A travesty is a false, absurd, or distorted representation of something, and although not synonymous with a tragedy that means an unfortunate or disastrous occurrence, both words are apropos to the economic situation millions of Americans find themselves in. The travesty is that as the richest nation in the world, most of the nation’s wealth is held by a tiny percentage of wealthy elitists, and tragically, an inordinate percentage of the population is hungry for lack of income. Republicans claim people struggling in poverty are lazy and lack family values, or that cutting wages, eliminating overtime pay, and eliminating social programs coupled with more tax cuts for the rich and corporations will lift the poor out of poverty.
It has been over five years since Republicans crashed the economy and put millions upon millions of Americans out of work and into poverty, and throughout the recovery Republicans drastically cut domestic programs, purposely kept wages stagnant, and maintained tax cuts and special privileges for the people they serve; the rich and corporations. According to their economic ideology, then, with the stock market at record highs, corporate profits through the roof, and unemployment continuing to fall, there should be very few Americans suffering from food insecurity and outright hunger. However, according to a shocking study released by the relief charity Feeding America on Monday, the number of Americans struggling to feed their families is the same as during the height of the Great Recession.
Feeding America’s study, Hunger in America 2014, was a four year endeavor and the “most comprehensive study of hunger in the U.S. ever conducted.” The study focused on families served by Feeding America and did not include poor people who use food programs apart from its network. The study covered 60,000 people with a median income of $9,175 annually, which is less than half the federal poverty level for a family of three according to Census Bureau data for 2013. The charity serves over 15.5 million households of which about half receive minimal amounts of food stamps that last on average less than two weeks. Republicans just cut food stamps by about $800 million a year that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said reduced benefits for 850,000 poor households nationwide. Republicans complained the food stamp cuts were not harsh enough because their predilection is keeping the poor hungry to make room for tax cuts for the rich, purportedly to lift more Americans out of poverty.
When the Great Recession struck, the percentage of Americans suffering food insecurity (hunger) spiked to 14.6% from 11% as the recession started shedding jobs, and although the economy is recovering, the number has stayed the same regardless more Americans are back to work. In fact, in a recent report from the Economic Policy Institute, wages fell during the recession and the recovery for workers struggling in the bottom 70% of the wage distribution, despite increases in productivity.
According to the general consensus, when unemployment falls food insecurity typically falls with it, but according to the USDA, rising food costs and general inflation coupled with stagnant poverty wages are offsetting any benefits of lower unemployment. The USDA also reported that in 2013 at least 49 million Americans lack consistent access to sufficient food, and suggest that millions more Americans experience hunger who do not use food assistance services.
Some of the statistics the study revealed are that Feeding America provides supplemental food for 46.5 million people, over 12 million households eat unhealthy food because they cannot afford better-quality groceries, 66% of households are forced to choose between buying food and paying for medicine, and that 69% of families are forced to pay for utilities or pay for food; but not both. Now, before Republicans claim people going hungry are lazy moochers, lack religion, or the will to work, the majority of recipients work, are senior citizens, or children. They are also predominately white 43%. African Americans make up 26% and Latinos 20%; 10% of food recipient adults are students.
Now, if the recession were still in full swing, it would make sense that the number of Americans going hungry is staying the same, but that is not the case. Although the recovery is not nearly as robust as it could be, unemployment is falling and yet while working Americans can hardly feed their families, the stock market, corporations, and the wealthy elite have taken the lion’s share of the recovery due in great part to Republicans protecting their donors’ ability to spirit away their obscene profits. Add to that, Republicans spending no small amount of time obstructing a minimum wage increase, passing legislation to kill overtime pay, blocked unemployment benefit extensions, and doing the Koch brothers’ bidding by cutting pensions; all in an effort to keep millions of Americans struggling to choose to provide food or shelter for their families.
Feeding America spokesman, Ross Fraser, said “This report clearly makes a case for the importance of federal nutrition programs. They are the first line of defense for someone who lives at risk of hunger.” It is a line of defense Republicans cannot cut enough as they obstruct President Obama and Democrats attempt to alleviate the hunger crisis because their primary focus has been phony scandals, investigations, lawsuits, and lengthy vacations at taxpayers’ expense.
It is a travesty, a farce, that America is the richest nation on Earth, because in the richest nation on Earth nearly 50 million citizens would not be hungry. It is true there is bountiful wealth in America, but it is concentrated in the top 1% of income earners and Republicans are Hell-bent and duty-bound to keep it that way. Reports like Feeding America’s, or the U.N.s putting America’s children living in dire poverty in the second spot among developed nations, will never faze Republicans to abandon their devotion to increasing corporate or the wealthy elites riches and help hungry Americans.
Republicans cannot claim there is a lack of resources to help feed 50 million hungry citizens because they consistently block efforts to stop handing billions of dollars to corporations, the oil industry, or religious organizations through subsidies and tax breaks. What is stunning is that the people suffering from poor wages, lack of food, inadequate housing, and healthcare are predominately in Republican-controlled states who consistently send Republicans to Congress and statehouses to keep them poor, unhealthy, and hungry That is not a travesty or a tragedy; it is stupidity borne of racism toward President Obama.
Most Americans are shocked and angered when human beings deliberately abuse animals by withholding food, and yet the idea that 50 million of their fellow citizens, including working Americans, Veterans, senior citizens, the disabled, and children going hungry is acceptable. Why? Because Republicans have convinced them that only lazy people, minorities, and godless people lacking family values are going hungry and it obviously warms their hearts to see their children, parents, and neighbors going hungry. Why else would they continue voting for Republicans who openly campaign on keeping wages at poverty level, cutting food assistance, and cutting pensions to enrich corporations and the rich just to keep tens-of-millions of Americans struggling to eat.
The real tragedy of America, and there are far too many, is that a large segment of the population are just as heartless, cold-blooded, and celebrate human beings going hungry as Republicans just so the rich can get richer.
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.
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