Altruism Today

Inequality and An American Tragedy

May 10th, 2016  |  Source: Philanthropy Daily

Inequality is the watchword of this election season, as candidates of both parties respond to—and build their candidacies upon—anger about increasing income disparities and the sense that economic opportunities for many ordinary Americans are disappearing while the wealthy become every wealthier.

It is no mean feat to discern what rising inequality means for American society—why, exactly, rising income inequality is problematic: is inequality inherently unfair, or only when disparities reach a certain degree, or only under certain conditions, such as if income inequality erodes equality of opportunity? An answer to these questions is essential for philanthropists who are moved to ameliorate inequality.

Fortunately, there are many resources in the American tradition to help us think about these questions, since the last decade is hardly the first period of rising inequality.

The Gilded Age of the late Nineteenth Century, for example, gave us Horatio Alger and his rags-to-riches tales, such as Ragged Dick, with the message that income inequality is not a true problem because anyone with the right spunk and native wit can rise from the very bottom to the top of American society.

On the other hand, the Roaring Twenties gave us the novels of Sinclair Lewis and Theodore Dreiser. Dreiser’s American Tragedy was published in 1925, just three years before the concentration of wealth in America peaked in 1928 at levels not reached again until the last decade, and it offers a dark warning about the “tragic” consequences of economic inequality.

Dreiser’s prose is not elegant—indeed, one scholar who defends the importance of Dreiser’s work still concedes, “Dreiser’s fiction reads (to paraphrase an old adage) as if it had been produced by an infinite number of monkeys pounding away at an infinite number of typewriters.”

Yet An American Tragedy was voted by readers into the 16th spot on the Modern Reader’s Library Top 100 Novels because of its powerful narrative about the psychic and social consequences of inequality. As the novel unfolds, an able and ambitious but poor young man, Clyde Griffiths, is inexorably brought to ruin by his pursuit of status and wealth. Griffith’s tale is an “American tragedy,” as Dreiser presents it, because Clyde Griffiths is an archetype of American striving, and Griffiths’ ruin is brought about by forces thoroughly and typically American, including the narrow-minded pursuit of wealth necessary to rise to the top of American society but also crippling to those who make it to the top. The “smart set” to which Griffiths aspires are all graduates of the Ivy League and Seven Sisters, who never so much as consider a serious thought or pick up a book because they are intent on the pursuit and display of wealth.

Dreiser thus links anti-intellectualism to the “tragic” consequences of inequality; In an essay written at the same time that he was gathering materials for An American TragedyDreiser derided the typical American as:

money centered…absolutely blind to everything that would tend to enlarge, let alone vastly extend, his social outlook. … His librarian locks up every decent book relating to politics, economics, and life. … he comes to favor a blue Sunday and the censoring of the already brainless movies and the stage, to say nothing of his one refuge, a decent book…

One almost thinks at times that the best response to income inequality, on Dreiser’s account, would not be an economic or tax policy but a course in serious books. But today we have the presumptive Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency celebrating the “poorly educated.” It might well be that we need to fight rife anti-intellectualism (an anti-intellectualism found at all socio-economic levels) if we are to face up to all sorts of challenges America faces today.

Dreiser himself had a rather ambiguous relationship to wealth; the success of An American Tragedy let him, in later middle age, live comfortably, although he was a socialist and, at the very end of his life, joined the Communist Party. His career occasionally depended on philanthropy, or at least an expansive sense of what made for a wise businesses investment, when his publisher Horace Liveright supported Dreiser for a year while he worked another novel, The Bulwark. (The friendship did not last: during a quarrel over movie rights to An American Tragedy, Dreiser cast hot coffee in Liveright’s face). But he is one of our authors, along with many others, who can help us think about why income inequality may be problematic, and, if so, what might be done about it.

Why Aren’t Housing Vouchers Like Food Stamps?

May 9th, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source; National Public Radio, “Planet Money”

NPR’s Keith Romer asks a good question in a report detailing the travails of a low-wage worker living in Connecticut: “Why aren’t housing vouchers like food stamps?” When you are a low-wage worker and you lose a job, you apply for food stamps and get them.

