Nov 09


The Huffington Post reports, “There are 16.4 million American children living in poverty. That’s nearly one quarter (22.6 percent) of all of our children.”

We seem to find money for most other things. The food stamp program isn’t fat we need to cut from the budget, it’s an essential program to keep people from starving to death in the richest country in the world.

written by Joe \\ tags: ,

Mar 22

I saw a tweet that read “knowing that world’s top 10 richest could wipe out poverty and not even notice the money’s gone sickens me.”

A very interesting idea, but is it true, and if not, how far off the mark is it? Business Insider recently wrote an article looking at the Forbes top 10 Billionaires –


Add them up and we have $451.5B. Nothing to sneeze at, but how much good would this money do? The site Global Rich List tells us that half the world’s people live on less than $850 per year. If we confiscate the entire wealth of these top ten, we can give each of the 3 billion people at the bottom $150 each. That won’t quite eliminate poverty, not by a longshot.

To be fair to the gal that tweeted this, the distribution of wealth in the US is highly concentrated. Data shows the top 1% own approximately 40% of all wealth in this country. That’s about $24 trillion. Divide this over 3 billion people and we have $8,000 per person. Now, that might be enough to change the lives of the world’s very poor, although it’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

I’m sorry to say this is a problem for which I have no answers, not today.

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Oct 03

A guest post by Michael –

Since my forum/blog is about credit card offers, that’s normally what you will see me writing about; superficial topics related to cash back, balance transfers, and the like. So when I have the opportunity to blog about something other than credit cards – and instead – a topic that actually matters, I jump for it. Charity is one of those topics that matter, but according to the richest man alive it does not.

If you’re not familiar with Carlos Slim, he’s a Mexican business tycoon who happens to be the world’s richest man for two years and counting. Over the decades he has acquired stakes in a broad array of companies and industries, but is most famous for being “Mr. Monopoly” thanks to Telmex – a company which has a 90% marketshare of Mexican landline phones.
So much are we talking here? His wealth is equal to 7 or 8% of Mexico’s GDP! $74 billion for 2011. That’s almost 40% higher than the $53.5 billion he had last year. Despite the fact he’s making money hand over fist, most of this worldly wealth of his stays put in his piggybank. In his own words, here’s why:

“Trillions of dollars have been given to charity in the last 50 years, and they don’t solve anything”
“To give 50%, 40%, that does nothing” (in reference to the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge)
Before we get to his next quote, I just wanted to say… how the heck can he even make such broad statements like that? Giving hasn’t solved anything?!
“What we need to do as businessmen, is to help to solve the problems, the social problems,” he explains. “To fight poverty, but not by charity”

That last quote may sound less brash – maybe even sensible – upon your first glance of it. He says that “being a Santa Clause” is not the solution to poverty and building businesses is. “The only way to fight poverty is with employment.”
With all due respect Mr. Slim, I completely disagree with you and here’s why:

Reason #1: You first have to be able to work
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. I’m all for that mindset. But what if the man physically can’t work yet, due to malnutrition and disease? Or maybe the man isn’t starving, completely. But he has to spend several hours every single day fetching water and – if he’s lucky – gathering firewood to boil it. You spend seconds flicking a faucet, he has to spend hours.

In Western societies, the vast majority of us are able-bodied and are ready to work at the drop of a hat, if need be. If we’re unemployed, there’s a good chance we still have a roof over head, food on the table (even if it’s not our own). I lived below the poverty threshold for years, but my dumpy shared apartment and broken-down car was still living in the lap of luxury, compared to what even the well-to-do have in say, the horn of Africa.

So yes, in places like the US, employment is the solution for many [but not all] living in poverty. But that’s because many [but not all] in this country have their basic necessities already; food, water, emergency healthcare, etc. We have a leg up. You won’t find that everywhere… there are basic needs that need to be met first and without charity, that’s unlikely to happen.

Reason #2: Some won’t ever be able to work
Okay Mr. Slim, let’s say we follow your advice and erect a sweatshop as an act of charity (ha). Chances are there indeed will be many able-bodied individuals who can slave away on those sewing machines, widget makers, or whatever product is being concocted.
Alright so we have some folks working and it’s all gravy, but what about everyone who physically can’t work? Tell me Mr. Slim, do we throw the quadriplegic to the wolves since he can’t participate in this “solution” of employment?
For those who are truly unable to work due to physical or mental disabilities, then charitable acts of some form or fashion are ultimately the only thing that can be done. They can’t be taught to fish, so the fish will have to keep coming from elsewhere; either from the public or private sector (charity).

In the U.S. there are some forms of public assistance, but whether they operate sufficiently is another can of worms. Saving that argument for another time, let’s just talk about the other 95.2% of the world’s population for a moment. Nearly 50% of them live on less than $2 a day. What help do you think the disabled are given in those places? Do you think the governments in those countries are sending them Social Security checks and food stamps? Not a chance. In many of those places, there is zero – ABSOLUTELY ZERO – help from the government for the sick, blind, and lame. That leaves charity or nothing at all.

Reason #3: How much is enough, Mr. Slim?
Based on what he has said in various interviews, he won’t be bequeathing his estate to charity when he dies. So where will it go?
Even if his six children were left with “only” $1 billion each, it would be enough to support literally the most extravagant lifestyle imaginable. Each could buy their own Gulfstream 500 at $60M, throw down $100M on real estate, and they would still have $840M left over – each of them – to spend on sustaining that lifestyle. So that’s $6 billion accounted for. Is it really that repulsive to you, Mr. Slim, to divvy up some of that other $70 billion or so “being a Santa Claus” and helping some folks in need? Even if it’s only the sick, blind, and lame whose poverty cannot be cured with a job?

