Over the course of human history, several holy men, humanitarians, and even a philosopher noted that “The measure of a society is how it treats its weakest members,” and it is likely that Mahatma Gandhi, Pope John Paul II, Aristotle, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer were not referring to the richest country on Earth; the United States of America. Although polling reveals that a majority of Americans decry the foul treatment of this country’s weakest members, children and senior citizens, it is still a sad fact of life that this country’s government treats its most vulnerable citizens with gross disregard and utter contempt; apparently just because they exist. A better measure of the richest nation on Earth is the federal budget and how it reflects the government’s priorities that place preservation of oil industry, defense industry, corporate, and religious organizations’ profits over the survival of its most vulnerable citizens.
In yet another damning report on the plight of children, seniors, and the poor due to Republican’s austerity, a new Pew Research report reveals that the recent food stamp cuts that went into effect on November 1st mean that 47.7 million children, senior citizens, working Americans, and nearly a million veterans will have to get by on one less meal a day and tragically, Republicans and their supporters clamor for deeper cuts. It should be glaringly obvious that next to persecuting women and gays, Republicans have made malnutrition of the poor one of its highest priorities. Although they attempt to portray food stamps cuts as an abstract dollar amount on the government’s balance sheet, their cuts are having devastating results in human terms.
Mahatma Gandhi once said “the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.” If America’s poorest citizens ever needed protection from Republican cruelty, it is now when the true measure of Republican inhumanity is on the rise and tragically, many of their victims are their staunchest supporters. Some Americans believe cutting spending on food stamps is a legitimate means to rein in government spending, but if they were aware of the hard numbers adversely affected by withholding food, it likely would humanize the problem and put debt reduction in a different perspective.
It is important to understand that the food stamp cuts on November 1st that mean one meal-a-day less for the poorest Americans amounted to $5 billion for fiscal 2013-2014, and includes an additional $6 billion next year. Add to that stark reality the fact that House Republicans voted an additional $39 billion in cuts in September that ballooned to $90 billion as Republicans head into bicameral budget negotiations to prevent another government shutdown in January. Republicans still yearn for $135 billion in cuts according to the so-called “Ryan budget” they have passed in the House for three straight years.
Although the poor across the nation will have one meal less each day due to the $5 billion in cuts, it is in deep-red Republican states, particularly Southern states, where the poor are slated to feel the effects of the food stamp cuts most. In Pew Research’s Stateline interactive map, states with the highest percentage of residents dependent on food assistance are Republican strongholds. For example, in Mississippi, 22% of the population is reliant on food stamps including 307,000 children and 119,000 senior citizens, and $5 billion in cuts means 426,000 poverty-level, working poor, disabled, and senior residents will have to get by on one less meal each day. That does not include sequester cuts Republicans refuse to end that cut Head Start, Meals On Wheels, or free and reduced school lunches that are part of the SNAP cuts. The sad irony is that those most likely to go hungry every day are probably poor white people voting for Republicans who cannot wait to impose more hunger on them.
It is also ironic that those same red-state Republicans overwhelming support harsher food stamp cuts according to a new poll. Although Americans as a whole object to the November food stamp cuts, an overwhelming majority of Republican voters (67%) strongly approved of 47-million Americans going without one meal a day. It is likely that Republican voters are under the delusion that if their GOP representatives in Congress slash more SNAP funding, they will be withholding food from people of color, but as has been stated ad nauseum there are more poor white children, seniors, and disabled Americans nationwide receiving nutrition assistance than African, Hispanic, Asian, and Native Americans combined. Still, Republicans portray food stamp recipients as minorities to garner support to cut even more and increase hunger among their white Republican supporters; particularly in southern states.
There are 47.7 million Americans who will have to survive with one less meal a day due to the $5 billion cuts in SNAP funding, and a little over 30% are working families, 32% are seniors and disabled, and 27% are children. According to the Veterans Administration, nearly one million Veterans receive food assistance in any given month, and that does not include over 5,000 active duty military personnel whose families will have to make do with one less meal every day. The idea that nearly 48 million Americans will lose one meal a day is not lost on Republicans who could not care less what damage their cuts, or inaction, are wreaking on the poor. In fact, last week when two immigrant children approached Speaker John Boehner while eating breakfast asked him, “How would you feel if you had to tell your kids at the age of 10 that you were never coming home?” He replied “That wouldn’t be good.” Boehner, and his Republican House caucus, know precisely what their food stamp cuts mean to 48 million Americans and they knew “it wouldn’t be good.”
It is time for Americans to ask Republicans dying to cut more food stamp funding ‘how they would feel if they had to tell their kids they would have to go without one meal a day,’ but it is likely they would have them arrested and escorted to jail where they would not have to make do with one less meal a day. This nation is the richest country in the history of the world, and the notion that even one child, senior citizen, Veteran, or working American has to make do without one meal a day is an abomination of epic proportion.
Sadly, losing one meal daily is predicated on $5 billion in food stamp cuts, and if Republicans have their way the figure will be well over $100 billion that means the 48 million Americans dependent on food assistance will likely starve to death. Nearly a quarter of America’s children are living in dire poverty, seniors are barely staving off perpetual hunger, and millions of Americans have no idea where their next meal is coming from, and if America was measured by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens, or how its federal budget reflects it priorities, it would be found to be exceptional in its rank brutality and cruel treatment of it weakest citizens.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.