Nearly all Americans have experienced that physical sensation of desiring food at some point in their life, but since they live in the richest nation on Earth, there is really no reason any American should be hungry for any length of time. When social scientists talk about people suffering from hunger, they usually refer to those who are unable to eat sufficient food to meet basic nutritional needs all human beings require to support their bodies. It is difficult to imagine that any American condones depriving another person from having adequate food, especially when over 70% of them follow Christ who said “feed the poor,” but 40% of Americans affiliated with Christian conservatives support Republicans who deny poor Americans adequate food. One can only conclude that even so-called conservative Christians embrace the idea of keeping Americans hungry.
Last week in Pennsylvania congressman Tom Marino (R) said he supports the Meals on Wheels program that provides food for seniors who are shut in, but he supports reducing the nation’s long-term debt more. At the headquarters for Meals on Wheels, Marino told senior citizens that “I can’t stand here and tell you your agency won’t be cut,” because “we do not have the money. The revenue is not there.” Marino is a liar pure and simple. Republicans certainly find revenue to fund billions of dollars for oil subsidies, agricultural corporations, and religious organizations through faith-based initiatives and tax-exemptions, but they claim they do not have the money ($41 million) to stop cuts to Meals on Wheels for seniors and the disabled who will have 19 million fewer meals delivered to their homes. Republicans have the revenue, but they are loath to spend it on assisting Americans with basic nutrition because they long to keep the poorest Americans hungry; especially children.
When the House decided not to fund food stamps recently, they guaranteed that 22 million children in poverty would experience that physical sensation of desiring food on a regular basis. Add to that the sequester cuts to Head Start, and it is evident that Republicans want to keep children hungry if they claim “we do not have the money, the revenue is not there.” These are the same so-called followers of Christ who adhere to the “sanctity of life” mantra, but it is a life of hunger and despair for millions of the poor that their religion’s namesake commanded his followers feed.
One libertarian hunger-monger, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul explained that “as Christians, we have an obligation, I really believe that, and it’s a deep-held belief. As humans, we do have an obligation to give to give people food.” Paul goes on to argue that giving people food puts them in servitude to the government and it is about as valid an argument for cutting food assistance to the poor as telling seniors “we do not have the money.” It is unclear why, or when, it became repulsive to help the poor and provide them with food, especially when they would rather have a living wage job, but this is 2013 and heartlessness is in vogue. As it is, 72% of food stamp recipients are working Americans and likely the other 28% are children and senior citizens Republicans felt were “extraneous” when they failed to fund food stamps in the House’s version of the farm bill. However, there is a callous disregard for hungry Americans that is rampant across America and not reserved to Congressional Republicans.
In over 50 major American cities it is illegal for good Samaritans to provide food to the poor and indigent officials admit is a ploy to drive hungry and homeless people out of the cities. Whatever their reasons, it reveals a blatant disregard for human beings who are hungry and a growing trend to deprive the poor from getting any kind of nourishment; even if it is food discarded in dumpsters. In many cities it is a violation of the law for the homeless to eat food out of garbage dumpsters, and at a Seattle Starbucks recently one of their baristas who supplemented his meager income with food stamps was terminated for eating out of the dumpster. The employee grabbed a meal out of the trash after a co-worker threw out a stack of breakfast sandwiches that were marked past their sell-by date. The hungry barista said, “I hadn’t eaten all day, and I was on a seven-hour shift.” Several days later the manager called the hungry worker into the office and fired him for enjoying his “dumpster dinner” because Starbucks regards being hungry and eating out of the trash stealing from the company.
It is a sad commentary that in the richest nation on Earth there are nearly 47 million Americans, most of them with low-paying part-time jobs and children, who are dependent on food assistance to keep from going hungry. It is particularly offensive when between 73-76% of Americans self-identify as Christians and likely the percentage is much higher for Republicans in Congress. Republicans claim the nation cannot afford to feed hungry Americans, and it is a poor excuse when they find billions for subsidies to the oil, agriculture, and religion industry.
There are millions of parents who are mortified when schools are in recess or on weekends because those free and reduced-priced lunches may be the only nutritious meal children get each day, but they are becoming scarcer with sequester cuts for Head Start and GOP cuts to food stamps. The problem of mass hunger in the richest nation on Earth is not for lack of revenue or resources, it is a lack compassion for hungry Americans the hunger mongers know affects children and senior citizens. There is a saying that “a nation is judged on the basis of how it treats its most vulnerable citizens,” and America should be judged as cold-hearted the way it treats its hungriest citizens.