USAID Spends $89.7 Million Finding Jobs for 55 Afghan Women

Afghan women walk with their children / Getty Images
Afghan women walk with their children / Getty Images

“A federal government program to promote gender equality in Afghanistan and help women find employment is costing taxpayers over $200 million but has only found jobs for 55 women.”

‘The USAID program, Promoting Gender Equity in National Priority Programs, or Promote, is a five-year $216 million effort. USAID has spent $89.7 million in three years but “has not demonstrated whether the program has made progress” toward its goals…’

A 2017 goal of the program was to help 420 women find new or better employment, enroll 1,968 women in the internship program, and have 900 program graduates. By halfway through the year, Promote had only found new or better employment for 39 women, or 9.2 percent of its goal.”

Continued: USAID Spends $89.7 Million Finding Jobs for 55 Afghan Women

How US Sugar Subsidies Bring a Red Tide of Algae to Florida’s Shores

“Though other factors play a role in the algae bloom crises, one of the most significant involves the sugar industry. A combination of federal sugar subsidies, federal regulations on pollution, and federal control of Lake Okeechobee (a giant lake in southern Florida) runoff guidelines has created a recipe for disaster.

The federal sugar subsidy prevents Americans from buying sugar from Cuba and other sources. This means that we have to produce our own sugar and that we pay the world’s highest price for sugar. It also means that we grow sugar and sugar substitutes in a high-cost fashion using a lot of fertilizer!

…the solutions are simple and straightforward. End the sugar subsidies and the EPA and its protection limits. Restore the right of the people to sue polluters that cause demonstrable harm.”

Story: How US Sugar Subsidies Bring a Red Tide of Algae to Florida’s Shores

The Dangers of Empathy

It can distract us from rational thought and meaningful compassion.

Jimmy Kimmel (Reuters photo: Kevork Djansezian)

Just over 14 years ago, my daughter almost died minutes before entering the world. My wife had to have an emergency C-section. The whole thing was harrowing. Someday I’ll tell the whole story. But because of that experience, and simply because I am a father, I could empathize with late-night host Jimmy Kimmel’s story about his son’s birth. His story is almost surely more harrowing than my story, but that doesn’t matter. Empathy is the [imagined] ability to feel what someone else is feeling.

Empathy is different than sympathy or compassion. Sympathy is when you feel [bad] for someone. Compassion is when you do something about it.

But empathy is something else. Researchers studying the brain can actually see how the various centers controlling certain feelings light up when we observe [and/]or imagine the experiences of others. “If you feel bad for someone who is bored, that’s sympathy,” writes Yale psychologist Paul Bloom in his brave and brilliant new book, Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, “but if you feel bored, that’s empathy.”

Bloom, a liberal transplant from Canada, distrusts empathy because empathy is like a drug. It distorts our perspective, causing us to get all worked up about an individual or group. He compares it to a spotlight that illuminates a specific person or group, plunging everything and everyone else into darkness.

“When some people think about empathy, they think about kindness. I think about war,” Bloom writes. He’s got a point. Look at the Middle East today. Sunni nations empathize with the plight of suffering Sunnis, and that empathy causes them to further hate and demonize Shiites. Many people around the world empathize with the Palestinians, blinding them to the legitimate concerns of Israelis. And vice versa.

Adolf Hitler was a master of empathy — for ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland, Austria, and elsewhere. The cause of nationalist empathy for the German tribe triggered profound moral blindness for the plight, and even the humanity, of Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs.

Again, Bloom is a squishy liberal by his own account, but he’s also a leading scholar of how the mind actually works, not how we wish it would work.

Human beings are naturally inclined to sympathize and empathize with people like them. There has never been a society where people didn’t give priority to helping family and friends over strangers. This tends to blind us “to the suffering of those we do not or cannot empathize with,” writes Bloom. “Empathy is biased, pushing us in the direction of parochialism and racism.”

Look at the intractable debate over the phrase “black lives matter.” The slogan itself is a kind of spotlight, argue supporters, highlighting the legitimate complaints of African Americans. But it also blinds them to why others respond to the term by saying “all lives matter.”

I don’t go as far as Bloom in detesting empathy. It seems to me not only natural but also defensible to give priority to figuratively kindred people. England is a lot more like America than, say, Singapore. That similarity has forged a long and important bond, both formally (e.g., treaties and shared institutions) and informally in terms of an emotional and cultural bond. If England were attacked, our empathy for its plight would inform our response in ways that I think are important and useful.

But where I agree with Bloom is that empathy alone is dangerous and can distract us from rational thought and meaningful compassion.

