To listen to GOP leaders in the House of Representatives crafting the new Agriculture Bill of 1 Trillion Dollars over the next ten years, made up predominately of subsidies to large Agri-Business Corporations, the problem with our present system is that too many people get Food Stamps and other entitlements. One political operative even suggested the poor eat far too many steaks.
The idea is that Food Stamps and other entitlement programs are like a drug, addicting the recipient to demand more and more.
The reality is heartbreakingly different. Two million people in the United States will be cut off from the Food Stamp program entirely if the new farm bill goes through. Two hundred and ten thousand of them will be young children.
Prior to this enormous cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP the United States already has one of the highest and largest child poverty rates among all first world, industrial nations. Only Romania’s was worse. Do we really want to supplant Romania as the leading nation in the entire world for child poverty?
How did the United States become a leading nation supporting a child poverty rate over twenty percent as reported by UNICEF in 2011? Those who study such things point to the large U.S. population, the high unemployment rate that surged after the 2008-2009 depression in the United States, where the recovery has not filtered down to ordinary people. And the last reason cited is the great mistrust of entitlement programs in the United States by its political leadership and the conservative white majority in the country.
Many Americans who hear the phrase Food Stamps immediately conjure up lazy, indigent, people of color who buy steaks, lots of cigarettes, booze, and more. Why should we simply give them more money to waste?
FACT: More white people are on Food Stamps than black people.
FACT: Recipients in order to eat must live on $4.50 per day.
FACT: The United Nations has informed the World that the United States has more children both in raw numbers, and in the rate of child poverty than all but one nation.
Budgets are expressions of the moral choices we make. What the United States is opting for in the Republican controlled House of Representatives is to snatch food out of the mouths of children in order to feed the huge Agri-Business Corporations that are already reaping large profits. And the huge child poverty rate and the inadequacy of the SNAP program as it is, prior to being cut so much is as strong a moral indictment as you could gather.
Is that what we want the world to see and know about what the United States is? They already do and they already know. And what we are proposing to do is make this problem far worse than it presently is.
The American medical community has been vitally concerned with the effect of malnutrition on children, particularly those in the first years of life when the brain of the child is developing rapidly. What kind of America are we creating for our future as a nation? Are those getting ready to vote on this bill so callous and so lacking in the ability to look forward to the world we will bequeath to our children and grandchildren?
The Iroquois Nation’s elders have a rule that any decision made by the tribal councils must take into account the next seven generations and not just what is good and right for the people who are members of that tribal nation today. It becomes obvious that the U.S. has leaders who cannot see past the first dollar sign in the current budgetary year, and they cannot see at all the children who will be immediately impacted by the decisions they are about to make.
Even if Food Stamps went mostly to black families who are lazy, indigent, and undeserving, surely children under 12 and especially in the first years of life bear little or no responsibility for the actions of their parents. But they and their parents are not like the stereotypes at all.
The typical food stamp family is white and not black. There are no welfare Queens driving Cadillac’s. Black and brown families getting food stamps are in the very same mess as their white counterparts. They make up the working poor who often qualify for Food Stamps despite working as many as two jobs.
Figure it out. You work 35 hours a week and not 40 because your employer does not want to be legally forced to offer benefits in addition to wages for the work you do. You get perhaps a second job for ten or twelve hours a week AND you care for your children as best you can. Often, you are a single mother where there is no father around.
If you earn the minimum wage or just above that for these hours you’ll find it difficult not to spend most of your money just finding a small apartment somewhere—anywhere.
Reality: If you want to cut the Food Stamp Program in the morally and most economically beneficial way you will pursue policies that directly create more jobs and you will see to it that the minimum wage is raised several dollars an hour. You will vote for the Immigration Bill and get those 11-12 million people openly into our economy where they will not be exploited,victimized or not allowed to speak up for fear of being deported.
When you raise the minimum wage when unemployment is high because consumer demand is low as is the case now, you put a lot of money into the hands of ordinary people who are forced to spend it all simply to live. That is what creates jobs: business responding to increased consumer demand for their products and services.
You don’t get the maximum effect from cutting the taxes of the wealthy and subsidizing already wealthy corporations hoping that they will somehow decide to hire a lot of people at good wages. They won’t do it. If consumer demand still is lagging despite the modest recovery we’ve had they will hold off on creating jobs that they simply don’t need and cannot justify. The work is not there. Yet, GOP leaders call these people job creators.
Consumer demand drives our economy when it comes to job creation, economic growth, and tax surpluses to make genuine tax cuts and still serve all of our people as we should.
This Agriculture Bill coming through Congress now is a monster and a shameful indictment of those most charged with putting together the budget—the people who hold the purse strings. That is the House of Representatives where the GOP is king. John Boehner, what will you do about poverty in America? Are you and your party even thinking of the people who you hold in the palm of your hands?
For what you decide will have and already has had enormous consequences. Democrats: are you pushing for a squeezing out of child poverty and cutting poverty among families? Are you ready to stand up and advocate for children and their hardworking parents?
Most lazy, indigent and addicted to entitlement Americans work hard for what little they get as it is, and most are white, native-born Americans. And the rest would love to get up and go to work if they could. If only there were jobs enough in inner city blighted neighborhoods and in rural areas hard hit by the difficulties and challenges of small family farming. It is not the big Agri-Business Firms that flock to Farm Aid concerts to hear Willie Nelson you know.
The huge child poverty rate in the U.S. shames our leaders to the core. All of them. What will they do? What will YOU do to change things?
Now is the time to put our moral budgetary priorities in order. Now is the time to act on child poverty. Now is the time to raise the minimum wage and provide real jobs for millions of people who desperately want the dignity of work but cannot find it. Now is the time to examine our consciences and to awaken ourselves to the effects of what we do or fail to do. We all are subject to the judgment of the higher power—the divine. And that is not us. Now is the time for Social Justice in our nation and the world. Now and not in some later, half imagined world where the horizon for doing what is right can be safely pulled backward each day. Now is the time.