Wealth Inequality: Is the Government Controlled By The Elite?

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Public policy is simply an attempt by the government to address a public issue, and how issues become public policy issues are up for debate.  Many people feel that the political world is made up of Private Corporations buying politicians in order for them to promote corporate interest above the interest of the American people. Many believe this power imbalance towards the elite has skewed wealth inequality further than what most Americans actually believe it is. How is this possible?

According to Leighninger and Popple in Social Work, Social Welfare, and American Society, the public choice model represents the vast majority of political participants such as voters, candidates, legislators, interest groups, parties, campaigners, and bureaucracies all are seeking their own goals of interest.

They further explain that the interests of politicians and bureaucrats are to win elections. However, the interests of voters and interest groups are to know what policies affect them and their lives. This seems to create an intricate dance for the politician balancing his/her interest against the voters and other groups who put them in elected office for the protection of their respective interests.

Leighninger and Popple also explain the existence of an elitist model that influences the political process. Proponents of this view assert that public policy and social issues are being crafted at the hands of a small group of people, also known as, the one percent. This model is comprised of the wealthiest one percent of citizens, and it suggests the pyramid of power where policies are made at the top will have a trickle down effect rather than competing groups debating policy requiring mutual compromise and gains.

The attached video is about a study conducted by a Harvard Economist on what the public’s perception of wealth distribution in America looks like. The study also asked over 5,000 participants what wealth distribution in America should look like, but what Americans were not prepared for was what wealth distribution in America actually is.

References:
Popple, P. R., & Leighninger, L. (2008). The Policy Based Profession (4th ed., pp. 122-123). Boston: Person Education Inc.

Don’t Follow the Rules When You Can Change the Rules: Fierceness of Jane Addams

Jane Addams is known for being the mother of social work. However, she did not fit the image of the “traditional” lady of her time. She was seen as radical, bold, and unconventional in a time when women were not allowed to vote. People like Jane Addams and the women of Hull House did the unthinkable and advocated for themselves and others.

women-rightsJane Addams practiced what is known today as macro practice social work. Macro practice does not follow the rules, it changes the rules. Somehow social work has gotten soft along the way.

The profession has abandoned its mission of building the “infrastructure of society” and left the responsibility to people outside the profession. As a result, the rules were changed and so has the focus. We can see this in the language used in social work today.  Many times social work is mentioned as the “safety net” of society.

Jane Addams was against seeing her work as “charity” she saw it as “lateral progress” or “civic housekeeping.” Instead, she saw her work as an investment in society and stated, “I am always sorry to have Hull House regarded as philanthropy.” Jane Addams believed the progress of society was measured not by the elite, but by the “weakest link.” This view is still not popular, and we are still playing by the rules that people “need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”

We could all be inspired by Jane Addams because she was a fierce pioneer who was not afraid to go against social norms. She did not wait for change to happen, and this is what our society needs to help facilitate change. Advocacy and community organizing inspire growth and progress however many times this means challenging the status quo.

It’s time for the social work profession to stop being led and start leading society again.

The Ongoing Fight For Marriage Equality

It has been one year since Amendment One passed here in North Carolina. The marriage amendment was a hot topic around the state bringing a much-needed debate at the same time a need for more awareness for the community on LGBTQ issues. Many people have made assumptions and judgments about this group of people which has been a barrier to expanding marriage equality.

945370_10151579259919339_1165518363_nEven though the amendment passed, this has brought marriage equality into the political conversation.  Marriage equality is going to come and one by one the attention of the nation has been focused on expanding marriage equality for all. Over the past year, community organizations such as Equality NC,  have empowered the community with their outreach and awareness efforts on behalf of the LGBTQ community.

With our hetero-privilege, our whole society is set up to oppress the LGBTQ community.  This country looks to the nuclear family model and often forgets that families do not fit a mold.  My close friends, myself included have actively participated in advocating for marriage equality.  The LGBTQ people I have connected with through working to advocate for marriage equality are amazing.

