Atom Site Feed

Monday, September 15, 2008


Amid all the emails I've been getting about the election, two different people this week sent me this quiz by Bill Quigley, a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. His intention is to shake up our complacency and make us think about what justice really means on a global scale. See how many questions you can answer correctly:

1. How many deaths are there worldwide each year due to acts of terrorism?

Answer: The US State Department reported there were more than 22,000 deaths from terrorism last year. Over half of those killed or injured were Muslims. Source: Voice of America, May 2, 2008. "Terrorism Deaths Rose in 2007."

2. How many deaths are there worldwide each day due to poverty and malnutrition?

A: About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. - Hunger and World Poverty. Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes - one child every five seconds. Bread for the World. Hunger Facts: International.

3. 1n 1965, CEOs in major companies made 24 times more than the average worker. In 1980, CEOs made 40 times more than the average worker. In 2007, CEOs earned how many times more than the average worker?

A: Today's average CEO from a Fortune 500 company makes 364 times an average worker's pay and over 70 times the pay of a four-star Army general. Executive Excess 2007, page 7, jointly published by Institute for Policy Studies and United for Fair Economy, August 29, 2007. The 1965 numbers from State of Working America 2004-2005, Economic Policy Institute.

4. In how many of the more than 3,000 cities and counties in the US can a full-time worker who earns the minimum wage afford to pay rent and utilities on a one-bedroom apartment?

A: In no city or county in the entire USA can a full-time worker who earns minimum wage afford even a one-bedroom rental. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) urges renters not to pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent. HUD also reports the fair market rent for each of the counties and cities in the US. Nationally, in order to rent a two-bedroom apartment, one full-time worker in 2008 must earn $17.32 per hour. In fact, 81 percent of renters live in cities where the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom rental is not even affordable with two minimum-wage jobs. Source: Out of Reach 2007-2008, April 7, 2008, National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

5. In 1968, the minimum wage was $1.65 per hour. How much would the minimum wage be today if it had kept pace with inflation since 1968?

A: Calculated in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars, the 1968 minimum wage would have been $9.83 in 2007 dollars. Andrew Tobias, January 16, 2008. The federal minimum wage is $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008, and will be $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.

6. True or false? People in the United States spend nearly twice as much on pet food as the US government spends on aid to help foreign countries.

A: True. The USA spends $43.4 billion on pet food annually. Source: American Pet Products Manufacturers Association Inc. The USA spent $23.5 billion in official foreign aid in 2006. The US government gave the most of any country in the world in actual dollars. As a percentage of gross national income, the US came in second to last among OECD donor countries and ranked number 20 at 0.18 percent behind Sweden at 1.02 percent and other countries such as Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom, Austria, France, Germany, Spain, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and others. This does not count private donations, which, if included, may move the US up as high as sixth. The Index of Global Philanthropy 2008, pages 15-19.

7. How many people in the world live on $2 a day or less?

A: The World Bank reported in August 2008 that 2.6 billion people consume less than $2 a day.

8. How many people in the world do not have electricity?

A: Worldwide, 1.6 billion people do not have electricity and 2.5 billion people use wood, charcoal or animal dung for cooking. United Nations Human Development Report 2007/2008, pages 44-45.

9. People in the US consume 42 kilograms of meat per person per year. How much meat and grain do people in India and China eat?

A: People in the US lead the world in meat consumption at 42 kg per person per year, compared to 1.6 kg in India and 5.9 kg in China. People in the US consume five times the grain (wheat, rice, rye, barley, etc.) as people in India, three times as much as people in China, and twice as much as people in Europe. "THE BLAME GAME: Who is behind the world food price crisis," Oakland Institute, July 2008.

10. How many cars does China have for every 1,000 drivers? India? The US?

A: China has nine cars for every 1,000 drivers. India has 11 cars for every 1,000 drivers. The US has 1,114 cars for every 1,000 drivers. Iain Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran, "Zoom: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future" (2007).

11. How much grain is needed to fill an SUV tank with ethanol?

A: The grain needed to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a hungry person for a year. Lester Brown,, August 16, 2006.

12. According to The Wall Street Journal, the richest one percent of Americans earns what percent of the nation's adjusted gross income? Five percent? Ten percent? Fifteen percent? Twenty percent?

A: "According to the figures, the richest one percent reported 22 percent of the nation's total adjusted gross income in 2006. That is up from 21.2 percent a year earlier, and it is the highest in the 19 years that the IRS has kept strictly comparable figures. The 1988 level was 15.2 percent. Earlier IRS data show the last year the share of income belonging to the top one percent was at such a high level as it was in 2006 was in 1929, but changes in measuring income make a precise comparison difficult." Jesse Drucker, "Richest Americans See Their Income Share Grow," Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2008, page A3.