By contrast, housing subsidies, which are most often delivered in the form of a housing choice voucher, are in such short supply that local housing authorities rarely open their waiting lists. When lists are opened, homeseekers are asked to apply for a lottery to get on the waiting list. In his story, Mr. Romer recounts how Ms. Shanay Manson seized the opportunity to apply when a local housing authority opened its waiting list. Mr. Romer notes that Ms. Manson has signed up for a housing choice voucher with four different housing authorities over the past six years.

Unlike food stamps, where you get help when you need it, housing vouchers are strictly rationed: “Shanay qualified for a voucher in all of those places. But unlike with food stamps or Medicaid, for housing, just qualifying isn’t enough. According to a Harvard study, among very low-income people, only about 1 in 4 actually get any kind of housing assistance.”

Are housing subsidies less important to family well-being than food subsidies? There are lots of studies to show that housing stability is a key factor in child wellbeing into adulthood. In “The Negative Effects of Instability on Child Development: A Research Synthesis,” authors Heather Sandstrom and Sandra Huerta note:

Although parents are primary in assuring their children’s well-being and healthy development, a broad range of government programs also play an important role, especially for children in low-income families. Safety net programs provide financial assistance to families in the form of cash payments or subsidized housing, childcare, or food, all of which help to alleviate the immediate effects of instability. But the programs might be able to do more to stabilize the situation for children, by considering whether any administrative practices inadvertently increase instability. Simplified reporting procedures, longer eligibility periods, and a single, centralized eligibility process for multiple programs are some potential strategies.

Do vouchers support communities? Just like food stamps, housing vouchers provide a guaranteed rent stream in the form of monthly subsidy payments. Other businesses can see increased sales because a voucher tenant’s share of the rent is capped at 30 percent of her household income. That leaves more money for food, medicine, clothing, and other necessities.

Rent subsidies also reduce the cost of local government by reducing the number of non-payment evictions and homeless services. Staying out of eviction court and homeless shelters improves school attendance and performance. Good attendance often provides a financial benefit to local schools from state funding formulas. Local government alsosaves money on code enforcement because the federally funded Public Housing Authorities (PHAs), not local governments, require landlords to meet basic health and safety requirements.

But won’t expanding access to vouchers be expensive? Not according to Romer:

According to a government study, expanding vouchers to every low-income person who qualified would cost about $40 billion a year. For comparison, that’s less than the government spends on food stamps. It’s also less than what is spent on a different federal housing subsidy. This one goes not to the poor, but almost exclusively to the wealthy and middle-class—the mortgage interest deduction.

Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, raised the same theme in his presentation to the National Low Income Housing Coalition in April.

As a strategy, connecting full funding for housing choice vouchers with reining in mortgage interest deductions (MID) leads policymakers to consider using federal tax reform as a vehicle for housing voucher reform. Practically everyone on Capitol Hill wants some form of tax reform. Current efforts suggest that there won’t be any opportunity before the presidential elections, but with interested parties on both sides, it is imaginable that a bargain to increase vouchers could be partnered with efforts to cap further restrict MID benefits for wealthier taxpayers.

Here’s an even better, though more utopian, idea: When a new administration and Congress take up tax reform next year, expand Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to include a housing subsidy. Creating a housing benefit as a part of EITC is not as farfetched as it might seem at first glance.

·EITC is a Republican invention from the Nixon Administration; to draw an analogy, it was George W. Bush who tacked prescription drug coverage on to Medicare.

·By moving housing subsidies to EITC, Congress could eliminate a chunk of federal administrative costs that is currently eaten up by the Housing Authorities. Dealing with PHAs is a major source of dissatisfaction for landlords and frustration for tenants.

·Eliminating “vouchers” solves the problem of “source of income” discrimination.

·Redefining “rental” subsidies to “housing” subsidies in the EITC opens the possibility that low-income households could become homebuyers. Expanding homeownership opportunities would also appeal to Republicans and would go some way to placating resistance from the real estate lobby.

There are some programmatic problems with making housing subsidy a part of EITC. One is that the currently overworked and underfunded IRS would need to send households a check every month, rather than once a year. Another problem is adjusting the level of subsidy to the local fair market rent for the community. Mathematics would be involved—but, hey, that’s why we have computers.

