Dr. Michael Omidi is co-founder of No More Poverty, among other charities. Today he discusses how government aid often isn’t accessible to our nation’s poorest.
Last week, The New York Times posted an article examining the distribution of government aid to the economically challenged in America. Throughout, the article raises awareness of those who are often missed in receiving financial assistance. Today, we will address the questions raised and offer suggestions on how you personally can help.
Since the mid-1980s, there has been an increase in assistance to the disabled, working poor and married couples. However, aid directed towards the poorest Americans has shrunk. From 1983 to 2004, aid to families just above the poverty line has nearly doubled. These numbers are in far contrast to those at the bottom of the income gap, those benefits have decline by one-third.
Recent government reform has emphasized rewarding those who are disadvantage that work, are disable and elderly. These are the ‘deserving poor.’ Those who do not work, are generally seen as ‘not trying’. This can be seen through the Obama administration’s proposal for a $500 tax credit to working parents with children, the increase in the national minimum wage and paid parental leave.
Much of this decline started back in the 90s with the Clinton administration’s pursuit to end welfare as we know it. That was in hopes to stop welfare cheats. However, this type of decline in aid truly hurts those who are in desperate need. With all that said, how are the country’s most poor able to get by?
Ending Poverty through Non-Profit Aid
As the article highlight, many of these men and women are forced to look through private organizations for assistance. One such man had help through the Salvation Army and various shelters. Without individual support, it then is left up to charitable contributions from individuals and non-profit organizations.
We here at No More Poverty feel for these individuals. We offer resources to those looking to get ahead by giving access to information on micro-lenders and organizations like GCLearnFree.org, which provides online education regardless of income or circumstances. We also work with many charities that help aid those in need with necessities like groceries, clothing and temporary shelter.
Ultimately, it is important for our government to help their citizens in need. Yet, the politics to do so become very difficult because of disagreeing views from both sides of the aisle. Luckily, our country has so many charitable individuals who want to help provide economic relief to those in need. You can help in that cause by donating to charitable organizations, as well as volunteering your time at shelters. As individuals, we have the power to change our nation. I hope those of you who are able to, do your part to stop poverty.
Yours in health,
In a recent TED talk, Richard Wilkinson discussed how income inequality harms societies. Wilkinson is a left-leaning epidemiologist, not an economist, who penned the controversial book, “The Spirit Level,” which outlined his economic theories in detail.
In “more equal” countries, according to Wilkinson, like Japan and Portugal, the top 20 percent are three times richer than the bottom 20 percent. However, in more unequal nations, like the US, the UK, and Singapore, the top 20 percent are between seven to 10 times richer than the bottom 20 percent.
It is no surprise that countries with higher income inequality are more likely to experience more social problems.It’s all about distribution
It doesn’t matter how wealthy the residents of a particular country are. Wilkinson demonstrated there is no relation between amount of wealth and social problems. The key issue is how wealth is distributed and how wide the income gap is.
An interesting point that Wilkinson brought up is that countries with higher income inequality trust each other less than the nations where the income gap is smaller. Lack of trust leads to higher crime, which is also documented in Wilkinson’s study.
Beyond the data, one can visit the countries and see for themselves. I knew someone who fell asleep on a train in Tokyo and woke up with all of his belongings intact. If that had been a train in New York or Chicago, who knows what the victim would have been missing when he woke up, or if he would ever wake up again at all?
Wilkinson also notes, “If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should move to Denmark.”Inequality affects everyone
Social mobility has become difficult in the United States, where a full 42 percent of Americans born in the bottom fifth of the income strata stay there their whole lives. This is in striking contrast to Denmark, where only 25 percent get stuck on those lower economic rungs.
Wilkinson also noted that two of the most “equal” countries, Japan and Sweden, have a different philosophy when it comes to shortening the gap. The Swedes have more welfare programs and higher taxation of the rich, while the Japanese have lower taxes and a smaller welfare state.
Income equality does not affect only the poor, it affects everyone. Wilkinson’s research clearly shows that the smaller a society’s income gap, the higher its standard of living, and the lower its crime and stress rates.
Yours in health,
Michel OmidiThe Omidi Brothers, Julian Omidi and Michael Omidi MD, are dedicated to the elimination of global poverty. No More Poverty was cofounded by the brothers.
According to a CNN report, half of all children qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches this year, compared to just 32 percent in 1989. Steve Suitts believes that one of the reasons poverty is increasing, despite the economy being on the rise, is that there are not enough well-paying jobs to help lift families out of bad financial situations.
