Global Poverty Reduction
Most Americans perceive the current political climate as increasingly polarized by party affiliation. In 2019, Pew Research Center surveyed the American public and found that nearly 80% believe divisions are increasing between Democrats and Republicans. Yet, the political pursuit of global poverty reduction benefits those on both sides of the political aisle.

The Science Behind Political Unity

In a recent interview with The Borgen Project, social psychologist Dr. Calvin Lai explained key factors contributing to the difficulty of Democrats and Republicans to simply get along. Primarily, the core of political division – a type of intergroup conflict – stems from differing morality and values between Republicans and Democrats. Beyond differences of morality and values, geography, demography and culture also shape one’s political outlook. Despite these differences, Dr. Lai points to “bonding together based on a common goal” as a useful tool in overpowering intergroup conflict to reach bipartisan consensus.

Poverty Reduction as a Common Legislative Goal

Leading up to the 2016 elections, Gallup and Pew Research Center conducted polls to survey Americans on their legislative priorities. The results revealed that Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike regarded national security and terrorism, the economy and jobs as the most pressing issues.

The survey thus indicates room for a bipartisan stance on foreign aid. Global poverty reduction – which improves national security, strengthens the economy and improves domestic employment – can be the common thread that pulls together both sides of the political spectrum and encourages collaboration over conflict.

National Security and Terrorism as Cornerstones of American Legislative Priorities

In 2002, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that “sustainable development is a security imperative. Poverty, destruction of the environment and despair are destroyers of people, of societies, of nations, a cause of instability as an unholy trinity that can destabilize countries and destabilize entire regions.”

Global poverty relates to a host of environmental, economic and political problems for the international system, regardless of a nation’s wealth. For instance, deforestation – though people do not typically regard it as a threat to national security – occurs more frequently in impoverished, tropical countries. The state of the environment knows no borders. Issues like deforestation pose a risk to the entire world by degrading the climate.

Political unrest and terrorism also unfold in connection with poverty. Notably, poverty does not directly cause terrorism, and most terrorists are not poor. Rather, poverty breeds systemic issues and mental turmoil for societies, which may cause people to abandon hope for institutionalized change and instead support radical terrorist organizations.

The Causal Nexus Between Global Poverty Reduction and Economic Growth

After national security, the economy and employment rank high for the American people’s political interests. In today’s highly globalized world, an unstable global economy prevents the U.S. from reaching its full economic potential.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush once declared, “A world where some live in comfort and plenty while half of the human race lives on less than $2 a day is neither just nor stable.” Echoing Bush’s sentiments, research indicates that a highly active world economy cannot be sustained long term if coupled with increasing income inequality. Conversely, mitigating global poverty advances equality and allows all countries to participate in a more just, sound and stable international marketplace.

In particular, the U.S. – a dominant economic power dependent on exports – stands to benefit significantly from global poverty reduction. Asia and Africa are home to the top 10 countries with the fastest-growing GDPs. Libya tops this list, followed by Rwanda and Bangladesh, to name a few. As developing nations stabilize and prosper, more opportunities exist for trade with U.S. markets. Developing countries have accounted for half of international economic growth, and 50% of U.S. businesses supply half their exports to these emerging economies. Success for U.S. businesses boosts the economy but also promotes domestic employment by extension.

Approaching Global Poverty Reduction from a Bipartisan Front

In recent decades, global income equality has improved dramatically with less than a 10th of the world facing extreme poverty. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely have crippling effects on developing countries faced with scarce resources and infrastructural challenges to health care. The U.S. has the power and privilege to drastically improve the conditions of those facing life or death by endorsing foreign aid.

Domestically, the clash between red and blue has eroded a sense of national unity in recent years. Still, there is room for political consensus: most Americans agree that national security, the economy and employment remain essential aspects of the U.S. legislative agenda. Global poverty reduction allows people of all ideologies to tackle these problems and come together for something good.

– Maya Gonzales
Photo: Flickr

Former presidents on foreign aidIt is not widely known how much foreign aid is being spent as a part of the national budget, especially because statistics and figures can change dramatically under different administrations and eras. The policies of former presidents on foreign aid can reflect the national and international priorities of the nation itself and what the presidents themselves valued more compared to other factors within the federal budget.