Doctors Without Borders condemns “epidemic” of hospital attacks as “acts of terror” in chilling U.N. address

May 6th, 2016  |  Source:

MSF President Joanne Liu blasted the wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen in heart-wrenching Security Council briefing

“We are facing an epidemic of attacks on health facilities, impeding our ability to do our core work,” declared the international president of humanitarian medical organization Doctors Without Borders, in a powerful, heartwrenching address before the United Nations Security Council in New York City on Tuesday.

“In Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, hospitals are routinely bombed, raided, looted or burned to the ground,” she continued.

“Medical personnel are threatened. Patients are shot in their beds. Broad attacks on communities and precise attacks on health facilities are described as mistakes, are denied outright, or are simply met with silence.”

“In reality, they amount to massive, indiscriminate and disproportionate civilian targeting in urban settings, and, in the worst cases, they are acts of terror.”

Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders, known internationally in French as Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF, blasted the bombing campaigns carried out by the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and the Russian-backed, Syrian-led coalition.

“The effects of the attacks against health facilities emanate far beyond those immediately killed and injured,” she said.

“They demolish routine and lifesaving healthcare for all. They make life impossible. Full stop.”


Liu condemned the airstrikes on an MSF-backed hospital in a rebel-controlled part of Aleppo, Syria on April 27 that killed at least 50 people, including the last physician remaining in the area.

Control of Aleppo is split between rebels and the Syrian government. Among the rebel groups are extremists, including al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra.

On Tuesday, rebels attacked another hospital as part of shelling that killed at least 19 Syrians in government-controlled areas of the city, according to a pro-rebel group. The Syrian government accused al-Nusra and allied Islamist groups of being behind the attacks.

Secretary of State John Kerry was asked on Monday how the U.S. and its allies are “going to separate al-Nusra from the opposition fighters and stop the fighting in Aleppo.” Kerry answered ambiguously, saying “this is what we’re discussing” and “we have some work to do, and that’s why we’re here.”

Sec. Kerry was meeting in Geneva with Adel al-Jubeir, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, which has supported al-Nusra.

MSF President Liu excoriated the hospital bombing.

“What are individuals in wars today? Expendable commodities, dead or alive,” she said.

“Patients and doctors are legitimate targets. Women, children, the sick, the wounded and their caregivers, are condemned to death.”

“Stop these attacks,” Liu declared.


In October, the U.S.-led NATO coalition bombed an MSF-run hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 42 civilians. Fourteen MSF staff were killed in the attack.

“One of the survivors, an MSF nurse whose left arm was blown off during the relentless airstrike, told me something that haunts me daily,” Liu recalled in the U.N. briefing. “He said that when fighting erupted in Kunduz, MSF told its staff that its trauma center was a safe place.”

American Climate Refugees

May 5th, 2016  |  Source:

Is it the first of many? The Isle de Jean Charles, in southeastern Louisiana, received a $48 million federal grant intended to resettle its residents due to climate change-related flooding. In a deep New York Times package, we see a side of the first American climate refugees tale that focuses on the people, not the abstractions. Sample: “The floods ruined the trailer’s oven, so the family cooks on a hot plate. Water destroyed the family computer, too. Ms. Parfait, who has lupus, is afraid of what will happen if she is sick and cannot reach a doctor over the flooded bridge.” Must read.

Tick, Tick, Tick … 
 It’s not just Isle de Jean Charles. The Earth is on a shot clock. In his weekly column, NewCo founder and editor in chief John Battelle says business can’t sit this game out.

Data-Driven Diversity
 There’s power in numbers, so a group of prominent female Silicon Valley executives have started Project Include (USA Today), a nonprofit intended “to increase diversity and inclusion in the industry.” One of the prominent founders is Ellen Pao, whose well-documented experiences at Kleiner Perkins and Reddit make her a particularly appropriate voice for the organization. Their plan is to collect and share data. They’re not talking about quotas for to diversify rank-and-file employees, although over inEurope, requirements for women in board seats seem to be working(Quartz).

