-profit International Rescue Committee, confirmed that “There’s no way to ask for a visa or any type of authorization in advance for the purpose of seeking asylum. You just have to show up.”

After arriving at the border and going through an initial asylum interview. The interviewer then determines whether the applicant’s fear is credible. If the interviewer determines that there is a credible fear, then the applicant is released and given a court date to plead their case before an immigration judge in addition to filing the USCIS form. If it is found not credible, DHS begins deportation proceedings, though the applicant does have the option of requesting that his or her case be heard by an immigration judge.

What are the immediate problems?

The first and most immediate issue is the lack of legal counsel. The government does not provide counsel to immigrants going through the asylum process. Navigating the U.S. legal system can be difficult for anyone, let alone an asylum seeker that may or may not have full command of the English language. Having an attorney makes a significant difference. A 2016 study by Syracuse University found that having representation increases an applicant’s chances of approval for an asylum case by 40 percent.

In the same study, researchers found that 90 percent of claims for asylum in the U.S. without representation are ultimately denied. This is partly because the burden of proof is entirely on the applicant to show to the courts and USCIS that he or she is eligible under the regulations. This can be a difficult prospect for someone who does may struggle with the language or lacks have access to documents containing regulations and applicable evidence while detained.

The second issue is immense pressure to deny cases. Former immigration judge Jeffry S. Chase confirms that immigration judges are assigned quotas for cases each year. Every day, each judge sees a dashboard of their statistics with a green/yellow/red layout to show them whether they are getting through the appropriate amount of cases each day. Though the quotas are meant to help keep cases moving forward, in reality, they push judges to deny cases since denials go faster. Pushing through cases means that applicants and attorneys do not have time to build the record of evidence and ultimately build their case.

What can people do to help?

There are multiple organizations that provide pro bono representation to asylees. The Immigration Justice Campaign is an organization devoted to providing due process for non-U.S. citizens. Another organization is the American Association of Immigration Lawyers’ pro bono project, which provides pro bono immigration counsel to vulnerable populations such as asylum seekers.

For long-term solutions, it is important that people continually contact their representatives about issues in immigration. One can support immigration reform, such as getting rid of judge quotas or providing those seeking asylum in the U.S. with free legal counsel. Government employees generally are not allowed to disclose any information about their work nor are they allowed to speak publically about what goes on behind the scenes at USCIS, DHS, or similar governmental organizations, but that does not mean that they do not care. There are people in government who want to help, but they need citizens to speak up and speak out against unfair immigration policies.

The immigration system as a whole has problems, but they are not irreversible. The asylum process is currently complicated and difficult, but it does not have to be that way. With the right amount of political activism from U.S. citizens and cooperation, change is possible.

Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

European Energy Security
H.R. 1616, The European Energy Security and Diversification Act of 2019, is a bill in the U.S. Senate that aims to incentivize and assist European and Eurasian countries to develop and utilize diverse energy sources. H.R. 1616, that Representative Adam Kinzinger introduced and nine other Representatives co-sponsored, focuses on European energy security that will incentivize American investment into European and Eurasian energy infrastructure and energy markets. According to the European Commission, European energy access is a problem for many Europeans.

The European Commission estimates that between 50 and 125 million people (at the highest estimation, 17 percent of the European population) in Europe are unable to afford the energy necessary for proper indoor thermal heating. H.R. 1616 would directly benefit these individuals, the energy poor, because of the introduction of more cost-effective energy infrastructure, an increase in accessibility in the energy markets.

European Energy Security

The Council of European Development Bank reports that energy poverty is a result of poor energy infrastructure and of the inaccessibility to energy markets. Because the majority of energy insecure homes are already poor, the lack of access to energy compounds the effects of poverty. The choice between energy and food, for instance, is a common choice for those in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution. In Europe particularly, the lack of energy infrastructure across borders is detrimental; 85 percent of those who are energy insecure live in 10 of the 32 European states. Meanwhile, natural gas is 20 percent of the energy in Europe and coal makes up 20 percent of European energy markets. Both are inefficient and the grid infrastructure makes gas and coal inaccessible.