Which brings me back to Jimmy Kimmel. His story about his son aroused a riot of empathy across the nation. And he used that response to make an argument about health-care policy that was largely devoid of any consideration of the facts, trade-offs, or costs of what is the best way to deal with people, including babies, who have pre-existing medical conditions. He was largely wrong on the facts: Babies with dire medical conditions are covered by their parents’ insurance, and when their parents are uninsured, doctors don’t just let the baby die on the table. That doesn’t mean there aren’t inequities in the system or that the current health-care regime is anywhere close to perfect.

But it is very difficult to have a rational discussion about the trade-offs inherent to any health-care system — including socialized medicine — when all anyone can think about is the ordeal of a newborn baby and his loving parents.

By JONAH GOLDBERG | Copyright © 2017 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

U.S. Spends Nearly $1T Per Year To Fight Poverty

Did you know that the U.S. spends nearly a trillion dollars every single year on anti-poverty programs? And yet somehow 47 million remain in poverty…
$668 billion spent by 126 federal anti-poverty programs.
$284 billion spent by state welfare programs.
$952 BILLION TOTAL SPENT PER YEARThat’s $86,000 per family of four in poverty.

Meals on Wheels: Donations Surge After Trump Budget

The public has already responded to President Donald #Trump’s America First budget plan. #MealsOnWheels’ average amount of daily donations increased by 50 times on Thursday after the White House proposed cuts to some of the program’s funding, a spokesperson for the group said, according to CNN…

Continued: Meals on Wheels: Donations Surge After Trump Budget

Related story: “President Trump’s first budget proposal to Congress last week specifically identified steep cuts to hundreds of domestic programs, but Meals on Wheels wasn’t one of them…” | Truth about Meals on Wheels in Trump’s budget President Trump’s first budget budget proposal to Congress last week…

Ex-Shell CEO Says Big Oil Can Live Without Subsidies

February 11, 2011 Large oil companies don’t need tax subsidies when oil prices are high, a former CEO of Shell Oil said Thursday.

“In the face of sustained high oil prices it was not an issue—for large companies—of needing the subsidies to entice us into looking for and producing more oil,” John Hofmeister told National Journal Daily.

Hofmeister retired from Shell in 2008 and founded the group Citizens for Affordable Energy. He testified to a House subcommittee Thursday on how Egyptian unrest affects oil prices.

Before that hearing, he told Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., in a private conversation that big oil companies don’t need government help. Markey mentioned Hofmeister’s comment in a news conference later Thursday when introducing legislation eliminating $5 billion worth of subsidies to the major oil and gas companies. “He told me that privately [Thursday] but that he would say that in public if asked to do so,” Markey said after the news conference.

The issue didn’t come up in the hearing, but Hofmeister confirmed to National Journal Daily he had said that to Markey. “I told him that my overall position on that topic has not changed from testimony I gave back in 2008 when we had the very high gasoline prices,” said Hofmeister, who testified in several hearings during the spring and summer of 2008 when he was CEO of Shell. He noted that other executives of major oil companies who testified then echoed the sentiment.

Hofmeister’s comments come at a time when Democrats in both chambers of Congress are calling out Republicans for their continued support for the subsidies while pledging to slash funding in almost every area of the federal government. Republicans have not and almost certainly will not cut the subsidies despite this political pressure. The GOP and the American Petroleum Institute say that the subsidies are necessary so jobs in the industry aren’t lost or shipped to other countries.

For the major companies like Shell, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Exxon, that doesn’t appear to be true.

Hofmeister said the range at which large oil companies don’t need subsidies is around $70 a barrel or higher. Brent crude oil closed Thursday at slightly higher than $100 a barrel.

“The fear of low oil prices drives some companies to say that subsidies should be sustained,” Hofmeister said. “And my point of view is that with high oil prices such subsidies are not necessary.” Hofmeister stressed that he was not talking on behalf of Shell or any other oil company.

“If prices revert to very low levels, it may take such subsidies to keep drilling,” Hofmeister added.

He also pointed out that small companies need the subsidies at all times. “Independent companies operate under different economic parameters and generally don’t have the resilience and a big expensive well that they can depreciate quickly.”

To that end, Markey’s legislation, which is co-sponsored by other House Democrats including Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., excludes small, independent companies. Yet Hofmeister said that proposal would be illegal since it targets specific companies over others.

“I think that’s discriminatory,” he said. “It’s a much more complicated subject. Any bill that is discriminatory against specific companies would be found to be illegal.”

Hofmeister made headlines this month when he predicted gasoline prices could reach $5 per gallon by 2012. His prediction is only getting closer in light of heightened unrest in Egypt and President Obama’s continued push for what Hofmeister sees as a backward offshore drilling policy.

“If we stay on our current course in this country where we refuse to drill, we make it even more difficult to acquire new leases in this country coupled with international turmoil, the current path is only aggravating that and making it worse,” Hofmeister said. “We could reach that [$5 gasoline] sooner.”