Oracle’s Data-Driven Disruptors
 Industry by industry, one BigCo is building a portfolio of data-driven disruptors. Enterprise software stalwart Oracle’s will pay $532 million for energy data firm Opower (Washington Post). Opower started by tracking energy-use trends across large populations; more recently it has worked to help utilities communicate better with customers. It’s yet another Oracle purchase of a cloud company bent on changing a particular industry (following purchases in construction, marketing, and other verticals). Remaining Opower employees may be happy, although last week, apparently readying itself for sale, the company laid off 7.5 percent of its workforce(ARL Now).

The Detroit-Valley Connection
 Silicon Valley wants to absorb (that’s what “disrupt” means, right?) what’s left of the Detroit auto industry. It also wants to learn what it can from the incumbents. Detroit automakers, for their part, plan to hold off the inevitable by partnering with the Apples of the world (Bloomberg), with mixed results. With estimates that U.S. auto sales may fall 40 percent within 25 years, “Detroit is looking to tech partnerships to stay relevant.”

Millennials Are Reshaping the Beauty Industry
 Older folks want instant results from their beauty products but have reasonable expectations, saving for their complexion like they’re saving for retirement. Millennials, companies are finding, want it all. Now (WSJ).

The Adult Coloring Book Wars Have Begun
 Tablet apps are joining the fray. Why? “Coloring a page takes days” (Los Angeles Times). Guess it’s not only millennials who are in such a rush.

Walker-Miller Energy and the War Against Waste
 We waste more energy than we use. In our latest Video Spotlight, Carla Walker-Miller of NewCo Honors Finalist Walker-Miller Energy Services shares how her Detroit company intends to fix that.

America’s Mental Health Care Gap

May 4th, 2016  |  Source: PS Magazine

The Affordable Care Act improved things a little for Americans with mental-health problems, but we still have a long way to go.

Last week, we wrote about how mentally ill Americans are disproportionately incarcerated.

One survey estimated 45 percent of federal prisoners, 56 percent of state prisoners, and 64 percent of people in jail recently had symptoms of, or were diagnosed with, a mental-health disorder. Some experts have argued that the underfunding of mental health care in the United States directly led to these high incarceration rates of people with mental disorders. Instead of receiving treatment, people are getting arrested for behavior related to their conditions.

Making sure folks get the mental health care they need could be a huge preventative help.

While progress has been made on that front, America still has a long way to go, according to numbers released today by the National Center for Health Statistics. On the one hand, more American adults with serious psychological distress now have health insurance compared to 2012, and fewer report being unable to afford the health care they need. Yet fewer — 34 percent in 2015, compared to 42 percent in 2012 — also report having seen a mental-health professional in the last year. Plus, Americans with psychological problems remain less likely than those without problems to have insurance and to feel like they can afford medical care.

Overall, the numbers paint a portrait of a mental health care system that has improved somewhat after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which pushed more Americans to get health insurance and mandated equal coverage for mental and physical health care. Still, the act alone hasn’t been able to fully solve Americans’ problems with getting mental health care.

The National Center for Health Statistics report wasn’t set up to study why psychologically distressed Americans are less likely to see a professional now than they were in 2012, but other studies offer clues. Some folks may simply need more financial help beyond insurance, researchers from the Urban Institute suggest. Some may be stymied by the shortage in mental health care professionals in the United States. Still others may now be getting mental health care from their primary-care doctor, instead of a specialist.

Another Nonprofit Craters Overnight in Wake of Failed Gates Experiments

May 2nd, 2016  |  Source: NPQ

Source; News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

“It is with heavy hearts that we officially close the doors to NC New Schools. Thank you to all that supported us over the years.”

With these tweeted words, another effort in school innovation heavily bankrolled by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation came to an end last Wednesday. In their failure lie some lessons to be learned by their funders and by nonprofits that believe they can depend on their funders to be consistent.

But, of course, as NPQ has reported, Gates himself abandoned the small schools experiment years ago as misguided. Here’s what he said at the time:

In the first four years of our work with new, small schools, most of the schools had achievement scores below district averages on reading and math assessments. In one set of schools we supported, graduation rates were no better than the statewide average, and reading and math scores were consistently below the average. The percentage of students attending college the year after graduating high school was up only 2.5 percentage points after five years. Simply breaking up existing schools into smaller units often did not generate the gains we were hoping for.

