profit

Not A Game

Football field. Photo via winui / Shutterstock.com

In a few days, Americans will gather across the country to watch the Super Bowl.

But what many of them don’t know is what happens outside of the stadium—a seedy underworld that profits off the sale of American children.

Every year, approximately 100,000 children are forced into prostitution in the United States—and many are illegally “bused in” to locations hosting major sporting events like the Super Bowl. Once the game is over, victims are relocated to the next profitable event.

The trafficking of our kids is not a game.

I can tell you firsthand that homeless children—desperate for food, shelter, and comfort—are the biggest victims of this horrific industry. At Covenant House, we’ve seen too many of these innocent children come through our doors.

I can also tell you that no homeless kid sells his or her body by choice. In a survey we conducted with Fordham University, almost 25 percent of homeless kids were either victims of trafficking or felt they needed to trade sex in order to survive.

ALL of them greatly regretted having to trade their bodies—a trauma that can haunt them for the rest of their lives.

We are doing everything we can to help these victims, as well as ensure that homeless kids who are at risk of becoming victims never fall prey to this vile industry.

Pope Francis Laments 'Market Priorities' in Struggle Against Hunger

Homeless men sleep just outside of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Photo via Josephine McKenna/RNS.

Market speculation and pursuit of profits are hindering the global fight against hunger and poverty, Pope Francis said Nov. 20.

In an address at a U.N. conference in Rome on nutrition, the pope urged the world’s wealthiest nations to do more to help those in need.

“Perhaps we have paid too little heed to those who are hungry,” the pope told delegates from more than 170 countries attending the global gathering at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

“It is also painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by ‘market priorities,’” the pope said.

“The hungry remain, at the street corner, and ask to be recognized as citizens, to receive a healthy diet. We ask for dignity, not for charity.”

The Argentine pope has often called for greater compassion and justice for the world’s poor since his election last year, and he has made charity a priority of his pontificate.

Paying to Play

AS LINUS ONCE pointed out, Charlie Brown could turn a wonderful thing like Christmas into a problem.

Well, America’s post-industrial economy, in which the children of middle-class families frantically compete for slices of a shrinking pie, has done Charlie Brown one better: Our culture has managed to turn children’s sports into a problem. More and more, the fun and games of bygone days are being displaced by a network of pay-to-play competitive club sports organizations—gated communities of the youth sports world that are marketed to middle-class parents as the only route to coveted college athletic scholarships.

Two sets of statistics tell the story. As of 2010, according to the Columbus Dispatch, youth sports organizations took in at least $5 billion per year. In addition, according to a 2013 National Association of Sports Commissions study reported in the Dallas Morning News, the travel industry associated with youth sports is worth another $7 billion a year. And all that money is being spent on fewer kids. According to the Wall Street Journal, participation of kids age 6 to 17 in the most popular U.S. team sports fell by about 4 percent between 2008 and 2012 while the population of 6-to-17-year-olds fell by only 0.6 percent.

Competitive youth sports is becoming an elite phenomenon. Kids whose families can afford it spend the year migrating from tournaments to training camps. Meanwhile, the majority of kids just give up and stay home to play video games.

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An Ever-Flowing Stream

A scene from "Ballast," one of many independent films available to a larger audience because of internet sites such as Fandor.

2013 WAS ANOTHER year when the future arrived. We’ve been having a lot of those lately. First there was 2010. According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, that year more Americans got their news online than from reading a newspaper. Next, 2011 was the year when the internet started replacing not just the local bookstore, but books themselves. That’s when Amazon made more money from e-books than from real ones. The same thing happened in 2012, when revenue from music downloads surpassed that from the sale of recorded discs.

The newest future dawned last year when the American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences officially recognized that the internet was replacing TV. They didn’t say that, of course. The Academy just said that online streaming series, such as Netflix’s House of Cards andArrested Development, were eligible for Emmy Awards. For a little perspective here, the Emmys were once only for broadcast TV—the stuff you can get from a roof antenna. Cable productions became eligible in 1988, and last year not a single broadcast production was even nominated for the best drama award.

In the first year of internet eligibility, David Fincher won the best director Emmy for House of Cards. In case anyone still thinks that web TV is for has-beens and wannabes, in 2011 Fincher was nominated for the best director Oscar for The Social Network. Last fall, Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau produced a series (Alpha House) for streaming on Amazon. For the record, Trudeau’s last television venture was Lucas Tanner for HBO, in 1988.

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Personhood for Profit

ARE CORPORATIONS “persons”? Legally, they are. They have the right to own property, to enter into contracts, to sue for defamation. Thanks to Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, they also have “free speech” rights. Voting is the only right corporations lack—and the tsunami of political money unleashed by that Supreme Court decision makes that limit irrelevant.

“Person” is an important word for Christianity. We speak of the three divine persons of the Trinity, and of the human person made in the image of God. What are we to make of “corporate personhood?” It’s tempting to invoke idolatry and the golden calf of Exodus. However, corporate persons are akin more to the “golem” of Jewish folklore—a human creation that fulfills our immediate goals, but brings about unforeseen destructive consequences.

Mitt Romney’s campaign gaffe “Corporations are people, my friend” points to the problem. He wasn’t arguing that corporations are literal people, but that they are made up of people working together. But what matters is the nature of these shared projects: The corporation insulates its anonymous stockholders from liability and works solely to maximize the value of their investments.

Indeed, the “corporate person” is the perfect homo economicus. A human owner of a firm, no matter how hard-eyed, will still have moral qualms and live in a community that judges his or her character. In contrast, the corporate person has no interior life. These abstract “persons” are served by trustees with the responsibility to do everything legally possible to maximize profits. They may regret abandoning devoted workers in order to seek cheap labor, but if they refuse, they fail in their fiduciary duty to the corporate person’s one-dimensional interests.

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