Are we a nation with a food shortage? No. Are we a nation with hungry people? Yes. Why? Good question.
Conservatives used to admit amongst themselves — behind closed doors — that food stamps were a way to keep crime down; a cost-cutting alternative to incarceration, which would pacify the hungry masses. That was when conservatives cared about costs, unlike our current crop of nihilists who are comfortably Bush-blind and vehemently pro-Amabo (opposite of Obama).
Not that poor people, to their minds, were criminals, but that desperate people are prone to do desperate things. And people feel less desperate if they are less physically hungry. It’s simple pragmatism. That used to exist in government, I’m told.
These vintage conservatives used to have a long game (See: The pre-Obama individual mandate, an alternative to socialized medicine).
Poor people — the lower and working class — were a good investment. They could build things and fight our wars, so best to feed them. And feed them we did.
In 1959, during the infamous “Kitchen Debate,” then-Vice President Nixon argued that by working, anyone in America could afford the ranch-style, three-bedroom home the Soviet media and Nixon’s debate challenger, Premier Nikita Khrushchev, had dubbed “Taj Mahal.” The commies were starving. Americans had plenty. Capitalism was therefore winning.
That was the conservative case. Then there were just the bleeding hearts: the churchy liberals who will always be on the side of the downtrodden because their religion strongly suggests it. LBJ launched the War on Poverty five years later.
This week, according to the new Census Bureau Report, there are still 46.2 million Americans impoverished. This hasn’t budged in the last six years. It’s gotten progressively worse in the last 30 years.
The poor are described as food insecure, meaning they don’t know when or from where their next meal is coming. Which is why many are obese too. Calorie-dense food is cheaper thanks to a lopsided government policy.
The federal poverty level is considered to be $23,550 a year for a family of four. Forty-six million is twice the population of Australia (23 million). It’s more than the populations of Canada (35 million), Norway (5 million) and Finland (5 million) combined. That’s how many Americans live on less than $1,000 a month for a single person. A lot.
Are nearly one-sixth of our countrymen lazy parasites? The fact is, besides the elderly, children and the disabled, most of them are those who were formerly known as the working poor, now the working impoverished.
Yet, GOP Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee (one of the 10 poorest states in the Union, on the dole receiving 11 federal pennies for every dollar they pay out in taxes) quoted the Book of Thessalonians to his constituents earlier this year in the debate over the SNAP program — “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
It’s a deal, congressman. The first ones who get to go to bed without supper are Congresspeople.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the welfare Congress has gleefully given to giant agricultural firms will cost taxpayers $939 billion over the next decade. Congressman Fincher himself reportedly received $3.5 million in farm subsidies since 1999. But the House can’t ensure poor kids, who’ve done nothing wrong, can eat every day. Congress couldn’t agree on the SNAP portion of the Farm Bill so like all slackers everywhere, they put it off until later.
The problem was some Republicans wanted to cut only some hungry families off of nutritional assistance and other Republicans wanted even more undernourished toddlers than that to be kicked off. It was quite a policy dust up.
Congress has been unwilling to work (See: Sequestration: Why your kid got yanked out of Head Start, your neighbors no longer get Meals on Wheels and your DOD-employed uncle has been furloughed.). Hope you don’t get subsidized Freedom Fries grease on your New Testament, Fincher.
So here we are: The richest country in the world with the richest people getting richer still and we have a couple of continents’ worth of families who don’t know when they’re going to eat next. (Many of them sharecroppers at the country’s largest private employer, Walmart.)
Instead of debating how we can possibly lift people out of poverty we have a swarm of hissing cockroaches* in neckties debating how to punish poor people for being too decadent with their $4.50 a day eating habits.
*I apologize if I offended any cockroaches with the comparison to Congress.
Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the editor-in-chief. This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.