But, while this “confession” occurred in 2014, that does not mean that the infrastructure built around that idea did not carry on in this case as a successful and rapidly expanding organization that had not only received $26 million in funding from the Gates Foundation, but also matching funding from North Carolina, fees from school districts, and a recent commitment of $20 million in federal funds.

When the group ended their operations in such an immediate and dramatic fashion, Jeffrey Corbett, board president, told the News & Observer that the organization’s “expansion outpaced its funding. ‘We ran into cash flow problems that were directly related to growth and the speed of growth. It was very, very unfortunate.’”

And very predictable. Its influential patron had turned tail on the idea, and it just took a while for the real effects of that to visit itself on the organization, which at that point was likely functioning as a 150-pound toddler with outsized ideas about its own anointment. The cash flow issues that come with government contracts are well known among nonprofits that know the business model, as we have mentioned repeatedly over the last few months, and organizations ignore it at their peril.

But Howard Lee, a former state senator and State Board of Education chairman, was “absolutely shocked.”

“I think the New Schools Project had a tremendous positive impact on public schools,” said Lee.

As a “professional services agency dedicated to developing high-performing schools and districts,” NC New Schools worked to improve school effectiveness by embedding “into schools and school districts a systematic approach to developing highly skilled educators that is sustained over time and enhanced through the use of technology.” Their success in North Carolina allowed them to expand to 180 schools serving 89,000 students in Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Each school district developed a customized program, which NCNS would then implement. Over 90 percent of students in NCNS schools graduated, showing the impact of the program.

Though their program model showed signs of success and continued to evolve and grow, their business model apparently did not keep pace. They did well at receiving public and private funding commitments, but it seems they weren’t able to effectively match cash outflows with cash receipts. For example, the $20 million federal grant they received in 2014 enabled them to expand their effort into rural areas. But in order to receive the funding, the work had to be performed in advance of federal reimbursement, and NCNS found it too difficult to manage this cash flow challenge.

According to Corbett, the board “saw a problem emerging” from the start of the year and tried to raise more money, but they couldn’t “see a path forward for the organization.”

The position where NC New Schools finds itself faces all growing nonprofit organizations and the public and private funders who support them. Placing the burden solely on the back of the nonprofit leads to more stories like this one. Funders who believe in the work they are investing in may want to think more clearly about this side of the equation. But, as we have said, Gates moved along from the notion that underwrote this group long ago and that withdrawal removed the bumper pads surrounding the effort.

Aptos Podcast -- Congo: Sabuli's Story

April 29th, 2016  |  Source:

Sowing the Seeds of Hope: How one woman’s incredible journey began with her hiding from rebels in the jungle, and culminated with her return to provide a home – and hope - for dozens of Congolese kids.

Aptos’ latest episode in its original Commerce of Caring podcast series answers these questions. Through extensive, firsthand accounts by Sanguma and her eldest son Willita Sanguma, the podcast presents the remarkable story of how they fought together to ensure the entire family survived for 90 days and 90 nights in the jungle. “Sabuli’s Story” chronicles how their heroic efforts and incredible good fortune, even while completely surrounded by the horror and ruin of civil war, enabled them to escape to the United States.

From War to Salvation

But for Sanguma and Willita, the story had just begun. Incredibly, after all they had been through and all that had been taken from them, Sanguma and her husband eventually returned to Congo. They felt the powerful call of home — the desire to give back and help, even if they could only help a few of the thousands of children who had been orphaned by the long, brutal war. So they went back. And one by one, children came to them for help, for love and for hope. And today with support from many, including the people of retail (through RetailROI) and CongoVoice, they maintain a home (Sanguma refuses to label it an orphanage) that has given almost 100 children a chance to live, go to school and move confidently into a future they would otherwise not have had.

And Willita, after completing his education in the United States, has learned from his parents’ example to love and support a country he had once come to hate. In the process, he has gained a new view of himself and his place in the world.

