Reviews | Our acts of charity are now acts of justice
In the USA, 37.2 million people live below the poverty line and unfortunately, rates continue to rise.
The Declaration of Independence established that every American has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But when your income barely reaches what is considered livable in the richest country in the world, there is no pursuit of happiness – only pursuit of survival.
Instead of our government finding ways to improve the country’s social services and welfare, the responsibility for maintaining the livelihoods of the poor tends to fall into the hands of other citizens. Because America treats its poor so badly, donations of items, time, and money can no longer be considered acts of charity, but rather acts of justice.
According to the People’s Policy Project, the United States underpays its most needy citizens by about $5,000 per person compared to other countries in the world. There’s a pattern in the data that shows the wealthier the country the more it spends proportionally on social welfare, and yet America is an obvious outlier.
The small rich countries are faring much better than us. France devotes about 31% of its GDP to social benefits, while America only spends 18.7%. The United States does not seem to care about its poorest citizens. In fact, being poor in such a rich country, which has the resources to help alleviate poverty, is in itself an act of injustice.
For example, to help reduce food insecurity, the government created the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP. However, in reality, this program unfortunately does very little to help. Each person receives on average just $4 per dayand in order to even receive these ominous little perks, you have to drop 130% below federal poverty guidelines.
To mitigate an act of injustice, an act of justice is needed. Donating a few extra cans to your local food pantry can help make up for what the government isn’t doing. Getting only $4 a day to eat is hard to live with, you can barely afford a box of cereal and milk with that amount of money. America can’t feed its people properly, so it’s up to the common man to do the job for her.
Homeless shelters, food pantries and any other organization that aims to help the poor are no longer just charities, they are taking root in our neighborhoods and cities to alleviate what our government fails to to fix. It’s a very good thing that people are willing to give their time and money to help those less fortunate, but it shouldn’t be up to us to help those our government has wronged.
No one should have to live out of kindness to others, but millions have to because our government refuses to take responsibility for those who struggle. Citizens, foundations and companies gathered together 450 billion dollars in 2019 for American charitiesmuch of which comes directly from the pockets of the people.
About half of the American population thinks it’s the the fault of the poor themselves that they are trapped below the poverty line. This “get up by your bootstraps” attitude is incredibly toxic and demeaning. It is not the fault of the poor that they are struggling, it is the government’s inability to provide its citizens with adequate means of survival.
Charity should be used to help a sudden and easily resolved burden. Providing a home-cooked meal to neighbors who have just lost a family member or Christmas gifts to a family in need are great examples of charitable acts. Justice is when your act of kindness helps a much bigger problem. Spending time volunteering at a food kitchen or donating blankets and pillows to a homeless shelter are acts of justice – you’ve taken the government’s failure into your own hands.
Unfortunately, poverty and other societal failings are unlikely to be fixed without government help, but our small acts of justice still help in many ways. Just because our $10 donation doesn’t do much to end the injustices America has inflicted on the poor doesn’t mean you aren’t helping. You have just committed an act of justice against the American government.
I am fully aware that America does not have an unlimited amount of money to spend on solving all problems. However, this country should not prioritize business payments and help the rich get richer when its citizens cannot meet their basic needs due to the inescapable cycle of poverty. If the government were to finally step in, it would not be left to the few to try to redress these growing injustices.
Livia LaMarca primarily writes about American politics and pop culture. Write to him at [email protected].