H.R. 1616 Policy Goals and Income

H.R. 1616 would increase access to energy markets by funding the transition away from natural gas and coal through aid, increasing European access to the American energy market and funding accessible infrastructure. The bill also allocates $579.5 million to help properly create supply routes throughout Europe, and between European states, which would ensure rural access to energy. H.R. 1616 would also negotiate cross-border energy infrastructure, including negotiating environmental standards and the accessibility of an array of energy sources.

The E.U. has been diversifying some forms of energy in the status quo by increasing energy production in the Baltics on the Mediterranean Sea and the Adriatic Sea. However, Europe would be unable to sustain the diversification of energy on its own due to current regulatory restrictions that the U.S. put in place, as well as the economic barrier of opening new markets. H.R. 1616 would raise the regulatory restrictions and fund the new markets, allowing for Europe to continue to decrease energy insecurity in its states. 

A Lasting Effect

H.R. 1616 will decrease energy insecurity in Europe, alleviating the effects of poverty in the lowest echelons of society, and fund the transition away from unsuccessful forms of energy production. The infrastructure that H.R. 1616 would build would increase access to energy and allow cross-border energy trade, making sure that poor states have access to energy. The current European trend of diversifying energy would continue, ensuring European energy security and diversification. The House passed the bill, and the Senate has read it and referred it to the Committee on Foreign Relations for further review.

Denise Sprimont
Photo: Flickr

Why are More People Trying to Cross the Border?
With America’s current politicians, U.S. border security is tighter than it has been in decades. In the spring of 2018, the Trump Administration introduced the zero-tolerance immigration policy to discourage migration into the U.S. The policy required detention of all individuals who crossed the border illegally, with or without children.  This resulted in the separation of children from their parents and their placement in shelters around the country. The U.S., however, halted the policy on June 20, 2018, due to widespread backlash.  The government has been letting thousands of held migrants go free because it lacks enough beds to hold them in detention facilities. However, these implementations have not been successful in deterring people from attempting to illegally enter the country. With the heightened security, why are more people trying to cross the border?

The Decrease in Mexican Immigration

The important thing to note with the changing migration patterns is the demographics of the people. Undocumented immigrants are no longer mainly coming out of Mexico, which is how it has been in the past. In fact, the number of people fleeing Mexico is on the decline.  Since 2007, the number of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. declined by 2 million. They now make up less than half of illegal immigrants in the U.S. This is due partially to the increasing militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and the increase in price for human smugglers, but there are other factors too.

  • The economy in Mexico has improved and Mexican employment opportunities are rising.
  • Fertility rates in Mexico have dropped significantly in the last 60 years, from seven births in 1960 to only 2.1 in 2019.
  • Not only are there fewer immigrants, but the Mexican immigrants that are crossing the border have higher education and are more fluent in English than the U.S. has seen in the past.  Mexico is undergoing a demographic shift and a technological transformation that is making it more habitable for its population.

With the decrease in Mexican immigration due to an increase in Mexico’s living conditions, why are more people trying to cross the border? As Mexico increases opportunities, immigration statistics are shifting to the impoverished Central Americans.

Increase in Central American Immigration

In Central American countries, over half of the population lives below the poverty line. The Northern Triangle of Central America, or NTCA, which includes Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, has one of the highest homicide rates on earth and many consider this area to have some of the most dangerous countries. America is not the only country seeing a huge influx of these immigrants as well. Mexico, Belize, Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica have seen a 432 percent increase in asylum applications, the majority coming from the NTCA.

Over 90 percent of the new illegal immigrants entering the U.S. is coming out of Guatemala specifically. Why are more people trying to cross the border? It is because of the challenges of poverty and violence in Guatemala.