This compelling story of conflict, survival and transformation is available now via your favorite podcast app, iTunes or at

Aptos believes that doing good is an integral part of doing well; as part of its commitment to the community, Aptos is dedicated to supporting RetailROI. To learn more about how Aptos views Social Responsibility as a KPI, visit

About Commerce of Caring

The Commerce of Caring podcast series from Aptos explores the power and possibilities of positive change, and the unsung heroes who are using it to create real opportunities for children in need. In exclusive interviews and firsthand accounts, each episode features stories of ordinary people making an extraordinary difference in the lives of young people throughout the world by turning hardship into hope. The series also shows how people across the retail industry are supporting the efforts of these inspiring individuals through The Retail Orphan Initiative (RetailROI) and their partner organizations. To subscribe to this series or obtain more information,

About RetailROI

The Retail Orphan Initiative is a charity funded by leading retail technology and solutions providers, consultants, media organizations and retailers. Its mission is to provide real solutions for vulnerable children by raising awareness; by building a sponsor and funding network among retailers, vendors and manufacturers; and by channeling resources to proven, local organizations delivering frontline support directly to those in need. RetailROI has raised millions of dollars for a diverse range of education, health and social projects in 17 countries around the world. More than 90% of the funds raised go directly to the programs they are intended to support. For more information, visit

About Aptos “Engaging Customers Differently”
In an era of virtually limitless choice, sustained competitive advantage only comes to retailers who engage customers differently – by truly understanding who they are, what they want and why they buy. At Aptos, we too, believe that engaging customers differently is critical to our success. We are committed to a deep understanding of each of our clients, to fulfilling their needs with the retail industry’s most comprehensive omni-channel solutions, and to fostering long-term relationships built on tangible value and trust. More than 500 retail brands rely upon our Singular Commerce platform to deliver every shopper a personalized, empowered and seamless experience…no matter when, where or how they shop. Learn

Follow Aptos on Twitter @Aptos_Retail

A majority of millennials now reject capitalism, poll shows

April 27th, 2016  |  Source: Washington Post

In an apparent rejection of the basic principles of the U.S. economy, a new poll shows that most young people do not support capitalism.

The Harvard University survey, which polled young adults between ages 18 and 29, found that 51 percent of respondents do not support capitalism. Just 42 percent said they support it.

It isn't clear that the young people in the poll would prefer some alternative system, though. Just 33 percent said they supported socialism. The survey had a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

The results of the survey are difficult to interpret, pollsters noted. Capitalism can mean different things to different people, and the newest generation of voters is frustrated with the status quo, broadly speaking.

All the same, that a majority of respondents in Harvard University's survey of young adults said they do not support capitalism suggests that today's youngest voters are more focused on the flaws of free markets.

"The word 'capitalism' doesn't mean what it used to," said Zach Lustbader, a senior at Harvard involved in conducting the poll, which was published Monday. For those who grew up during the Cold War, capitalism meant freedom from the Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes. For those who grew up more recently, capitalism has meant a financial crisis from which the global economy still hasn't completely recovered.

[Bernie Sanders is profoundly changing how millennials think about politics]

A subsequent survey that included people of all ages found that somewhat older Americans also are skeptical of capitalism. Only among respondents at least 50 years old was the majority in support of capitalism.

Although the results are startling, Harvard's questions accord with other recent research on how Americans think about capitalism and socialism. In 2011, for example, the Pew Research Center found that people ages 18 to 29 were frustrated with the free-market system.

In that survey, 46 percent had positive views of capitalism, and 47 percent had negative views — a broader question than what Harvard's pollsters asked, which was whether the respondent supported the system. With regard to socialism, by contrast, 49 percent of the young people in Pew's poll had positive views, and just 43 percent had negative views.

Lustbader, 22, said the darkening mood on capitalism is evident in the way politicians talk about the economy. When Republicans — long the champions of free enterprise — use the word "capitalism" these days, it's often to complain about "crony capitalism," he said.

"You don't hear people on the right defending their economic policies using that word anymore," Lustbader added.

It is an open question whether young people's attitudes on socialism and capitalism show that they are rejecting free markets as a matter of principle or whether those views are simply an expression of broader frustrations with an economy in which household incomes have been declining for 15 years.

