A Failure to Confront Poverty

Failure to confront poverty

Contributed by The Atlantic.

“Poverty By America” by acclaimed Author Matthew Desmond is a serious wake-up call!

Poverty means hunger, homelessness, addiction, and many other issues. In the Arabic language, it is faqr.

Muslims will begin the new year on July 19th with the month of Muharrum, a month of mourning.
Muslims around the world will be dressed in black. The mosques will be jam-packed and decorated in black wall coverings with flags (A’lam) and replica shrines (Taziyas). Majalises (Assemblies) will be held every night during the first twelve days with poetic recitations and speeches pertaining to the martyrdom of Hussein-Ibne Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Muharram budget for the Khoja Islamic Centers from Canada to Florida will surpass over I million dollars. Leaders of the Islamic center and the congregation members have to be mindful of the wastage and environmental consequence (smoke & heat Alert). Vegetarian Nyaz and Tabaruk are much healthier, good for the environment and very cost effective. Sodas and fruit drinks should be avoided. One only has to look at the simple diet our Islamic scholars (Ulemas) follow. We the followers (muqallid) Ayatollah Sistani and Khamenei who should be our role model of simple diet and living.

As we begin the new Islamic year contemplate on the above picture of child around the globe with skeletal frames due to hunger, starvation and malnutrition

In order to understand the magnitude of the problem, let us analyze the statistics relating to the wide disparities that exist in the world today. Of the seven billion people worldwide, at least 970 million that is one in nine do not have enough to eat and the irony is that the overwhelming majority of the poor reside in Muslim countries.

Over three billion people leave on $2.50 a day and 80% of the world leaves on $10.00 a day. It is however, the plight of women and children that should provoke the greatest concern. More than 60% of the world’s hungry are women. Is it enough to feel ashamed and regretful about the pressing statistics with the beginning of Islamic New Year?

Muharrum, must arouse some sense of consciousness of the plight of suffering in humanity. In order to grasp the magnitude of the problem more accurately let us consider the below statistic relating to poverty, wastage, and disparity between the less fortunate and well off.

Ø One billion people have not enough to eat (World Bank).
Ø Nearly one fifth of the World population (1.4 billion) live on less than $1.25 a day (World Bank).
Ø Globally, one child dies every five second from hunger-related diseases(UNICEF).
Ø Over 37 million Americans (11.4%) 1 in 9 lived below the federal Poverty line.
Ø 1 in 9 US families (12.5%) with children could not buy enough food for their families.
Ø Black (19.8%) and Latinx (16.2%) households are disproportionately impacted by food.
Ø America Second Harvest says over 41 billion pounds of food have been wasted this year.
Ø On average American household’s waste 14 percent of their food purchases.
Ø Every year 130 pounds of food per person ends up in landfills.
Ø The annual value of this lost food is estimated at around $31 billion.
Ø 49 million people could have been fed by these lost resources.

Poverty is one of the greatest challenges faced by every nation including the USA. Poverty and inequality are the twin anchors of the damaging dynamic that ultimately sends tens of millions of families into agonizing cycles of helplessness and hopelessness. The federal government calls a safety net for the poor; however, this safety net becomes a trampoline for the poor.

Is the above statistic enough to feel bad during this Muharram? How much will we waste in the month of Muharrum and Safar? Where are the foot-soldiers of Imam Ali and the Azadars of Imam Hussain for this war on poverty?

Military Industrial Complex (MIC), Pentagon Budget, and Wars.

Every gun that is made, every fighter plane manufactured, every warship launched, every rocket and missile fired signifies theft from the hungry, homeless, and poor. Rich decide on wars that the poor fight and die. Poverty cannot be destroyed until all wars have ended and spending on the military curtailed or halted. We are going to supply cluster bombs to Ukraine and have provided over 76.8 billion dollars of military aid. The USA, being the most powerful and rich nation in the world, still finds it necessary to make huge amounts of money through manufacturing and selling weapons. This is called the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). The MIC accounts for more than a trillion dollars every year. In a similar vein, Dr. Martin Luther King saw three evils dominating the USA: Racism, Poverty and Militarism. Military spending, and endless wars are the root cause of poverty. As you can see, poverty is not a small problem confined to just certain areas. It is global and it is huge. But it is also a problem that can easily be corrected. In order to fulfill the nutritional and health needs of all the poor in the world requires a total of $13 billion plus annually. This is truly an insignificant sum when one considers that over one trillion dollars annually is spent on global military expenditure.

New book “Poverty By America” by acclaimed Author Matthew Desmond is a serious wake-up call!

The thrill comes from the sheer boldness of Desmond’s argument and his carefully modulated but very real tone of outrage that underlies his words. Desmond’s terrific previous book, “Evicted” (2016), is emphatically about the lives of the poor. “Evicted,” which won the Pulitzer Prize.

The sociologist professor at Princeton Matthew Desmond shows how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor, exploiting them. With sheer boldness and rage he elegantly writes and fiercely argues. This compassionate book gives us new ways of thinking about a morally urgent problem. The brilliance of Poverty, by America lies in Desmond’s account of how government and social policy act in ways commensurate with his class-war thesis. It tackles the pressing issue of basic needs in our country, and it demands action. He opened the debate on poverty, making provocative and compelling arguments. It is a very uncomfortable reading

Matthew Desmond encourages us all to be poverty abolitionists not to treat it as a tumor but to remedy it permanently. He highlights an important fact: Government anti-poverty measures and spending of the past 50 years have done little to reduce poverty. Banking deregulation of the 1980s has become less accessible and more expensive for Americans, especially the poor. Last Friday’s earnings report of the top banks reported huge profits specially JPMorgan’s profit climbed 67% to $14.47 billion.

Time and again in the pages of the book, Desmond, who labels himself a “poverty abolitionist,” calls out middle-class and wealthy Americans for bewailing and deploring poverty in the abstract while doing little and sacrificing virtually nothing to end it in practice. He asked pointed questions; Why is there so much poverty in the richest country on earth, who is responsible, and what can be done about it?

I say it is the elephant in the room, capitalism – Usury (Riba) or unjust exploitation. A must-read Book “Our Economy” (Iqtisaduna) is a foundational work on Islamic economics by the celebrated Shia cleric and martyr (shahid) Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr. The book was written in Arabic 1961, and published in 1982 and in 1985 presented to Prime minister Mikhail Gorbachev. The curiosity of Gorbachev led to inquiry the age of Baqir al-Sadr who was only in thirties. Gorbachev was interested to meet him.

A recent study was published and it showed that if the top 1% of Americans just paid the taxes they owed, as a nation could raise an additional $175 billion every year. That is just about enough to pull everyone out of poverty, every parent, every child, every grandparent.

The USA is profanely a rich nation. We have supermarkets with 100 different brands of fruit drinks full of sugar (one wonders why American children are obese) and mega-mansions sprouting like poison ivy across the grasslands, TVs the size of buildings in New York, and private jets polluting the environment. With all this wealth, all this bounty, all this stuff — why is there so much hardship and suffering? Roughly one in nine Americans live in poverty.

What are the solutions: Be a poverty abolitionist.

First, we need to deepen our investments in fighting poverty, and find ways to attack the unrelenting exploitation of the poor in the labor market and the housing market. Second, cut defense spending.
Third, the better governance with effective public policies without the influence of lobby and money.
And, lastly, prosecute elected officials for corruption, and introduce term limits.

The War on Poverty Is Over. Rich People Won.
Why do so many Americans live in poverty? Because so many rich people benefit from it.

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