For people to maintain warmth, compassion, and understanding to society when many people discriminate against them, shows a lot of character. This community swells with the love of peace, understanding, unity, and respect for people; even as I said before, in the face of unsatisfactory behavior. Since I started my advocacy, I fell more of a sense of social justice than I did before. I always was a supporter of LGBTQ rights and the rights of anyone. But spending some time working with this community and the conversations that I had with the community made me feel that their issues were closer to home in a way. The urgency of justice was more aware to me.

282273_10151579227104339_87082254_nOn May 8th,  Equality NC commemorated the one-year anniversary of the passage of Amendment One. They asked friends, allies, and everyone to stand with them at the North Carolina General Assembly at their “STAND AS ONE” event, and to share their stories on how the passage of this amendment has affected them.

Participants of the event joined hands and circled the assembly as they “stood as one” and speakers such as State Senator Mike Woodard and openly-gay State Representative Marcus Brandon fired up the crowd by speaking about the fight for Equality in North Carolina.

As part of their on-going efforts Equality NC  has partnered with GIVE OUT DAY; an indicative to engage  “hundreds of organizations and mobilize thousands of people on a single day across the country to give in support of the LGBT community”. 

Interested donors can set up their own fundraising page to encourage family and friends to participate as well. And in order to spread awareness Equality NC also encourages all people from North Carolina families with LGBTQ members to share their stories on their  KNOW + LOVE channel. Many times, it is these personal stories that can bring about the greatest change.

Photo credit: Chris Speer

The Uncharitable World of Policy: Dan Pallotta TED

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One of the biggest threats that all nonprofits face is the injustice and discrimination from our own government. Our current Congress wants nonprofits to survive without government spending at the same time it is creating policies that increase dependency on the services nonprofits provide.

If the government does not want to fund these services, then they must allow these facilities to find innovative ways to fund themselves.  Who or what will pay for these much needed services? Nonprofits are struggling to survive. However, if there were some sort of revenue, benefit to donate to these nonprofits, and a way to market the valuable work they do, they could greatly expand the number of people who are helped.

According to activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta, everything the donating public has been taught about giving is dysfunctional, and this bleeds into the policy arena as well.  This creates misconceptions and injustice that target vulnerable populations. Dan claims there are a few specific ways that nonprofits are discriminated against in the economic world.

First through compensation, by providing more opportunities for incentives to other businesses instead of finding ways to incentivize people to produce more in the service population.   Secondly, through advertising and marketing, because investors don’t like to see their donations spent on advertising in the non-profit sector. Dan states, “You know, you want to make 50 million dollars selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We’ll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria, and you’re considered a parasite yourself.” (Dan Pallotta, 2008)

Most nonprofits must get their advertising donated, and this forces them to work at a capacity much lower than their other business counterparts. Thirdly by not allowing nonprofits to try innovative ideas because they are risky. In other profit businesses, taking risks is almost necessary and a loss is expected. However, in the nonprofit sector, these sorts of business risks are not allowed and could even be viewed as failures. Only Dan states when we prohibit failure we also stop innovation. The fourth way is through time limits.

For example, Dan states, that if a nonprofit told investors and donors that for six years no money was going to go to the needy, it was all going to be invested in building their nonprofit they would not be supported. However that is exactly what Amazon did, and they were supported in this by their investors. Most nonprofits have time limits for success and don’t have the opportunity to grow their nonprofit before they must close doors. And lastly being seen as a drain on the community rather than a value. In our society we value independence and vulnerable populations are not seen as worthy, only as unsustainable.

But this idea of individuality is an illusion, we cannot exist without being dependent on several variables. There is so much discrimination against vulnerable populations, it is almost as if it is purposeful and intentional to make it so difficult for the nonprofit sector. As long as we have this belief in our society things will not change. It is disappointing that in our society we value things that hurt us or isolate us however helping members of the community that is struggling is unfavorable.

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