Thursday, April 9, 2009

bananas for batteries

One of my favorite images this week has been the 40-odd bananas hanging in 2 different bunches from the solar panel arch on the back of Nomad. They are gifts in trade from Domingo of Bahia Honda. I've taken great pleasure in them aesthetically as well as conceptually. Aesthetically they look very cruiser-y; conceptually they represent one of my views on poverty.
One of my least favorite images this week was from a news blip I saw last time I checked my email a week ago. It had a picture of Obama with his new Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) puppy speaking to a crowd. The title was something like, "Obama reveals new plan to end Global Poverty while holding adorable puppy." Everything about this is at odds to me.

What all statesmen and orators know is that symbols and images are powerful. An 'adorable' puppy is not an symbol of compassion nor solutions. In an era when political analysts spend 5 minutes discussing the significance of the color of a presidential candidates tie, it is impossible to think that the puppy "just happened to be there". Having researched PWDs as an option for a boat mascot, I know that on the east coast they run about 3-5,000 dollars. That amount of money is more than many citizens of this world see in an year. Not to mention the cost of vet bills, food, trainers, shots, etc. over the life of the dog. I'm not saying people should never have pets and that would solve the world's poverty. I'm just quite put off by a head of state flaunting the symbol of wealth during a revealing of a supposed plan to reduce poverty. In my mind, that is NOT the right attitude to start with. Or perhaps it wasn't a symbol of wealth, maybe it was a symbol of something small and helpless. If so, that would be more insidious. The reason most of the poorest nations in the world are in that condition is not because they are poor and week. It's because the U.S. backed World Bank has filtered trillions of dollars to despotic governments for GOVERNMENT programs that never help the people. In fact, the resources of the citizens are signed as collateral for all of these loans. In this way, the means for self sufficiency are stripped from the individuals of the developing nations in exchange for larger and larger bureaucracies and wealthier and wealthier dictators.

One example of this occurred in Zimbabwe. When I was there and in South Africa in 1999, I heard story after story from Zimbabweans of century old family farms confiscated and redistributed to cronies of Mugabe, the president (who only after 30 years of such antics has recently agreed to share the rule with the opposing party). This "redistribution" happened about 3 times during his long rule. Each time, it resulted in more and more famine as the farms were turned over to non-farmers. The IMF loaned 42 billion rand to Zimbabwe "with full knowledge that much of it would be used for the resettlement project". (Page 99, The Creature from Jekyll Island).

Loans like this are handed out every day to governments all over the world famous for atrocities (Uganda-remember those government sponsored genocides?, Ethiopia- remember "we are the world"? government sponsored starvation, Somalia, Laos, Nicaragua-when it was murdering thousands of it's own people)that use them for their own betterment, not the betterment of their people.

That money that is loaned comes from the flow of American dollars that are the primary funds for these World Bank loans. So, not only is the Fed increasing inflation by printing more and more dollars for at home bailouts, but overseas government bailouts, as well.
So, in short, I'm not a fan of billion dollar loans from one government or one inter-government agency to another. I am a fan of true free trade (not free trade like NAFTA which has special loopholes for the US but not Mexico). What I am a fan of, is removing GOVERNMENT involvement in overseas governments. Many examples demonstrate that World Bank loans lower the standard of living in receiving countries. Mexico is a great example. Before its politicians received loans, it was more or less self-sufficient. With the billions of dollars borrowed from U.S. banks, the politicians built a monopoly out of the oil industry and other industries. "private business failed by the thousands, and unemployment rose...Mexico, once one of the major food exporters in the world was now required to import millions of dollars worth of food grains. THis required still more money and more loans.."

As Congressman Ron Paul puts it:
"Now, while free trade should be embraced, foreign aid shoud be absolutely rejected. Constitutional, moral, and practical arguments compel such a view. Constitutional authorization for such programs is at best dubious. Morally, I cannot justify the violent seizure of property from Americans [with high taxes] in order to redistribute that property to a foreign government-and usually one that is responsible for the appalling material condition of its people. Surely we can agree that Americans ought not to be doing forced labor on behalf of other regimes, and that is exactly what foreign aid is." (Pg. 99, The Revolution: A Manifesto)

By eradicating foreign aid of all types, we open up the option for private citizens and private organizations to aid as they desire! Not as our government or the foreign government desires. I'm reminded of the Asian tsunami in 2005. Private citizens and organizations donated many times over the amount of money that the U.S. government handed out AND, we were able to give to which organizations we saw best, not to the corrupted governments of Thailand, Burma, or Indonesia.

In short, I wish that the regular people of all countries could have access to their resources without corruption or inflation or government to government promises to take them away. Like Domingo in Bahia Honda whose son traded us plantains and pineapple for some size D batteries, I want all people to be able to use their resources to meet their own needs.

Ron Paul also says, "If Americans knew the real story of foreign aid and how it has deformed recipient economies, aided repressive regimes, and even contributed to violent strife, they would oppose it even more strongly than they already do. If they knew about the record of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank when it comes to helping developing countries, they would be similarly appalled. At long last, these seemingly untouchable programs need to be called into question, and then, in the name of liberty and humanity, discarded forever." (pg 101. The Revolution: A Manifesto)

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