The performance gap between low income students and those who are not classified as such is large. In 2013, 20 percent of eighth grade students from low income families were proficient in math, compared to 49 percent of eighth graders not classified in the lower income range. The results are similar with reading proficiency. Concerns arise when these students become old enough to enter the workforce. Low income students will enter the workforce ill equipped to compete in a changing economic environment. As workplaces become more technologically oriented, and finding qualified employees becomes more difficult, there almost certainly will not be enough eligible candidates in the American talent pool.
A lack of skills will not allow lower income families to rise out of the cycle of poverty.
DoSomething.org also points out some key facts about students who come from low income families:
• Children who live in poverty have higher rates of school absenteeism or drop out because they have to work or take care of family members.
• Less than 30 percent of students who come from the bottom quartile of incomes go into a four year university, and less than half in that group graduates.
• By the time they hit fourth grade, low income students are two years behind their peers in terms of grade level. When they finish high school, the gap turns into four years.
Education is an important tool to help slow down the cycle of poverty. It provides people with marketable skills and the ability to adapt to a changing workforce. With the demand for technological skills on the rise, it is important for this country to create a good educational foundation for all of its students.
Striving to eradicate poverty can benefit our society as a whole. The easiest way to do this is to make sure low income students get the benefits and opportunities that higher income students have. This would allow those on the lower end of the economic ladder to contribute equally to our society, and possibly even make it better.
Yours in health,
The Omidi brothers, Julian Omidi and Michael Omidi, along with their mother, Cindy Omidi, are founders of several charities dedicated to making the world a better place.
What are the Primary Causes?Globalization and urbanization have helped spread unhealthy lifestyles that are threatening public health worldwide. Habits such as smoking, alcohol consumption, eating too much fat, salt and sugar have brought on NCDs such as heart and lung diseases, stroke, cancer and diabetes. These diseases are largely preventable. Approximately 82 percent of NCD deaths that occur before the age of 70 take place in middle and poor income countries where the population is more likely to be vulnerable to harmful products and whose inhabitants have very limited access to healthcare. The deaths are closely associated with poverty, as the premature death of a breadwinner drains family resources and forces many people into destitution. “NCDs are one of the factors that must be addressed in order to alleviate poverty,” says Julian Omidi, co-founder of No More Poverty.
Progress is Being MadeSince 2011, the WHO has been seeking to reduce deaths from NCDs by 25 percent by the year 2025, with guidelines that will address the highest risk factors such as tobacco use, salt intake, physical inactivity, high blood pressure and alcohol use. With 190 countries participating, the organization hopes the governments will help promote healthier habits by restricting advertisements for alcohol and tobacco, and implement policies in agriculture, education, food production, trade, taxation, urban development and healthcare, to help reach its target. Several countries have already achieved progress in some areas: • Turkey reduced smoking rates by 13.4 percent since 2008 through price hikes and a ban on tobacco advertisements. • Hungary registered a 27 percent drop in junk-food sales through high taxation. • Brazil’s NCD mortality rate dropped by 1.8 percent per year with the expansion of healthcare. • Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Canada, Mexico and the US promote salt reduction in foods and bread. For the full report, Click here.
Are There Other Options?It is just plain wrong to have nearly 10 million of our nation’s children living in poverty while our productivity and wealth steadily increases. Our nation has the capacity to help, but with gridlock in the government, not much will get accomplished. Cash allowances could be used in place of these credits. Families would receive a set amount of money weekly or monthly, depending on how many children they have. This may sound a bit crazy in a nation that can’t even design tax credits that require recipients to work, but these types of programs are not new. They have existed in Europe for decades. Brazil and Mexico also use them to combat extreme poverty. The trend toward tax credits since the mid-1990s has created a shift of benefits away from the out-of-work poor to the working poor. One example is when Aid to Families with Dependent Children was replaced by Temporary Assistance to Needy Families in 1996. The new aid has stricter working requirements and far less cash assistance. As a result, the percentage of children living in deep poverty has increased faster than the percentage of children in poverty overall. The poor are getting poorer! These guaranteed income allowances would reach many more poor people than the Child Tax Credit currently does. It only has an 80 percent participation rate. The United Kingdom’s 70-year-old allowance program has a 96 percent participation rate. That program makes sense, mainly because it is easier for poor people to take advantage of it. The bottom line is, how are we going to help the less fortunate? Without programs in place to catch those who fall, our whole society suffers. Our nation has had a serious problem with job creation over the last several years. Requiring those who receive government assistance to work excludes those who are worst off. You can’t work if there aren’t enough jobs available. Yours in health, Michael Omidi The Omidi brothers, Julian Omidi and Michael Omidi, along with their mother, Cindy Omidi, are founders of several charities dedicated to making the world a better place.