  • About two-thirds of Guatemalan children live in poverty.
  • Over two-thirds of the indigenous population live in poverty.
  • The wealth distribution in the country is one of the most uneven distributions in the world. In fact, the top 1 percent control 65 percent of the wealth, and the top 5 percent control 85 percent. The economic elite is not indigenous either as most members have European heritage.
  • Guatemalans are itching to flee areas ridden with conflicts over land rights, environmental issues, official forced labor policies, gang violence, prostitution and human trafficking, and depressing crop prices that destroy farmers’ ability to make profits.

What the US is Doing to Help Guatemala

Fortunately, the U.S. is working to help improve conditions in Guatemala.  Traditionally, Guatemala and the U.S. have had a good relationship with a few disagreements over human rights and military issues. Guatemala has a strong trade system in place and the U.S. benefits by working to improve conditions there regarding security, governance, food security, civil rights, education, crime reduction and health service access for the people.

The U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America put in multiple initiatives including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Central American Regional Security Initiative and Food for Peace. The U.S.’s goal is to spur development in Guatemala and reduce the desire for illegal immigration into the U.S. The Trump Administration proposed to substantially cut funds for the country and to completely eliminate food aid. Congress shot down much of these cuts in the Consolidated Appropriations Acts of 2018 and 2019. However, in March 2019, the Trump Administration did suspend all U.S. military aid in the country when the Guatemalan government misused armored vehicles that the Department of Defense provided to combat drug trafficking. The Trump Administration is still actively trying to cut or eliminate all U.S. aid to Guatemala and the NTCA, but Congress remains actively invested in the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America.

– Gentry Hale
Photo: Flickr

Quotes On Poverty

There are many quotes on poverty from world leaders that make it clear what their stance is. American leaders are no different; they too have things to say about poverty. These former presidents understood the roots and the long-term effects of poverty on human beings. Below is a list of seven quotes on poverty with some background information on the former American presidents.

Seven Quotes On Poverty From Former U.S. Presidents

  1. John F. Kennedy: Kennedy served in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives until he became the 35th U.S. president in 1961. Some of his top achievements include the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Alliance for Progress. It was also Kennedy’s administration that established the Peace Corps by executive order in 1961, thanks to the increasing activism that was spreading among the West. The idea behind the Peace Corps was to find volunteers who would be willing to work on improving the social and economic conditions across the globe in order to promote modernization and development. Kennedy was quoted saying, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. [Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961]”
  2. Bill Clinton: William Jefferson Clinton enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. His two terms as President were correlated with economic prosperity from 1992 to 1998. Clinton’s vision in terms of foreign policy was intertwined with globalization as he believed that domestic events can be sharply affected by foreign events. He was quoted saying, “It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.”
  3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to be president four times even though he was known at Harvard to be an ‘unimpressive C student.’ He led the United States both during the Great War and World War II. He established reforms in the powers of the federal government through the New Deal, including the CCC, the WPA, the TVA etc. In the earlier period of his presidency, he led the “Good Neighbor” policy for Latin America and other countries in the Western Hemisphere. Roosevelt was quoted saying, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
  4. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Dwight D. Eisenhower was first appointed as U.S. Army chief of staff in 1945. In 1951, he became the first Supreme Allied Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The following year, he was elected President. Eisenhower served two terms before retiring in 1961. The policy of containment became popular under the Eisenhower administration through the introduction of bilateral and multilateral treaties, including the CENTO and the SEATO. Eisenhower was quoted saying, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
  5. Lyndon B. Johnson: Lyndon B. Johnson initially served as vice president under John F. Kennedy in 1960. After Kennedy’s death in 1962, he became the 36th president himself. Johnson was widely acknowledged for his ‘Great Society’ social service programs, the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. Johnson was quoted saying, “The hungry world cannot be fed until and unless the growth of its resources and the growth of its population come into balance. Each man and woman – and each nation – must make decisions of conscience and policy in the face of this great problem.”
  6. George W. Bush: George W. Bush served as the 43rd President in the United States. He is remembered as the leader of the country during the 9/11 attacks in 2001. He was involved in the policy of the fight against HIV/AIDS where he proposed a $15 billion initiative known as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This initiative led to an increase from 50,000 to 3 million Africans receiving AIDS medication. Bush was quoted saying, “Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen to those who do. And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side. America, at its best, is a place where personal responsibility is valued and expected.”
  7. Barack Obama: Barack Obama was elected as the 44th president and the first African-American president of the United States. Before being elected president, Obama served in the U.S. Senate in the state of Illinois. Obama’s main stance on foreign policy was restraint. He tried his best to limit large-scale military operations and maximize diplomatic cooperation. He shared the burdens and responsibilities of international leadership with leaders from other countries. Obama was quoted saying, “As the wealthiest nation on Earth, I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition, and to partner with others.”