13. How many people does our government say are homeless in the US on any given day?

A: A total of 754,000 are homeless. About 338,000 homeless people are not in shelters (live on the streets, in cars or in abandoned buildings) and 415,000 are in shelters on any given night. The 2007 US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Annual Homeless Report to Congress, page iii and 23. The population of San Francisco is about 739,000.

14. What percentage of people in homeless shelters are children?

A: HUD reports nearly one in four people in homeless shelters are children 17 or younger. Page iv, the 2007 HUD Annual Homeless Report to Congress.

15. How many veterans are homeless on any given night?

A: Over 100,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. About 18 percent of the adult homeless population are veterans. Page 32, the 2007 HUD Homeless Report. This is about the same population as Green Bay, Wisconsin.

16. The military budget of the United States in 2008 is the largest in the world at $623 billion per year. How much larger is the US military budget than that of China, the second-largest in the world?

A: Ten times. China's military budget is $65 billion. The US military budget is nearly 10 times larger than the second leading military spender.

17. The US military budget is larger than how many of the countries of the rest of the world combined?

A: The US military budget of $623 billion is larger than the budgets of all the countries in the rest of the world put together. The total global military budget of the rest of the world is $500 billion. Russia's military budget is $50 billion, South Koreas is $21 billion, and Irons is $4.3 billion.

18. Over the 28-year history of the Berlin Wall, 287 people perished trying to cross it. How many people have died in the last four years trying to cross the border between Arizona and Mexico?

A: At least 1,268 people have died along the border of Arizona and Mexico since 2004. The Arizona Daily Star keeps track of the reported deaths along the state border, and it reports 214 died in 2004; 241 in 2005, 216 in 2006, 237 in 2007, and 116 as of July 31, 2008. These numbers do not include deaths along the California or Texas borders. The Border Patrol reported that 400 people died in fiscal 2206-2007, while 453 died in 2004-2005 and 494 died in 2004-2005. Source The Associated Press, November 8, 2007.

19. India is ranked second in the world in gun ownership with four guns per 100 people. China is third with third firearms per 100 people. Which country is first and how widespread is gun ownership?

A: The US is first in gun ownership worldwide with 90 guns for every 100 citizens. Laura MacInnis, "US most armed country with 90 guns per 100 people." Reuters, August 28, 2007.

20. What country leads the world in the incarceration of its citizens?

A: The US jails 751 inmates per 100,000 people, the highest rate in the world. Russia is second with 627 per 100,000. England's rate is 151, Germany's is 88 and Japan's is 63. The US has 2.3 million people behind bars, more than any country in the world. Adam Liptak, "Inmate Count in US Dwarfs Other Nations'" New York Times, April 23, 2008.


Blogger Lone Star Ma said...


9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came upon your blog searching for the far side artwork of 'God at the button' shot.
I only read your most recent article, but it made me want to give you some other perspectives.

Most people that work at minimum wage jobs used to be students while learning job skills to be able to get a better job. America has always been good at encouraging people to educate themselves in all directions.
Minimum wage jobs were never meant to be the job throughout ones life.
When the minimum wage was increased, the products and services from these employers increased as well, hurting the middle class since their wage remained the same. I might add that looking at the current political exchange; Obama in taxing the rich and giving to the poor will also hurt the middle class again.
Also the recent Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac situation infuriates me. Obama was the second largest person getting money from them. So of course these folks won't get taxed. Search a little deeper for the truth as you won't see it in the MSM TV news or local papers.
When comparing America to other countries it's also important to factor in the cost of living. While looking at the number of cars etc other countries have per 1000 people, China is growing markedly now.
America can't possibly be caretaker of the whole world, but you've been forgetting how America sends billions of dollars to other countries and never a thank you, it's gotten to be expected. America has sent much aid to people suffering in other countries to only be taken by thugs that take the food and supplies for their own cause.
While America sent millions to Indonesia other oil rich countries only sent a few thousand when they could have sent much more to help out during that horrible catastrophy.
I challenge you to look at all the good America has done instead of focus on the down side. America works very hard at being a fair and just country. In other countries you wouldn't be able to have the freedoms that you have here.
Just food for thought.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Thanks "anonymous" for your perspective. I have heard views like yours before. The problem is that they don't square with the view of things I gained while living in Africa years ago. You say we can't compare incomes around the globe because of "cost of living" differences. True, the cost of living is lower in many countries, but if 25,000 people a day are dying of starvation or starvation related diseases, then the cost of living is literally beyond them. Instead of only charity, which you seem to assume is my solution, I would actually favor more fair trade policies as the root solution, while using charity to fill in when necessary. For example, if the US government didn't subsidize our cotton growers, African cotton growers could compete on the world market, thus making charity unnecessary. And speaking of the aid you object to, it usually comes with a political price tag and during the Cold War was often used to prop up the very corrupt leaders you acknowledge. Having been a Peace Corps Volunteer, I am aware of the positive effects that aid can sometimes have, but I think many Americans are unaware of the negative effects and have a distorted picture of our role in the world, which is not nearly as magnanimous as you suggest.