5 Former Presidents on Foreign Aid: Who Spent What?

  1. Harry S. Truman is well-known for the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. While the Truman Doctrine was to extend economic and military aid to Greece, the Marshall Plan was more inclusive as it was designed to help Western European countries rebuild after World War II, consisting of $13 billion. Other goals achieved through these means were building markets for U.S. businesses and earning allies during the Cold War.
  2. Ronald Reagan believed in budget cuts domestically, but he was a strong advocate for non-military foreign assistance. He promoted the “0.6% of GDP” minimum to be spent on foreign aid, as he believed that such aid plays a large role in foreign policy strategies. Such strategies were to create stronger U.S. allies and to promote economic growth and democracy globally. Reagan also emphasized that it is an American value to provide foreign assistance based on the U.S. founding beliefs that “all men are created equal.”
  3. Jimmy Carter was an advocate for making human rights a priority of the U.S. foreign policy. Not only did he sustain foreign aid, he also made sure to redirect the routes of such aid away from brutal regimes, such as that of Ethiopia’s Mengistu Haile-Mariam. He also ensured that foreign aid was an instrument used for luring in more American allies during the Cold War. For instance, by 1980, 75 percent of the total aid designed for Africa were redirected towards the Horn of Africa, as Mengistu was Soviet-backed.
  4. During Barack Obama’s presidency in 2011, figures on foreign aid were reported as being increased by 80 percent when compared to the reports in 2008. Foreign assistance kept increasing from $11.427 billion in 2008 to $20.038 billion in 2010 to $20.599 billion in 2011. During 2011, the aid was split into Economic Support Fund, Foreign Military Financing Program, multilateral assistance, Agency for International Development, Peace Corps and international monetary programs.
  5. In 2002, George W. Bush planned an expansion of 50 percent over the next three years through the Millennium Challenge Account which would provide $5 billion every year to countries where that governed unjustly. Additionally, Bush called for $10 billion to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean over the following five years. There were also emergency funds put aside, consisting of $200 million for famine and $100 million for other complex emergencies.

The policies of former presidents on foreign aid widely reflect their intents and objectives, such as wishing to create more U.S. allies during the Cold War or to stop health epidemics from spreading, like HIV. International assistance can be employed in differing areas of focus that all eventually reach out to help an individual or a community climb out of poverty.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Flickr

How All Former U.S. Presidents Fight Global PovertyAll five living former presidents met in Texas on October 22, 2017, the first gathering of all past U.S. leaders since 2013. Their mission was to raise funds for hurricane victims in Florida, Texas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The event, titled “Deep from the Heart: One America Appeal,” accumulated $31 million towards helping those in need. The former U.S. presidents fight global poverty because they consider the issue too vital to ignore even in retirement.

Here’s how former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama helped foreign nations since leaving office.

Jimmy Carter

Even at age 93, Jimmy Carter works alongside other volunteers outdoors to build houses with Habitat for Humanity. Both Carter and his wife Rosalynn have traveled around the world to raise awareness towards the benefits of affordable housing. Their work encompasses 14 countries and 4,000 built homes.

George Herbert Walker Bush

Both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton fought a vicious campaign against each other for the presidency in 1992. But all wounds were mended by 2005, when the two former presidents visited Asia to raise money in the wake of a deadly tsunami. The two men also raised more than $100 million to support the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

On the subject of losing the re-election to a member of an opposing party, H.W. Bush commented, “You just can’t go through life with a great deal of bitterness in your heart over something that happened 15 years ago.”

Bill Clinton

In addition to the funds raised after Hurricane Katrina, Clinton established the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in 2005. The CGI gathered Nobel laureates, leading CEOs, philanthropists and more than 200 former heads of state to create Commitments to Action for those in need.

Previous Commitments to Action include an amount of refugees taken in by a country, an installation of solar arrays for a country and advice from major corporations to a country. CGI has aided 180 nations since its genesis.

George W. Bush

October wasn’t the first time the world saw George W. Bush and former U.S. presidents fight global poverty together. Both Bush and Clinton raised funds to provide for Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.

Bush continued his philanthropy even after his two terms saw the achievement of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals years ahead of schedule.

Barack Obama

Not even a year after leaving office, Barack Obama advocated for the world to address climate change, poverty and disease. “People wildly overestimate what we spend on foreign aid,” he said, “…It’s a good investment to make countries work.” Obama joined philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, Leymah Gbowee and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to urge nations in uniting to combat global poverty.