It is important to highlight these seven quotes on poverty from our leaders to remind us how national and global poverty can affect everyone’s daily lives. This effect can come through in the forms of policies or everyday interactions.

Nergis Sefer
Photo: Flickr

Venezuela's Failing Economy
People know Venezuela as one of the most diverse environments in the world because of its natural features, landscape and wide range of wildlife. Venezuela has massive oil reserves and ranks in the top list among countries such as Saudia Arabia, Canada and Iran, making it the most urban country in Latin America. However, in only approximately six years, the country has seen a drastic economic decline. Venezuela’s failing economy has placed the country in headlines across the world. This article will highlight a few casualties resulting from Venezuela’s financial crisis, as well as evaluating its causes.

The Impacts of Venezuela’s Economic Crisis

The extended effects of Venezuela’s economic crisis are hitting those who choose to remain in the country the hardest. Venezuela’s failing economy has led to a severe shortage and rationing of resources, including food, water and electricity. Despite the country being oil-rich, many Venezuelan’s are questioning why they are struggling. “It’s so unfair; we are such a rich country. It’s not fair that this is happening,” Jakeline Moncada told the Washington Post.

Many turn to natural water reserves despite safety concerns as these reserves often come from sewage drains leading to the spread of preventable diseases. Meanwhile, frequent power outages have caused water sanitation facilities to cease proper function. Physicians have noticed an increase in illness that commonly results from contaminated water and food, such as amoebiasis.

Estimates determine that more than 60,000 Venezuelans who started treatment for HIV now lack access to antiretroviral medications as a result of Venezuela’s failing economy. Many Venezuelan’s that could afford medical services before, now experience challenges attempting to access medical and health services. As a result, those dependent on medications must make costly trips to neighboring countries or hope to find donated medicines from organizations outside of the government.

As Venezuela’s economy has drastically decreased, a survey that the country’s top universities conducted estimated that more than two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line. As the country experiences hyperinflation of 1.7 million percent, many families cannot afford to feed themselves more than one meal a day. Various organizations have ceased publishing the statistics of the country after specific data showed significant negative changes. For example, The Health Ministry stopped reporting data in 2017 after reports indicated a high rise in infant mortality rates. After the inflation rates suddenly rose, Venezuela’s central Bank discontinued publishing its figures in 2016. In this instance, Venezuelan organizations stopped sharing information once the statistics showed unfavorable characteristics.

Accessibility

Venezuela’s failing economy has led to difficulty accessing resources like medicare, and as a result, nearly 10 percent of the Venezuelan population is emigrating to other countries. Although Venezuelans are having a few problems getting out of the country, there has been a more significant challenge getting resources in. The military has restricted many resources from passing through its borders or at least the areas where they have the right to. The Pemón community, which borders along Brazil, has spoken in support of permitting assistance through its territory. This region, known as La Gran Sabana, also contains the only paved crossing between the two countries.