Michael runs CreditCardForum, a site for discussing credit card offers and benefits which admittedly, aren’t important at all in the grand scheme of things.

(Note from Joe – I met Michael this past weekend at the first annual Financial Blogger’s Conference. A warm, genuine person, it was an honor to spend some time and get to know him.)

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Aug 15

This is the fourth post in an 8 part series on being homeless, by a guest author who goes by the name Dreamscaper. It’s my honor to share his story with my readers.

1. Eating out of garbage cans. I preferred half eaten bags of potato chips. If they were soggy they probably weren’t good. If they were crunchy they were probably fine. I hung out when the vending machines were changed. Sometimes the changer would give me left over snacks or snacks they couldn’t pack. I’m not sure if they suspected I was homeless and hungry. Most everyone else, including my closest friends, assumed I was still a student. Though they wouldn’t know that I was previously a student so all they saw was someone looking hungry at a vending machine.

Homeless Christ

Homeless Christ by Deb Hoeffner

2. I ended up joining any clubs on campus I could. The idea simply being that I needed to fill my waking hours with something to do until I could find a place I felt safe. The club I remembered most fondly was a life action role playing club. Eventually they somehow knew I was going through hard times. To “play” was a $5 fee. I don’t remember if my fee was waved or someone covered it for me. Either way, the money collected went towards pizza, soda, chips, whatever, after the sessions. I ate well. Sometimes we’d go to a 24 hour dennys to eat and talk about whatever happened during the session. I always had a couple friends that said I should order anything I wanted. One friend said he did this for a friend at a bar and they rung up a $100 bar tab together and it was good. I didn’t feel guilty asking for a burger and fries those nights.

3. Nights that I couldn’t find a building to sleep in I’d recycle cans from garbage cans that weren’t cleaned yet. Also, on weekends, I’d go through all the chairs and sofas where I was to pick up loose change. One day I pocketed $8. Every weekend wasn’t this great because it was only a week since “last cleaning”. This money I either used to watch a movie on the first showing at a theater on Sunday and try to stay in the building as long as possible. So the food I did get on my own I stole from stores. I preferred those nickel candies you pay when you take it. so I’d fill up my pockets. I also preferred shell less sunflower seeds. Nice size bag that would last all day and I could steal or pay for cheap.

One night I was sitting at a 24 hour Denny’s, pretending to study, when a homeless person sat next to me. He ended up giving me his address and drew a map on a napkin if “I was ever lonely”. Months later, I was hungry and wanted a roof over my head. I walked to his address and was yards to his door. Here I was…questioning my own sexuality and morality and willing to put everything aside in hopes of something to eat and a roof over my head for a night.

The money I did make recycling cans and finding in sofas was typically used for Sunday movies or to buy smokes. I never smoked before being homeless, but I wanted an excuse of why I was out at midnight on campus. Going for a smoke break and a stroll seemed like a good excuse. Luckily, I was never asked. During that time I started a pack a day habit that took 8 years to break cold turkey and another 6 years to stop having smoking dreams.

(Editor’s note – I am in debt to the artist Deb Hoeffner who permitted me to use the image above. You can see and purchase her beautiful artwork at her site This image is not in the public domain and may not be reproduced or copied.)

Next Week – Getting Rescued

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Aug 08

This is the third post in an 8 part series on being homeless, by a guest author who goes by the name Dreamscaper. It’s my honor to share his story with my readers.

I was homeless with my life possessions in my backpack. I was (am) bipolar. If you never been truly homeless in your life, what could a homeless person be afraid of? What could a homeless person be afraid of? What do they have to lose?

The first weeks I was homeless I hustled poker and blackjack. I found people playing for quarters. Previously I was a card counter so blackjack was easy for me. I’d play either the house or had a nice bet spread while playing the player. I made a few bucks here and there. One day I was hustling a guy in this variant of poker that was forced. I was down $150 at that point and the next had I would have been up $300. The person I was trying to hustle called it quits at $150. I bounced him a check and he threatened my life. I laughed at him. Another person I was hustling in poker I found out was a gangbanger. I actually wasn’t too concerned. A gangbanger attending a university? Besides, I was homeless – I was suicidal. Please make good on your threats. Please.

I was sleeping on sofas and chairs in a dorm I used to live in until I was caught. I learned how to sleep while still being awake so if I heard footsteps or a door open I could wake up and walk outside as if I was never there. One day I got busted and took into an office with someone who was used to my residential adviser. He told me if I wasn’t 100% honest I’d be arrested for trespassing. I was. He let me go but said if I ever came back I’d be arrested. Weeks later he saw me on campus, and gave me his last $20 because he knew I needed it.

The things I didn’t experience include getting beat up, stabbed, killed. Who would try to find someone who stabbed or killed a homeless person? Doesn’t happen. Nobody cares. It’s almost the perfect crime for wannabe gang bangers. Luckily, my shoes have never been stolen. I had no backup supply. Who cares? Stores do. Stores have a no shirt, no shoes policy. How would I be able to steal food to get by if I didn’t have shoes? How could I still pretend to be a student on a university campus without shoes? Even if I recycled enough cans at night, how could I get in a store to buy shoes?

I was harassed by other homeless people. Walking downtown asking for some change? Nope. How about my watch? Nope. How about my headphones? Sorry. My little life possessions that couldn’t even fill up a shopping cart and here was some homeless person trying to get it. I had cans stolen when I tried to hide them.

Next Week – Eating and Survival

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