Seeing all former U.S. presidents fight global poverty reveals the tenacity within each leader. All five men, however, believe that saving the world is a global effort.

Nick Edinger

Photo: Flickr

Protest and Potential Reform for the Chilean Pension System
In the past, pension analysts, the World Bank and political figureheads around the world, including George W. Bush, have praised the privatized Chilean pension system as one of the most effective in the world. However, many issues have arisen due to the system, and Chilean retirees are unable to sustain themselves due to small pensions. Many citizens are forced to work past retirement age in order to live at the most basic level.

Following protests from dissatisfied citizens and warnings from international organizations regarding the failing pension system, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet began to explore reform options in 2008. Under the current system, which was implemented in 1981 under the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, workers must contribute 10% of their salaries into accounts operated by private businesses called pension fund administrators or AFPs.

The companies invest the money while employers and the government don’t make any contributions to the workers’ accounts. The funds are controlled by six AFPs and are equal to approximately 71% of Chile’s gross domestic product.

Recently, discontent among citizens has reached an all-time high as fewer and fewer people are capable of surviving solely off the money from the Chilean pension system. Although the invested money has helped to boost Chile’s economy in the past, the pension system is rather unreliable. If the stock market dips or the global markets stray from normal trends, workers lose savings and retirees receive smaller pension checks. Culturally, the Chilean economy is informal and people make inconsistent contributions to their pension accounts, which makes the situation even worse. Currently, the average pension check in Chile is $315, which is less than a monthly minimum wage salary.

Women also fare worse than men due to the fact that they typically earn less, are more likely to retire early and have a longer life expectancy than men. These factors, mixed with a general financial illiteracy among Chilean citizens, have led many people into desperate situations.

In 2008, President Bachelet introduced several pension reforms in an attempt to remedy the failings and move toward a mixed public-private system. She implemented a state-funded minimum pension amount of $140 for those who were unable to save for retirement. Close to 1.3 million Chileans receive this benefit today.

Now, further reforms such as a minimum required contribution from employers, the introduction of a state-run AFP with the hopes of creating competition and efforts to keep fund managers commissions on an equal playing field. Bachelet stated, “This increase in contributions will allow us to build the foundation for collective savings with solidarity. Part of it will enable raising current pensions and the other part will be used to ensure more equity in future pensions.”

As long as the Chilean pension system follows through with these reforms and takes care of their growing aging population, outside parties may still be able to look at Chile as having one of the most effective pension systems in the world.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Former President George W. Bush is remembered for his efforts to combat AIDS in Africa during his time in the Oval Office, but, as it turns out, he isn’t the only Bush with a passion for global health.

It was on a trip with her father to Uganda in 2003 that Barbara Bush, the elder of the former president’s twin daughters, was shocked by the toll AIDS was taking on population and the health inequality in the country.

One of the 43rd president’s lasting legacies is his creation of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which as of September of last year had supported life-saving treatment for seven point seven million people with the virus, in addition to helping provide over 56.7 million people with testing and counseling.

After graduating from Yale with a humanities degree in 2004, Barbara worked at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Capetown, South Africa, where she frequently worked with kids with AIDS, before returning to the United States to try to mobilize the global health movement and get more people involved.

The end result was she and five friends creating Global Health Corps, which she became chief executive of at the age of 26. The organization gives young professionals the chance to work at the front of the fight for global health equity and places fellows in Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, the United States, and Zambia.

According to Global Health Corps website, the goal of the organization is “to mobilize a global community of emerging leaders to build the movement for health equity.” The website also says that health is a human right.

Fellows are placed with organizations, such as Partners in Health, in either of the two continents, where two fellows work together for a year. One fellow is from the host country, whereas the second is from abroad.

For example, young professionals with expertise in logistics worked to improve drug access in Tanzania by working on the supply chain. In Rwanda, architects designed medical clinics with less airflow, making it less likely that those with tuberculosis would infect others.

Today, Global Health Corps is booming, receiving praise from health professionals around the world. In addition, the organization gets around 6,000 applications a year for fewer than 150 fellows positions.

Matt Wotus

Sources: Global Health Corps, The New York Times, PEPFAR
Photo: Huffington Post