When you’re sitting down to a great feast over the holidays, try to remember those less fortunate. To some, the holidays are a reminder of what they lack and not a celebration of abundance. We live in a country that has gross income inequality and it has only gotten worse in recent years.
Income inequality is a real problem, and it isn’t just about luxury expenses. Research shows that a large difference in incomes can lead to increased feelings of disenfranchisement, increased poverty and fewer opportunities for advancement. Most economists agree that severe income inequality is bad for economic growth, too.
What is causing income inequality in the U.S.?
You may hear the old canard that “Americans are lazier” than we used to be or something to that effect. This is simply and demonstrably not true. The graph above illustrates just how untrue that sentiment is. Our productivity has increased by 80 percent since 1979 while wages have stayed nearly the same.
If productivity is up, where is all the money going? Take a look at that red line. That line shows the average income of the 1 percent. These are the wealthiest people in the nation, those in the top 1-percent income level. It is pretty obvious where much of our nation’s wealth is going.
The average CEO makes about 354 times more than the average worker. That means that by the middle of the day on Jan. 1st, the average CEO has made what his average employee will make for the year. Think about that for a minute. Is this sustainable? Most experts don’t think so.
What can we do about income inequality?
There are many things a nation can do to combat income inequality. Raising the minimum wage to a livable wage could do a lot. If we were to attach the minimum wage to inflation, we wouldn’t have to fight a political battle to have it raised every few years. Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit would give more money to those Americans who work and still can’t get by. Most people agree that someone who works full time should not be in poverty.
Raising taxes on corporations and wealthier Americans would help, too. The tax rate for wealthy Americans in 1954 were at 92 percent. Today they are at 35 percent, with plenty of loopholes. Many of those in the top income bracket end up paying 14 percent or lower.
There are many things we can do to improve our situation. Making college cheaper would help to lift families from the cycle of poverty. Many things could be done with our tax system, as well. The first step is admitting we have a problem. It seems most Americans are aware. Stay informed and vote for leaders who protect your interests, not corporate interests.
The last time we had such a disparity in wealth was just before the Great Depression in 1928. We may see things get worse before they get better, but a change is likely on the horizon. Hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.
Enjoy the holidays,
Dr. Michael Omidi
The Omidi Brothers, Julian Omidi and Michael Omidi MD, are dedicated to the elimination of global poverty. No More Poverty was cofounded by the brothers.
Health and Ranking by StateThe most significant changes in the report indicate that obesity has increased by 3 percent and physical inactivity has increased from 22.9 percent to 23.5 percent from the previous year. Smoking continues its downward trend, declining 3 percent compared to the previous year, infant mortality decreased by 4 percent and immunization increased by 5 percent.
Obesity Has Doubled Since 1990Since these reports were published 25 years ago, America’s health has changed considerably. Life expectancy is at 78.8 years, an all-time high, infant mortality has decreased by 41 percent and premature death has decreased by 20 percent. However, obesity has doubled since 1990 from 11.6 to 29.4 percent, and diabetes has also doubled since 1996 to its current rate of 9.6 percent.
Healthiest State in the United States: HawaiiHawaii ranks as the healthiest state followed by Vermont and Massachusetts while Mississippi ranks last followed by Arkansas and Louisiana. Hawaii’s top ranking is based on the low prevalence of smoking, obesity and children living in poverty, as well as low rates of hospitalization, cancer and cardiovascular deaths.
No More Poverty and its co-founder Julian Omidi are encouraged by the health gains in the nation.
“This report provides an important reminder that we are making progress but there are still more areas where we can improve, particularly with preventable diseases” says Julian Omidi.
For 25 years, America’s Health Rankings has been published annually by the United Health Foundation in partnership with American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention. The report uses health, environmental and socioeconomic data to provide a comprehensive analysis on America’s health. For a complete report visit: www.americashealthrankings.org.
Dr. Michael Omidi discusses how to choose the right charities to support.Just making the decision to give money to an organization is an important and, for some people, difficult step. Another difficult part of the process is evaluating charities that appear to fit your criteria. Perhaps your cause is animal welfare or the prevention of heart disease. Where do you begin? There are literally thousands of legitimate charitable groups in the U.S., as well as a few that are not so legitimate. Separating the good from the bad can be quite a chore, so make sure you do your homework. The following list might help. These guidelines are not carved in stone, but are a good jumping-off point for your quest to identify worthy causes.
