There may or may not be a part 2, 3, or 4, but I feel this could be a multipart post. I generally don’t like post in parts, nor do I like reading blogs in parts, but this issue is too big and complicated for one post. This part can also stand alone. I suspect that during this season of fake giving and political taking, there will be more. I have already started part 2 on U.S. poverty hypocrisy.
Excerpt from the Benjamin Hoff translation of the Tao Te Ching, Tao Te Ching: The Way of Life
When deceit begins,
Honesty is discovered.
When weakness develops,
Strength is recognized.
When arrogance increases,
Respect is appreciated.
When cruelty becomes common,
Kindness is admired.
When treachery is everywhere,
Loyalty is rewarded.
A nation of heroes
Is a nation in trouble.
During the Thanksgiving holiday this year, CNN had a tribute to heroes. The event honored people who spent their lives helping others. That is how they came to be honored. However, all I could think about when I saw this was on the air was that quote from the Tao, “A nation of heroes is a nation in trouble.”
How afflicted is our world that these people have to sacrifice their lives to these causes while the rest of the world looks the other way? And how pathological must our society be that we address these issues once a year, honor those doing the work that a healthy society would not require, while the rest of the year our greed, ignorance and apathy fuels the very crises we donate money to?
Several of CNN’s heroes were involved in providing food for the hungry including Narayanan Krishnan and Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow. I salute that, but the very need for such food assistance is troubling in a world that provides so much.
Governments protect markets to keep the prices of food high; the U.S. dumps grains on the world market to control the market, or cuts back to keep prices high.
Levels of U.S. dumping
Analyzing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to compare the cost of production with farm gate and export prices of five major commodities, it is clear that there is widespread dumping by U.S. grain companies. In 2003, wheat was exported at 28 percent below its cost of production, soybeans were dumped at 10 percent, corn was dumped at 10 percent, cotton was dumped at 47 percent and rice was dumped at 26 percent. http://iatp.org/iatp/factsheets.cfm?accountID=451&refID=48538
People that still believe markets are free say that this dumping damages markets. That is self-evident. However, having a “free market” in food is the problem, and it leads to increased hunger and suffering in places like Africa. If “We are world”, why are we harming our neighbors through a manipulated market in food and other commodities?
Dumping hurts farmers around the world
If farmers can’t get a price that covers expenses then it’s difficult to stay in business. Farmers in other countries are hurt because dumped exports push them out of local markets and eliminate their ability to export. Poor countries facing hunger are particularly vulnerable if their farmers are pushed off the land. As domestic production falls, these countries become dependent on the fluctuating prices and availability of imports. (Ibid)
The damage to food insecure countries is two-fold: first, there is less local production of staples and second, there is less hard currency earned through exporting of products because they can’t match the subsidized commodity prices of products from more industrialized nations.
Another issue in world and U.S. hunger is that instead of providing subsidies to farmers to grow food to feed the people, farmers are still given money to NOT grow crops. http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread491850/pg1 You see, if we grew more food, the market would be saturated and world food prices would collapse. Then there would be no incentive to grow food. Again, the fix is not in the market, the fix is decoupling food from the world commodities market and having a bank of cash available so all nations can pay farmers to grow food for all people.
Yes, it sounds like a communist food coop that has already failed. Those failed due to pressure from Western industrialized farms and farmers who have been able to exploit immigrant labor in their nations for years and were giving the best farming technology in the world. The Soviets and Chinese never had such advantages in the time of their collectives and they were run as totalitarian enterprises. An international food security group would have no such impediments.
If all nations worked together to create a stable food supply, it would reduce some of the world’s gravest problems. The incentive growers would be like it is for all workers: bonus for production and utilization of sustainable farming practices, firings for farmers that didn’t get the job done. It’s either that or let the 925 million people living with hunger on this planet continue to suffer and starve. Read and download the FAO report here: http://www.fao.org/publications/sofi/en/
But what of the rising population that would ensue, you ask? Populations decrease with increased prosperity. Just look at plummeting birth rates in Europe, the U.S., and the decrease in China and India. In fact, Europe is alarmed that they aren’t reproducing themselves and their economies will collapse. However, there are more than enough people in the world to replace that population and only xenophobes with prevent a replacement of the European populations by hard-working immigrants. By increasing food security you will eventually increase prosperity and reduce the planet’s population.
Another example of harmful price supports and dumping is the subsidizing of cotton by the U.S. and other nations. The U.S., EU and India subsidize cotton production and dump it on the African market. We then turn around and send aid to African nations that suffer under poverty. It might be more cost effective and it would certainly be more humane to stop the dumping and pay cotton farmers in these nations directly for their product.
And while US and EU agriculture policies destroy the livelihoods of farmers and their families in rural Africa, EU & US aid programmes support the poor farmers in Africa, the FF criticizes.
Afterwards, we can congratulate ourselves for being generous with the concert to support Africa and the song “We are the World” http://www.inthe80s.com/weworld.shtml among other aid to poor nations.
Were the Live Aid musicians and producers heroes? That is in dispute. Were they self-serving attention mongers. Some were. If they weren’t looking for attention, why didn’t they just send money to Africa, the UN, or other food programs? How many of these celebrities actually addressed the causes of African hunger such as economic colonialism, military dictatorships, structural adjustment programs, GMO and other seed bank projects, and industrialized agriculture? Few, if any.
Structural Adjustment Programs
I have a few special words on structural adjustment programs or SAP. When nations borrow from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank it is to keep their government running after mostly corrupt governments accrued unsustainable debts. These governments that go to the IMF and World Bank are forced to go through some structural adjustments. And do the elites in these nations pay for these adjustments? Do you really have to ask?
The conditions on loans are a structural adjustment program include:
Conditions of Loans
On giving loans to countries, the IMF make the loan conditional on the implementation of certain economic policies. These policies tend to involve:
- Reducing government borrowing – Higher taxes and lower spending
- Higher interest rates to stabilise the currency.
- Allow failing firms to go bankrupt.
- Structural adjustment. Privatisation, deregulation, reducing corruption and bureaucracy.
As the analysis points out, these adjustments make the economic conditions for the working classes and joblers, harder, not better.
And in many places the population has rioted under these conditions. http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Globalization/Brief_Hx_StrucAdj_DGE.html
So, we make things harder for the people in these nations by forcing them borrow money to meet their obligations and give them harsh conditions they have to meet in order to get that loan. And it more often than not makes it worse for people in these nations.
But remember, if the industrialized modern nations make people suffer as they adjust, they can always rely on their people to donate to charities to help these suffering children or send aid paid for by the taxes of the people in these nations. Then we all get to feel like heroes and go back to our shopping malls and consumption of cheap third-world produced products made with subsistence wages.
It’s an endless cycle of causing then trying to relieve suffering in the poorest regions of our planet instead of going after the deeper cause of this suffering: Western greed and domination.
Is it good to give to “Save the Children”. Sure. But next time, write to your Congressperson as well and tell them to stop the dumping, bombing, adjusting and stop supporting trade deals that benefit the already wealthy on this planet and harm workers and the environment. Also, ask them to create a world food bank and international farming collective.
Stop the U.S.-Korean trade act:
http://washingtonfairtrade.org/wordpress/ Great page with all sorts of Korean FTA information
More on Structural Adjustment
http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/40/index-dcb.html (History archives, Latin America)
http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/30/index-fh.html (History archives, Africa)