On specific questions about how best to organize the economy, for example, young people's views seem conflicted. Just 27 percent believe government should play a large role in regulating the economy, the Harvard poll found, and just 30 percent think the government should play a large role in reducing income inequality. Only 26 percent said government spending is an effective way to increase economic growth

Yet 48 percent agreed that "basic health insurance is a right for all people." And 47 percent agreed with the statement that "Basic necessities, such as food and shelter, are a right that the government should provide to those unable to afford them."


April 26th, 2016  |  Source: History of Giving

Free, one-of-a-kind, multi-media digital narrative at offers unique access to historical documents, video and audio files; curated by National Philanthropic Trust to educate and inspire

The most detailed digital resource about the past 500 years of global philanthropy launched online today at  The digital exhibition highlights 200 moments in global philanthropy illustrated by almost 100 rare media assets, including documents, audio and video. Each entry is a building block that ultimately helps answer the question, “How did modern philanthropy begin and evolve into what we see today?"

“Philanthropy means ‘love of mankind.’ The History of Modern Philanthropy is an interactive resource about incredible acts of charity—in all forms—that are representative of mankind’s goodwill. These events shaped philanthropy as we know it,” said Eileen Heisman, CEO of National Philanthropic Trust, the site’s curator. “Today’s Philanthropy 3.0 is the result of centuries of societal benevolence. With the launch of this site and the unparalleled access it provides to historical documents and media, we hope to inspire thought, conversation, and action. The site is a digestible overview of the evolution of philanthropy—a $358 billion sector in the US—that touches everyone’s lives in one way or another.”

The free, open-source, permanent digital exhibition is organized into five time periods in the evolution of philanthropy: 1500 to 1749 “New Meaning in a Changing World,” 1750 to 1889 “Upheaval & Reform,” 1890 to 1929 “Lasting Change,” 1930 to 1979 “Redefining Philanthropy,” and 1980 to the current day “Global Outlook of Giving.” 

Supplementing the 200 easy-to-read entries about important philanthropic moments are 95 historical images, videos, documents and audio clips, many rarely seen or easily accessed, including:


·       Deed of Trust, dated 1552, that provided for the day-to-day operations of the Haseki Hurrem Sultan charitable complex in Jerusalem, which lifted the influence of female benefactors for the first time.

·       Document from 1638 that memorializes the earliest known American fundraising effort making Harvard the first institute of higher education in the US.

·       Audio file from 1918 of a song “The One Red Rose the Soldier Knows,” dedicated to the life-saving efforts of the Red Cross nurses; also a poster.

·       Photograph circa 1960 illustrating the grass roots efforts of voter registration initiatives, funded by philanthropists, which sought to enfranchise African Americans.

·       Audio file from 1995 of Ms. Oseola McCarty explaining why, immediately upon retirement as a life-long washerwoman, she donated $150,000 (half her life savings) to the University of Southern Mississippi to fund scholarships, proving philanthropy is not reserved for the wealthy.

“Despite the voluminous content online, a consolidated source that told the story of modern philanthropy didn’t exist,” said Heisman.  “This lack of information presented an opportunity to create a well-researched resource that can grow over time. As our site tells the history of giving, we hope it also inspires new acts of charity and new philanthropists.”

Scope / Methodology:  Each entry connects to a larger trend in philanthropy. The entries represent historical themes in philanthropy around the world and convey the breadth the sector. Similar to a brick-and-mortar museum exhibition, this digital exhibition tells a story using select moments that provide a digestible user experience, allowing visitors to filter entries by region, type or cause.

National Philanthropic Trust curated this exhibition with assistance from History Associates and Suka Creative.  The History of Modern Philanthropy is open-source and invites collaboration on future phases.

IN BRIEF SUMMARY:  The first one-source global narrative about the last 500 years in philanthropy just launched at Visit the digital exhibition to watch more than 200 moments in charitable giving history come alive with rarely or never-before-seen historical images, documents, and audio and video files.  Curated by National Philanthropic Trust – one of the top grantmaking institutions in the US – and a team of historians, the project originally began in 2011 and took more than 1,300 hours to research and create.