1. Don’t judge the organization by its nameThis is just a basic precaution, since groups like The ABCXYZ Charitable Trust, as a hypothetical example, might not even be a trust. Check out your favorite charities on the Internet and make sure they do what they purport to do.
2. Donate time and money to organizations that you already knowCharity experts have always advised this route. If you have some connection to a local or national charity, then you are already an “insider” and understand how they spend their money and their cause. Here are a few other common sense ideas for locating a worthy organization:
3. Verify the group’s legal statusYou should use a state database that lists all registered charities. This way, you can usually also find out how much money the group raises each year and what they do with it.
4. Understand the group’s missionDon’t judge a book by its cover, and never judge a charity by its name (see tip #1) or what you have heard about it. Do some research and find out their mission. Maybe it is something that conflicts with your beliefs or is not in line with the way you want to donate. It’s your money! Get the facts before handing it over to any organization or individual.
Getting involved with the charity of your choiceIf you want a starting point for your search, feel free to visit the main list of charities we support by clicking here. You’ll find more than 31 organizations that could use your time or donations all year round. Our listing comprises organizations old and new, small and large. Their goals are as diverse as can be, so you will likely find a charitable organization that suits your personal aims.
5. Volunteer your time to a charity you believe inPerhaps the best way to learn about an organization’s goals and methods is to volunteer your time. Sign up for their weekend fundraiser or ask how you can help with a food drive. Whatever the event, your time is helpful to them and it will let you know how they operate.
6. Ask lots of questionsNever be afraid to ask an organization’s representatives for details. Before you give, ask about the group’s expenses and how much they raise in an average year. Do they employ a large staff? How long have they been in existence? All are good questions along with any others that help you learn about the charity’s structure and history. Taxes and privacy are important, too How charities handle your money and personal data are important points to consider. Especially if you are planning to donate a significant sum, be absolutely sure whether the gift is deductible.
7. Ask whether your gift is tax deductibleIt is always a good idea to ask about tax deductible gifts before giving. Just because they use the word “charity” in their name is no guarantee that your donation will be tax deductible. It’s as simple as asking and then verifying the group’s legal status.
8. Never give out personal or financial data in response to appeals, especially phone solicitationsThis is just common sense and applies to all phone solicitations and appeals for money. If a charity is legitimate, they will be happy to direct you to their website and provide a mailing address for donations. Beware of “credit card only” fundraisers. Be sure to use all the resources at your disposal this year to find a charity that matches your own goals and uses its money wisely. Good luck! (No More Poverty was founded by Julian Omidi and Dr. Michael Omidi. The Omidi brothers’ goal is to end poverty at home and abroad by supporting the efforts of like-minded charities and agencies.)
In today’s blog, Dr. Michael Omidi spotlights a one-of-a-kind program that provides the less fortunate with a free “shopping” experience for the holidays.
The holidays are a truly special time of year, when everyone is reminded of how fortunate they are. But for many families, the holidays are a somber reminder of their personal hardships.
Making the Holidays a Little Brighter
We’ve all heard the old chestnut, “It’s better to give than to receive,” and that’s exactly what the San Diego County Community Resource Center has committed to doing for families in need. This year marks the 32nd Annual Holiday Basket Program, the largest holiday distribution of its kind in San Diego County.
Like many holiday donation programs, the Holiday Basket Program collects food, clothing and toys to be distributed to those in need. What makes this program unique is that it provides a dignified and free “shopping” experience for families who might otherwise receive nothing for the holidays.
Holiday Shopping Reimagined
Local families in need are invited to come to the Del Mar Fairgrounds from Dec. 19 to 21 to fill shopping carts with donated items. This allows them to take part in the holiday shopping that many of us take for granted, while creating a memorable and happy holiday.
It’s often said that charity should be a focus year-round, and not just during the holidays. While this is true, for the less fortunate this time of year can be especially difficult. This wonderful program is helping to not only provide donated goods to those who desperately need them, but it also gives them the dignity of a traditional shopping experience that is unlike any other program. The San Diego County Community Resource Center deserves to be commended for the work they have done
The Holiday Basket Program is expected to help more than 1,650 local families. The donations for the program are currently underway and will run through Dec. 17. If you would like to make a donation of goods, money or even your time to the Holiday Basket Program, information on how to do so can be found on the Community Resource Center’s website. The website also includes information on how you or someone you know can be referred to take part in the program.
Here is a video testimonial from someone who was helped by this generous program. Enjoy.
Dr. Michael Omidi