Monday, January 03, 2005

Being Stupid Means Never Having To Keep It To Yourself

Because so many American pundits and politicians have been unashamedly holding forth on the generosity of the US on the tsunami relief effort compared to other countries, I earlier cited the Global Issues website, which compares % of GNPs per country to overall developmental assistance given by year. The history of our nation's largesse is underwhelming, at best.

Now, inspired by a babblefest on CNN between Tucker Carlson and Leslie Gelb, Juan Cole has a good breakdown of what numbers are important to look at when comparing the relative contributions specific to the tsunami disaster made per capita, in the context of per capita national incomes to national lump sum contributions, which puts it into an even more damning light:

“The announced Saudi contribution of $10 million is probably about $0.66 cents a citizen on a per capita basis (I don't think the Saudi citizen population can possibly be over 15 million no matter what Riyadh says). The initial US offer of $35 million was about $0.09 per person. Since US per capita income is approximately 4.5 times that of Saudi Arabia ($8500 Atlas method), however, the Saudi contribution should be seen as about $3.00 per citizen on a US scale, with regard to the real per capita burden. So the Saudi was a generous initial offer in comparison to that of the US.
The USG is now pledging about $0.90 cents per person ($350 million).
The Qatar offer of $25 million is about $250 per citizen.
The Kuwait offer of $2 million is $2.00 per citizen or $1.00 per person if guest workers are counted. Either way, it is comparable to the US offer on a per capita basis, and Kuwaiti per capita income is about half that of Americans. So any way you cut it, the Kuwaitis are not being chintzy unless you want to say Americans are moreso.
The Libyans are giving about $0.36 per person, and their per capita income (purchasing power parity method) is a little over $6,000. That is about 1/7 of the US per capita income, so their contribution burdens the Libyans the same way a roughly $2.50 per person contribution would burden Americans. Remember, the USG is currently giving ninety cents a person.
The Turks have offered 18 cents a person. But their per capita income is only about $3000 per year, or a tenth that of an average American, so this plege is equivalent to an American one of $1.80. That is, the Turks are giving twice what Americans are if everything is taken into account.
The Australian pledge of $28 million is about $1.35 per person.
It is obvious that if we take their populations and actual per capita income into account, the offers made by these governments are generally more generous than that of the United States. A lot of Middle Eastern countries have small populations, so even if they gave a lot per capita, it would look small in absolute numbers. Apparently US pundits don't know things like the citizen population of Kuwait or the per capita income of Libya, and can't be bothered to look them up.”
Why can’t Johnny add? Or do simple fractions? Because in our educational system, he doesn’t have to!! Unfortunately, in a knowledge-hating country like ours, spewing ignorance-laden arithmetic in public pronouncements is not a problem, as long as it reinforces myths about ourselves that make us feel better.

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