I arrived home from my lucrative position in the global marketplace recently to find a stack of final notices, a phone call from a creditor in India, cat vomit throughout the house, and a charming woman standing in my driveway screaming at my neighbor about what she thought was herpes but was actually just “a tapeworm or some shit.” I’m in the bottom 2 percent of all Americans when it comes to credit ratings, meaning that roughly 27-and-a-half million of you out there have better credit than I do. Plus, my car won’t pass DEQ. My landlord has forgotten to pay for garbage pickup for nearly a month now, I ruined our stove preparing Top Ramen last week and my MasterCard was declined at the “Dollar Tree” yesterday. Oh, and today is my daughter’s eight-week birthday.
Ah, poverty, like a warm bath, leaving me up to my neck in a stagnant pool of my own filth.
The upside is that I’m still doing better than most of the world. A recent U.N. report stated that almost one-half of the world’s urban population lives in slums, a number nearing 1 billion people. Five-hundred-and-fifty-four million of those people are in Asia alone, and more than 50 million are in “developed” richer nations. The report describes slums as “poor areas that lack basic services or access to clean water, where housing is poorly built and overcrowded.” The report also expects that number to double by the year 2030.
Proponents of the new global economy paint a brighter picture, however, claiming that the percentage of the world living below the worldwide poverty rate of $2 a week dropped to just 19 percent in 2002, down from a whopping 41 percent in 1970. Why, it would take just eight hours in a Haitian sweatshop to get that figure, and workers in Indonesia make almost eight times that much at an unbelievable $15 a week. Those lucky bastards. In 1998, only 350 million people were making less than a dollar a day, and only a billion less than two. That means that more than 6,300,000,000 of us are making at least $2 a day. Not too shabby, if you ask me. That’s half your caramel latte.
The war on poverty seems like a hopeless case. Domestically, it is estimated that 34.8 million Americans are living in poverty, and 12.2 million of those are children. And in the recent economy, the services designed to support those in need are the first to dwindle away.
When budgets are cut and grants are eliminated, the basic necessities become inaccessible to many and Americans go hungry. Meanwhile, however, for President Bush, $87 billion doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request to fund his newest colony in Iraq. For many, the duplicity of the situation feels desperate, like no one is willing to help. That’s why I decided to take matters into my own hands and begin a one-man crusade against poverty. I started with traditional methods, petty theft and the redistribution of wealth, but found my cowardly nature and weakling’s physique a real detriment to life on the lamb. Plus, the whole Robin Hood look is so Errol Flynn.
So I decided to follow in the footsteps of other notable misfortunes and organize fund-raising walks. It always seemed to work in PE class, and it apparently is the philosophy of every non-profit event organizer in Portland – to just “walk it off.”
Aids? Breast cancer? Alzheimer’s? Ebola? Nothing a hearty 10k won’t heal. So I figured why not poverty? Unfortunately, everyone I recruited was too tired and malnourished to really travel any long distances, and downtown is booked through 2008, when according to city planners all misfortune will be walked away. So I was forced to look elsewhere.
Next I called on celebrity powers. A great cause can always benefit from a well-known and trusted face from the world of film, television or pop music. Look at what Michael J. Fox did for Parkinson’s. If I could just find someone to put a face on poverty, maybe we could open the nation’s eyes to the plight. But apparently very few celebrities suffer from poverty, and those who do are running for the governorship of California. So again I was faced with a dead end.
However, Irish rocker Bono said as soon as he’s done with Rwandan debt relief and the AIDS epidemic he’d talk to my student loan people at Citibank and see if they’d lower my payments. So that’s pretty cool.
My last hope was to hire a think tank to look outside the box on poverty. Maybe I’m just going about this the wrong way. Perhaps a new, less traditional approach is the key to solving the problem of destitution.
From many prestigious academies throughout the country, I amassed a crack team of world-renowned thinkers to lock away in a remote chteau and address the issue of poverty. For six months, they convened, ate catered meals, sat in the heated natural springs and mentally tackled the source of worldwide inequality. And when the time finally came, what did they give me? Communism.
So, I fired them all. And before I could hire a new batch of eggheads, Bush took my grant money away to buy himself a new flight suit. He said he wanted a cool silver one like “those space fellas.”
At this point, I’m having a hard time finding a new think tank that I can afford with my food stamps, but I’m feeling really hopeful. The only downside is I can’t get Sally Struthers to quit calling me, but it doesn’t really matter because they should be turning my phone off any day now.