Hugo Chavez’s Failure to Help the Poor

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The Economist, Great Britain’s magazine for the American elite, recently published a special report on Latin America. While the magazine noted the continuing challenges facing Latin America, it also perceived that Latin America has made great strides in the past decade. This has especially been the case with reducing inequality, a perpetual curse of that region in the world – and perhaps the greatest obstacle to economic advancement in Latin America.

In doing this, The Economist published the following table:

Link to Table of Latin American Inequality Since 2000

This table indicates the rate by which a country’s inequality – measured by the Gini coefficient – has declined since 2000. The table stops at 2006 or a later date; unfortunately it does not say which countries have data until 2006, and which countries have data after that.

All in all the table paints a bright picture: inequality is down in most countries, from Brazil to Mexico to Argentina.

Several countries, however, stand out as exceptions. The most notable is Venezuela, which has been governed by President Hugo Chavez since 1999. Under Mr. Chavez, inequality has barely decreased. When compared to other countries, Venezuela has on done worse than average.

Since so much of Mr. Chavez’s political messaging rests upon his appeal to the poor, this is a startling failure. Mr. Chavez proudly characterizes himself as a socialist, determined to reduce income inequality and redistribute wealth more evenly. Yet after more than a decade of rule, inequality has barely budged – in stark contrast to the rest of Latin America.

One finds that this is the case with a number of Chavez-aligned countries. Anti-American President Daniel Ortega governs Nicaragua, and former anti-American President Manuel Zelaya ruled Honduras until 2009. In both countries the presidents are (or were) left-wing anti-American hardliners committed to socialism and helping the poor. In both countries income inequality has actually increased.

There are exceptions. President Evo Morales is as left-wing and anti-American as any Latin American leader, and Bolivian inequality has decreased substantially. Moreover, some of these leaders were not in power before 2006, so they may not be responsible for what the graph shows (although in some cases the data may be more recent). Their elections may have been a response to rising inequality – rather than to say that they failed at reducing inequality.

But Mr. Chavez has been in power since before 2000. He has no such excuse. When a president comes into office promising to help the poor, a good way to measure whether he or she has kept the promise is to look at how the poor have done relative to the rich. By that measure, Mr. Chavez – for all his about rhetoric about socialistic revolution – has not helped Venezuela’s poor.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

The Rich Are Different.

(cross-posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

There is nothing new about it - but here's more proof - that the poor are the most generous givers.

America's poor donate more, in percentage terms, than higher-income groups do, surveys of charitable giving show. What's more, their generosity declines less in hard times than the generosity of richer givers does.

"The lowest-income fifth (of the population) always give at more than their capacity," said Virginia Hodgkinson, former vice president for research at Independent Sector, a Washington-based association of major nonprofit agencies. "The next two-fifths give at capacity, and those above that are capable of giving two or three times more than they give."

Indeed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest survey of consumer expenditure found that the poorest fifth of America's households contributed an average of 4.3 percent of their incomes to charitable organizations in 2007. The richest fifth gave at less than half that rate, 2.1 percent.

In terms of income, the poorest fifth seem unlikely benefactors. Their pretax household incomes averaged $10,531 in 2007, according to the BLS survey, compared with $158,388 for the top fifth.

In addition, its members are the least educated fifth of the U.S. population, the oldest, the most religious and the likeliest to rent their homes, according to demographers. They're also the most likely fifth to be on welfare, to drive used cars or rely on public transportation, to be students, minorities, women and recent immigrants.

However, many of these characteristics predict generosity. Women are more generous than men, studies have shown. Older people give more than younger donors with equal incomes. The working poor, disproportionate numbers of which are recent immigrants, are America's most generous group, according to Arthur Brooks, the author of the book "Who Really Cares," an analysis of U.S. generosity.

What makes poor people's generosity even more impressive is that their giving generally isn't tax-deductible, because they don't earn enough to justify itemizing their charitable tax deductions. In effect, giving a dollar to charity costs poor people a dollar while it costs deduction itemizers 65 cents.

Which leads to the natural question some might be asking themselves- why are generous people poorer than stingy ones?

There's more...

FRIDAY: Sunshine and Stimulus Spending -- A How-to Guide

The $787 billion stimulus could be the greatest investment in low-income communities in generations. But with huge chunks of the money heading to opaque state and local governments, we may miss this golden opportunity.

So, this Friday, April 24, hundreds of the nation's leading policy and transparency advocates will join a "recovery briefing" conference call to lay out ways to force local governments to be more fair, more accountable and more transparent in their stimulus spending.

In "Achieving a Fair, Transparent, and Accountable Recovery" -- the second installment of the Demand Equity Now recovery briefing call-in series -- experts from the national and local levels will look at how advocates can ensure stimulus spending is open, honest, and equitable.

The one-hour call begins at 1 pm Eastern (10 am Pacific), Friday, April 24.

RSVP here

The call will feature

   * Gary Bass of OMB Watch and the Coalition for an Accountable Recovery
    * Sarah Mullins of ISAIAH
    * Dante Desiderio of the National Congress of American Indians

The call will be moderated by Judith Bell, president of PolicyLink.

Space is limited. Please RSVP by Thursday afternoon. Respondents will receive the call-in information via email later this week.

Got questions? You can email me directly at dan_at_policylink_dot_org.

There's more...

The Morals Of A Gnat

     As I watched the rant of CNBC analyst Rick Santelli concerning the proposed housing bailout of the Obama administration I couldn't help but think is this where we have evolved to as a country? Where our chief concern is what's in it for me. Have we gotten to the place where we are taking our moral cues from the same greedy, profit at all cost mentality that got us into this mess? According to this crowd it is now immoral to help those who have become unemployed, sick, or homeless because they have had the misfortune of working for a company that had lay-offs and didn't have golden parachutes. Because these people are still fortunate enough to be employed and have homes then the rest of the world be damned?

There's more...

Surprise, surprise - poor people getting the short end of the stick

Every day, in courtrooms throughout New York, people are denied justice simply because they are poor. Ricky Lee Glover, a homeless Syracuse man, languished in jail for seven months without bail after he was accused of stealing copper pipes from an abandoned public housing complex. Though he knew nothing about the law, Glover finally filed a motion on his own."I think there's something seriously wrong with a system where people like me have to learn to become their own lawyers," Glover said. He's right. <object width="425" height="355"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/rfjcfPkGsFw&hl=en"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/rfjcfPkGsFw&hl=en" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="355"></embed></object>

There's more...

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