When Nicolás Maduro became president in 2015, many nations did not consider him the country’s leader but rather Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader. As a result, Maduro severed the remaining diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the U.S. as well as ceasing the accessibility of aid into Venezuela. Maduro has resisted outside assistance, describing the efforts as the United States desiring to meddle in Latin American affairs. However, many believe that the sudden decline results from mismanagement of funds and corruption.

Venezuela has several countries willing to provide support as it endures this period of financial difficulty. It will only receive this aid if its government allows, though, as it regulates the resources that pass through its border. Once nations can establish a common interest and agree on how to address the issue, Venezuela’s reconciliation can begin.

Kimberly Debnam
Photo: Flickr

 

Foreign Aid in sub-Saharan Africa
In recent decades there has been a debate regarding the importance of foreign aid in sub-Saharan Africa. Some have argued that foreign aid is not beneficial to developing countries, as it creates a dependence upon aid, rather than fostering growth. Empirical data does not support this view, which reveals that while there is much work necessary in developing countries, foreign aid has stimulated economic growth and positive results in the battle against poverty. The amount the United States spends on foreign aid represents a minuscule fraction of the federal budget, despite compelling evidence that foreign aid is mutually beneficial, serving the interests of the United States and other modern countries, as well as those of developing nations. One cannot overstate the importance of foreign aid in sub-Saharan Africa, and if anything, countries could benefit others by stepping it up.

Benefits of Foreign Aid

Foreign aid is useful for fostering economic development in impoverished nations. In 2015, a study that the University of Western Australia conducted concluded that foreign aid had a significant and long-term positive impact on GDP growth in the 25 countries it examined. It also found that economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa directly correlated with the increase in foreign aid from 1970 to 2012. Additionally, countries that received the largest amount of foreign aid also displayed the greatest amount of economic growth.

Foreign aid is also crucial for providing humanitarian aid and ameliorating suffering. In sub-Saharan Africa, the focus of foreign aid is often to reduce poverty and provide food. A 10-year case study that the Global Development Network conducted showed that Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) in Kenya had positive results on poverty reduction in the country between 1999 and 2009. The Global Development Network also found that foreign aid most largely benefits the poorest of the poor, who are most desperately in need of humanitarian aid.

US Involvement

The United States could benefit from increasing its contribution to foreign aid for sub-Saharan Africa. An increase in the budget allocated towards foreign aid would not carry any substantial financial burden, as the portion of the federal budget that the U.S. currently spends on foreign aid totals at less than one-fifth of 1 percent. Sub-Saharan Africa itself accounts for only about one-third of that minuscule amount. While the costs of increasing foreign aid to the country are insignificant, there are potentially heavy costs that one can associate with inaction. Poverty and state failure in Africa can lead to refugee crises and terrorist havens, which may pose a threat to the United States’ national security. Additionally, the provision of foreign aid cultivates favorable views of the United States worldwide. As a result of aid from other countries, sub-Saharan Africa perceives the United States very positively, as 80 percent of respondents report a positive view of the country. The potential benefits, coupled with insignificant costs show how the importance of foreign aid in sub-Saharan Africa extends also to the United States and other developed nations.

Following World War II, foreign aid to developing countries became a commonplace practice among wealthy nations. Foreign aid has been a successful strategy for promoting economic growth and lifting millions out of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Given the importance of foreign aid in sub-Saharan Africa, such aid programs should continue, and even expand.

– Karl Haider
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Immigration and US Gun Policy
Thousands on the migrant caravan were outside Arriaga, Chiapas. To avoid some of the heat of the day they began walking at 2 am. Negotiations began in the dark, and shortly after dawn, the caravan continued towards Juchitan, Oaxaca. As the U.S. tightens its immigration policy at the border, civilians throughout Central America are struggling to cope with the bloodshed largely brought about by smuggled, American-made guns. Here is some information explaining the influence of immigration and U.S. gun policy on Mexico and various other Central American countries.

