In 1937 my father died and my mother was left penniless with three young boys under twelve. She didn’t go to pieces, or maybe she did and I just didn’t know, but we moved to poorer quarters and she got a job handing out samples of food in the big local department store for 25 cents an hour. During summer she would give me 50 cents to go to the Saturday farmer’s market and at age twelve bargain for enough vegetables to make “farmers chop suey” (tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, and onions mixed with sour cream). That was our dinner all summer long. In winter she couldn’t feed us so we were sent to an orphan home. I stayed in the orphan home until 1942 and went straight into the military and World War II.
I know what it is to be hungry and suffer poverty and I learned during the war, as I became aware of politics, that it is a government’s responsibility to see that no child should be separated from their parents because of poverty. I also learned that it is better for society and cheaper for government to give subsidies to families for food so that children do not starve.
Peter Van Buren’s article below details the vicious social policies the Republican Congress with some Democratic support is proposing that will take food from hungry children in order to give more tax cuts to the rich and continue to fund our perpetual wars for the benefit of the armaments industry.
Is this the country we earned for our effort to save democracy in WWII? Is this really the country the bulk of our citizens want? Is this the country YOU want to live in? b. traven
Congrats America! One Out of Five of Your Kids Needs Food
Data released by the Census Bureau Wednesday showed a staggering 16 million children in the U.S., about one out of five kids under the age of 18, received food stamp assistance in 2014.
Overall, more than 46.5 million Americans were on food stamps last year, according to the Department of Agriculture. Food stamps are officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP.
More and More Hungry Kids in America
The census numbers show while one percent of Americans wallow in obscene, record-setting amounts of wealth, large swaths of the country remain in real trouble. In 2014 more American kids relied on food stamps than at any time since the 2008 economic crash. In raw, hungry mouth numbers, nine million children received food stamps in 2007 compared to 16 million now, and 26 million Americans of all ages received assistance compared to the 46.5 million now. It’s a new personal best, a new record and thus a new low for America.
These statistics come from the 2014 Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement, which has collected statistics on families and living arrangements for more than 60 years.
Congress: Parents are Lazy
“The spike in food stamp spending has caught the attention of Congress, and House Republicans tried to cut the program by around $4 billion a year in 2013,” the Associated Press reports. “In an eventual compromise, Congress agreed to cuts of around $800 million a year. The food stamp program will be under scrutiny in the new Republican Congress.”
But really, lazy is what lazy does. Why shouldn’t we cut public assistance and force people into the job market?
So Cut the Damn Handouts
At some point in this kind of discussion, someone will drop the nuclear option: cut federal and state benefits and do away with most public assistance. That’ll motivate parents to find jobs or watch their kids starve. Why should tax dollars be used to give food to people who won’t work for it? “If you’re able-bodied, you should be willing to work,” former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said discussing food stamp cuts.
The problem with such statements is 73 percent of those enrolled in the country’s major public benefits programs are, in fact, from working families — just in jobs whose paychecks don’t cover life’s basic necessities. McDonald’s workers alone receive $1.2 billion in federal assistance per year. It’s not complicated. Workers in the minimum-wage economy often need them simply to survive.
In Ohio, where I did some of the research for my book Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent, the state pays out benefits on the first of each month. Pay Day, Food Day, Mother’s Day, people call it. SNAP is distributed in the form of an Electronic Bank Transfer card, or EBT, which, recipients will tell you, stands for “Eat Better Tonight.” EBT-friendly stores open early and stay open late on the first of the month because most people are pretty hungry come the Day.
A single person with nothing to her name in the lower 48 states would qualify for no more than $189 a month in SNAP. If she works, her net monthly income is multiplied by .3, and the result is subtracted from the maximum allotment. Less than fifty bucks a week for food isn’t exactly luxury fare.
Sure, she can skip a meal if she needs to, and she likely does. However, she may have kids; almost two-thirds of SNAP children live in single-parent households. Twenty percent or more of the child population in 37 states lived in “food insecure households” in 2011, with New Mexico (30.6 percent) and the District of Columbia (30 percent) topping the list. And it’s not just kids. Households with disabled people account for 16 percent of SNAP benefits, while nine percent go to households with senior citizens.
What’s for Dinner?
So, to recap. In a time when some 20 percent of our own children need help just to be fed, Congress wants to cut further the thing that stands between those kids and malnutrition. Our system is trending toward asking kids (and the disabled, and the elderly) to go to hell if they’re hungry. Many are already there.
Yep, that’s us today in America.
BONUS! A 2013 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, on the well-being of children in 35 developed nations, shows the United States ranks 34th of the 35 countries surveyed, above only Romania and below virtually all of Europe plus Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. We could care about our kids!
– See more at: http://wemeantwell.com/#sthash.GG25ZhO5.dpuf