About National Philanthropic Trust

NPT is the largest national, independent donor-advised fund charity in the U.S., raising more than $5.9 billion in liquid and illiquid asset charitable contributions since its founding in 1996.  NPT ranks among the Top 25 largest grantmaking institutions in the U.S. and currently manages over $2.8 billion in charitable assets.  It has made more than 136,000 grants exceeding $3.2 billion to charities all over the world, including grants to charities in 59 foreign countries. NPT annually publishes the Donor-Advised Fund Report, the industry’s most comprehensive resource.  For more information, visit

Why Are Americans Killing Themselves?

April 26th, 2016  |  Source: PS Magazine

The national suicide rate is at its highest in nearly 30 years. Why?

So much for a country built on boundless optimism. More Americans are committing suicide now than at any other time in the last 30 years, according to a new analysis by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The NCHS study released last week indicates that the national suicide rate jumped an astonishing 24 percent (to 13 in every 100,000 people) between 1999 to 2014, the highest it’s been since 1986, according to the New York Times. The increase was particularly pronounced among middle-aged Americans between the ages of 45 and 64: Suicide rates for middle-aged men jumped 43 percent, while the suicide rate for women grew by a whopping 64 percent. In 1999, 29,199 people died by suicide; by 2014, that number had spiked to 42,733.

The study follows alarming research published in the Proceedings of the Natural Sciences last year that showed middle-aged, white Americans have been dying at a greater rate than ever before. Starting in 1998 — around the same time as the increase in the national suicide rate observed in the NCHS study — the United States saw “half a million deaths” among middle-aged white Americans alone. 

So what’s eating white America? As I noted when the PNAS study was published in November, suicide is a frequent indicator of a broader social dysfunction. That’s been the case since Émile Durkheim’s groundbreaking 1897 book Suicide transformed sociology into a study of social facts rather than an exercise in political philosophy. The core concept from Durkheim’s analysis is anomie, “a condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals,” where citizens morally disconnected from the broader civil society through economic, political, or social upheaval find themselves without solidarity and belonging. For those tasked with providing for their families, their perceived helplessness combined with a lack of social integration can be particularly deadly.

“The role of suicide, drugs, and alcohol in the white midlife mortality reversal is a signal of heightened desperation among a population in measurable decline,” Paul Starr wrote in the American Prospect in November. “The phenomenon Case and Deaton have identified suggests a dire collapse of hope.”

As it turns out, inequality kills.

That this sense of despair is centered on middle-aged, economically disadvantaged whites with less education makes complete sense in the context of Durkheim’s suicide hypothesis; after all, it’s those whites who have certainly been left behind economically, politically, and socially.Consider that some three-quarters of the eight million jobs lost during the Great Recessions were in manufacturing—the sort of trade that primarily employed white men. And those jobs aren’t coming back any time soon.

Or consider that, with an electorate that’s growing increasingly diverse and shaped by non-white demographic groups, whites of all genders are experiencing a relative (if not totally catastrophic) erosion of their relative political clout. And consider that those financially stressed, lesser-educated voters are far less engaged with the civic institutions of American life (to a degree that might make Robert Putnam shudder).

Of course, the experience of anomie is relative for this troubled group. Objectively, minorities don’t enjoy the same comforts as white Americans. The mortality rate among African Americans is still significantly higher than whites, as is the unemployment rate; and the majority of the gains from the economic recovery have flowed to white Americans, both men and women. The white American experience is still represented and reinforced more than any other group in the media and broader culture. And as I wrote in November, the daily stresses of living as a black person in the U.S. are far more traumatizing than the daily inconveniences of whiteness. Whites have taken their privileges for granted, and any relative deprivation is far more disconcerting and debilitating for them than marginalized groups that have spent their lives getting a raw deal in the U.S. political economy.

It’s unclear as to why the jump in suicides over the last 30 years has affected women in particular. While the overall rise in the national mortality rate has equally affected white, less-educated men and women, a 21 percent difference in the change in the suicide rate between the sexes is worth noting. Almost every age group for women in the U.S. saw increases in suicides, with those middle-aged women between 45 and 64 experiencing the largest increase. 

Read on here:

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