Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Food in America: An Entitlement?

Article first published as Food in America: An Entitlement? on Blogcritics.

America has sold itself as a loving and giving nation. We feed and rescue the less fortunate on a global status. Our television broadcasts shows of starving children. The malnutritioned children, with swollen bellies, cry out in filthy, bug ridden, exploitation. Our tears fall. We dig deep in our pockets, to send whatever we can, to make ourselves feel better. We shake our heads in pity at life in third world nations. All the while, we don’t realize that starvation in our own country is growing. It isn’t aired, there are no global donations, no adopt an American child, picture enclosed, programs for our hungry and homeless. Yet, as we send donations to rescue the less fortunate in other countries, we try to cut funding for our own, as we scream, Get a job!

So many Americans believe there is no reason for American starvation. The starving Americans are at fault and they need to work. That’s the solution. People refuse to look at the total picture, and when the evidence is put in their face, they close their eyes and turn their heads while uttering: It’s because of Obama.

Somewhere between breaking collective bargaining and a desperate economy, we have come to believe that a $10 an hour job is sufficient. (A $10 an hour job falls $1 below the national poverty line.) The mindset is gratuity, period. We defend the fifty year high of corporate profits, and bash the president for the equally high unemployment rate.

Doesn't the reality that 46,405,204 Americans are collecting food stamps convincingly paint the picture of poverty in our nation? For some, the visual is overweight, lazy, black, Hispanic, Arabic, drug addicted, people who are baby machines, kicking out children to earn money on the system. Others believe massive fraud is taking place; people aren’t entitled, they are raping the system, cheating. These things are simply untrue. The fraud rate is down from 56 percent to 1 percent. That’s statistically insignificant. Meanwhile, one in five people struggles with a shortage of food. One in three is eligible for food assistance, but doesn’t apply, probably out of false pride, shame.

Even many of our best educated, struggling to repay crippling student loans, find themselves below the poverty line: there are 293,209 people with Master's degrees and 33,655 PhDs dependent on food stamps! We have underemployed people trying to support their families on minimum wage, burdened with paying child care, medical care, and transportation costs. Every single mother struggles; many are earning minimum wage or less. Even if they are lucky enough to receive child support, still they can’t afford to buy food for their children. They count their saved milk, bread, and egg money to put in their gas tanks to make it to their low-paying jobs. These are not lazy people who can be put in a color class. They can’t be put in a class of white/black/Arab/ or Hispanic. The fact is they are Americans who would starve without the food assistance program, no matter how hard they try to work their way out of the hole they have been pushed into.

Although there aren’t any numbers I can point to to prove it, I think it’s a safe bet that the majority of food stamp recipients would gladly take a job that would give them the ability to feed their children and handle all of their other living expenses without having to deal with DPS. We are Americans; we don’t want to admit we have to use the system. We hang our heads in shame, blaming ourselves for our personal failures, don’t we? There is no shame to be had. We are loving people. We will care for our children at any and all costs to ourselves. That’s what we do as parents.

We are not responsible for this crisis, this deep, very serious recession which is growing uncomfortably close to becoming a full-blown depression. The current president isn’t responsible for the lack of job creation and the rising level of poverty. The EBT card is the only thing that shields America from the shame of 1930’s food lines. We are in serious trouble.

To find out who is behind this economy all you have to do is see who is benefitting from it. The proof is in the pudding. Our manufacturing jobs have been outsourced to those around the world who are forced to work for slave labor wages, without environmental protections or benefits. Health has boiled down to work at your own risk. After all, why should corporations clean up their acts to provide a safe environment, that isn’t on their money making agenda. They hide behind the premise of the costs of collective bargaining and unions. The truth is, without collective bargaining and unions we are re-creating the pre union condition. Are we really ready for that in a country that claims to be civilized? Again, we are falling behind the countries that are truly free and civilized.

The corporate money machine is fertilizing the ground for slave labor. Look at our economy. Look, open your eyes, to who is making billions, as jobs dwindle. They are supposed to be our job creators, not the president, and if you follow their profits you will also follow their employment demise. They are holding jobs tight in their little hands, making our nation fall to its knees before third world countries and their slave wages. Some of you, way too many of you, have come to believe in their deceptions. Half of Americans have swallowed the Kool Aid. You blame the poor. It isn’t the lazy, black, Hispanic, lowlifes who are looking for a handout who have drained our jobs. To find the perpetrators of the state of our economy, just like finding a drug lord, all you have to do is follow the money trail. Where ever it leads, you’ll find the kingpin. That is who is truly responsible for the crisis we are in.

The Kool Aid full, constantly cry out, “Why do we have to pay to support our social net?” Shouldn’t the bigger question be: “Why do we have to pay, shed blood, watch our children go without, watch our citizens suffer from homelessness and poverty, so you can line your pockets and buy our governments? Why should we have to pay to continue to gag from the chokehold the rich have on our throats, choking away our freedom and our ability to take care of our own?" Isn’t that a much better question to ask? Isn’t that a stronger moral question to ask? After all, seriously, all you religious folks need to ask yourselves, "What would Jesus do?"

It’s very sad to see America fall to the premise that capitalism and free enterprise have the right to mold us into a slave society. American capitalism once held a standard that has disappeared. Our democracy was based on shared profits, enabling all to grow. Now, big business takes the money and runs with it, creating no jobs, and we feel we are indebted to them for any crumb they may throw our way. I don’t understand.

I remember, when I was the in fourth grade, Ms. Sechrist taught us that in our lifetime we would suffer the loss of the middle class. She told us that we would live in an America ruled by the rich, which would create a two class system: The rich and the working poor. How did she know that over 40 years ago? Ms. Sechrist was obviously a very smart woman.

So, the next time, America, when you cry your tears of sympathy for the starving African child, remember that the same circumstances may be happening to a poor American child, next door, or down the street from your very own secure life. Remember, when you open your mouth to stuff it with some goody you purchased at a high end bakery that a child is going without formula somewhere near you. Remember, while you curse rage upon our own starving, that you, too, are only a paycheck away from the same poverty you demean. Eat well.

Wake up, America!


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