Variations in Gun Laws

Mexico and the United States have different gun laws. Although the constitutions of both countries protect a citizen’s rights to bear arms, Mexico’s licensing process is more rigorous. In Mexico, only one establishment, the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA), can produce and sell firearms. Anyone who purchases a gun in Mexico must register the weapon with this defense department. Even after proving employment, military service, proof of residence, picture identification, a Unique Population Registry Code and no criminal record, the country still bans some styles of AR and AK assault rifles from civilian purchase. Gun policy in the U.S. is far more relaxed giving further incentives to smugglers and those who hope to profit by obtaining guns illegally.

Smuggling Firearms has Increased

The illicit presence of U.S. guns has increased across Central America. Between 2011 and 2016, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) found that a licensed gun dealer in the U.S. purchased 70 percent of 106,001 guns that Mexican law enforcement recovered. Forty-nine percent, 45 percent and 29 percent of guns recovered from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, respectively, were of U.S. origin. Between 2014 and 2016, El-Salvador had more U.S. sourced guns used for a crime than 20 states combined.

This type of activity, where someone purchases a gun legally only to give that firearm to someone who cannot purchase a gun legally, is a straw purchase. According to Gifford’s Law Center, U.S. law does not currently regulate or prohibit this act enough for change to occur.

Violent Crime

People use the majority of these smuggled weapons for violent crimes. The U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded in 2016 that just around half of the guns that the U.S. manufactured or purchased in Mexico at the time were either semi-automatic, AK or AR rifles. Mexican government officials are concerned because these firearm models can easily become automatic in style and have become the choice weapon of gang members for that reason.

Violent gun crime has grown substantially in recent years in this part of the world. The current rate of homicide in Mexico is 20.5 per 100,000 people. The percentage of fatal shooting homicides increased from 15 percent in 1997 to 66 percent in 2017. Firearm usage also grew from 58 percent to 68 percent in Mexican robberies between 2005 and 2017.

Many cite the overall increase in violence as a major reason for the increased northbound movement of Central American refugees and asylum seekers. Known as the migrant caravan, groups of up to 10,000 will join together on their trek towards a less violent and less corrupt life. They are unlikely to find a solution to this type of life until their countries address their serious political problems.

The profits from gun sales in the Central American States fuel the violence and corruption still present in those countries. Weaponry will continue to pour into these countries for profit. As of February 2019, the Trump administration solidified a new approach to international arms deals allowing for little to no congressional oversight on large sales. This process is to go to the Department of Commerce instead of the State Department.

Paths Towards Improvement

Though immigration and U.S. gun policy have a close relationship as of now, there are legitimate solutions all individuals can participate in. Three possible paths to follow towards improvement include to:

  1. Encourage U.S. congressional leaders to support universal background checks in upcoming legislative sessions. Some have attempted these efforts but have not promoted them enough. A 2017 effort “to stop the flow of arms to Mexico” by one California representative and two New York representatives in the U.S. House stalled. Policymakers allow for individuals that cannot purchase guns to resort to even more opaque transactions, because they have not yet instituted background checks for all gun sales and purchases in the U.S. If it is true that people who desire weaponry will find a way to obtain it, the best option moving forward is to at least ensure every step possible is taken to keep guns out of the wrong.
  2. Support moves that would make straw purchasing and gun trafficking a federal crime. In the status quo, the only crime a straw purchaser or gun trafficker can receive charges for is paperwork violation. Any introduction of law specifically targeting those willingly involved in these acts is in the U.S. and Central America’s best interest.
  3. Increase access to data regarding specific details of recovered firearms. Being able to know the types and calibers of certain firearms could be very helpful in identifying which are the most widespread and may need increased supervision. Also, ATF reports cross-referencing types with U.S. states of origin could be very useful for local and state legislative bodies to know whether or not their direct action is necessary.

The presence of U.S. guns has become something of an epidemic for Central Americans. People in the United States and across Central America can benefit from changing the narrative surrounding immigration and U.S. gun policy.

– Fatemeh Zahra Yarali
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