All this said, to me the main purpose of the quiz is not to propose any specific solution, but to make us think about our values as a society. Rev. Jim Wallis has pointed out that the Bible mentions poverty 2000 times and homosexuality only 4, yet Christians often seem to ignore the former and focus on the later. The old adage "greed is good" looks especially questionable as we watch the banking industry fail.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

I've deleted five comments in the past few days--well actually I've deleted the same rant posted five different times on different posts. I suspect the author is posting the same rant elsewhere, and so I don't feel bad about stifling his/her freedom of speech. All opinions are welcome on this blog, but I would like to keep the tone civil. That doesn't mean that righteous outrage is not allowed; righteous outrage is sometimes appropriate. (In this case, the outrage was directed at the bailout and rich Americans in general.) But the deleting rant included a lot of name-calling, which I don't find very helpful or thought-provoking. If you're still reading anonymous, you might try addressing your comments to this blog's audience, many of whom are Quakers who believe that there is "that of God in everyone," even if they not acting out of their best selves. If you are not interested in keeping a civil tone, you might want to start your own blog where you can do whatever you want.

8:54 AM  
OpenID dmambrose1970 said...

Hi Eileen,
I will try to respect your blog, but I must share my opinion. Your questions seem to indicate that all these issues in the direct result of USA action or inaction. The pay of 500 CEO does not relate to the wages of 1.6 Million workers who over half (53 percent) are teenagers or young adults under the age of 23.

Further more only 25 percent work full-time year-round while over 28 percent work part-time part of the year.
AND The average family income for all minimum wage workers is $45,200 and their wages account for 35 percent of their total family income. The average income of single-nonfamily minimum wage workers is $16,800.

Nearly 66% of minimum wage workers move above the minimum wage within one year, and the median raise for those workers is over 10 percent.

My point is that you can make any fact fit yours or mine version of the truth.

I just know that in Chicago, we are suffering a high murder rate this year because earlier this year the minimum wage was increased. A kid that uses to have a summer job did not get one this year. You might call some people uncaring but I understand that something is better than nothing. Giving people a job even if it does not pay well is still a job. And people might view me as uncaring but I understand the unintended consequences of bad policies.

People might have got upset with your post of these NY Times questions because it was against what they believe in. The questions and answer never had an opposing view. It put the fault in the fact not the reasons. You were in the Peace Corps in Africa, did people stave there because an American did not give them money or was it a corrupt government or poor farming techniques or the lack of community investment or was it over populations. The NY times implied that they are the cause of the world problems when people think they are the solution of the world’s problems. We are the most caring society in the world, we send money, food, clothes, drugs and volunteers like you.

12:46 AM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...


Your thoughts are most welcome, though I don't agree with all of your conclusions. For example, you assert that the murder rate in Chicago went up because the minimum wage went up. What is the evidence that the raise in wages caused this? Is it a coincidence, or has there been some convincing study? Many cities saw murder rates rise after the start of the Iraq war, and many sociologists assert that it is not a coincidence. Tracking back for a few hundred years, scholars have found that when the government uses violence to solve its problems, citizens are more likely to do the same. Even so, many things influence a particular city's crime rate, and it would be overly simplistic to blame all crime on the war or the surge in Chicago's murder rate on the surge in Iraq.

You also assume that people were starving in the African country where I was in the Peace Corps, and speculate that the cause was poor farming techniques, over population, or corrupt government. Actually, Botswana's government has been hailed as a model, and I saw no starvation. What I did see was how the US' Cold War policy played out in Africa, where many corrupt governments were supported by and in some cases installed by the US or other western powers for our own strategic purposes. Your assertion the "we are the most caring society in the world" just doesn't ring true to me, having traveled in many other caring societies.

Finally, I am not saying that all the world's problems are the fault of the US, as you seem to assume the NYT is asserting. However, I think the reaction to my post shows a real reluctance on the part of some Americans to question the status quo. It is frankly easier to debate the minimum wage in the US than to really think about the number of children dying every day from starvation.

9:22 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Who Links Here