Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Child Poverty And The Myth Of Supporting "Family Values"

"To us, it's just how we live. You don't get to make choices in how you live."

Challenge your members of Congress to live for a week on a poverty line budget.  No cheating, and no help from any food stamps or food pantries since they feel that their budgets need to be cut.  See if they can survive it (and no cheating by snacking on fancy canapes at lobbyist-paid cocktail parties and junkets, either!).  

The switchboard on the Hill is (202) 224-3121. The nice folks on the line can connect you to your Senators and your Representative.  Raise your voice.

Right now in the United States, a child is waking up with an empty stomach and no food in the house to help fill it.  He woke up the same way yesterday, and will probably wake up the same way tomorrow.  He goes to bed hungry, he wakes up hungry, day in, day out.

He is three, and he knows nothing else but that this as his life.

He didn't ask to be born into this family.  He is not getting remotely enough nutrition to feed his growing brain, and because of the nutrient deficits, his brain is not developing its maximum potential...and will not if things do not change.

He starts his life out behind the curve, because poor nutrition for his mother while he was in the womb already put his brain development as well as his systemic development behind the curve.  If he is to make up any ground and catch up with his peers, he needs a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables and good proteins and foods with omega-3 fatty acids.

Imagine being that child.

The food stamp program, or SNAP, helps to cover this gap for millions of children in this country every single day, children who did not ask to be born to a family living in poverty.  If the House GOP gets their way with the current Farm Bill, millions of children will have that safety net ripped out from under them.  I say that giving lip service to "family values" in your stump speeches while pulling the floor out from under the children who most desperately need help is a pretty piss poor way to walk your talk.

The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation just completed a broad study of the impact of these proposed cuts and their broader budgetary and social implications.  The consequences are starkly dire for the nearly 5.1 million people, including a whole lot of desperately hungry children out of the 16 million living in poverty right now in the US of A, who would be cut from food assistance at a time when poverty issues for the poorest of the poor are reaching crisis levels in this country (via the NYTimes):

...The combination of poverty and a lack of food would lead to increases in illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure among adults, the study found. In children, the cuts would lead to higher rates of asthma and depression. Diabetes alone could increase federal and state health care costs by nearly $15 billion over the next 10 years, the report found.

“It’s a trade-off between paying for rent, medicine or food,” he said. “Policy makers need to understand what the health impacts are going to be if they make the kinds of changes they are considering to the SNAP program.”...
I say that members of Congress -- every single one of them -- should have to work at some minimum wage, never get 40 hours a week, working two and three jobs to make ends meet lifestyle, and feed themselves and their entire families on that level of salary for an entire month.   Or even just for an entire week -- I'd like to see them do so without the aid of their expense account and trust fund lifestyles.

I mean really live it.  Getting a taste of how the other half really lives.

Using a bus pass (if they can afford one on those wages) to get back and forth to work. Feeding their family healthfully on what they can get from the store without supplementing anything from the food pantries they are no longer going to be supporting, and without any assist from the food stamps that they think are wasteful spending.

As the folks at Moyers and Company point out:
...A friend of mine suggested that a representative group of food stamp recipients storm the House floor.
“So about half of them would be children, and about 10 percent elderly, and a lot in wheelchairs, with oxygen tanks, crutches, etc.,” she said. “It would make the fools in the House look even more trivial and foolish than they already look.”
My friend wasn’t being literal, but she makes an important point — we shouldn’t permit our legislators to continue making these decisions in a vacuum, isolated from the very people whose lives they are toying with....
In recent hearings on this issue in the House, they did just that, refusing to hear from an actual person on food stamps as part of their most recent hearing on the impact of policy changes on people who receive food stamps.  All of which says this to me:  in today's political world, the most important PR maneuver for lawmakers is that they insulate themselves from any photo-op moments with the citizenry whose lives will be immediately impacted by their policy decisions.

Nothing like reinforcing the self-perpetuating, ego-driven echo chamber in which you live in order to avoid the messy results of what you do is there?

This isn't the first time I have spoken about this issue.  And I sadly doubt that it will be my last, the way the mood of the moment is going:  we are a nation of "I've got mine, get your own or die trying."  It makes me so sad, because a 2 year old hungry child cannot do that, and will be left perpetually behind if his nourishment at that age is sadly lacking of anything that actually nourishes.

To make things even worse, funds for school lunch programs for the poor are constantly being threatened.  As I've said before many times, childhood nutrition is essential to developing brains and these kids did not ask to be born into poor and struggling families.  If they aren't being fed at school, most of them are going hungry, and where does that leave them in the long run?  Even further behind.

Desperation is not exactly an excellent start for a lifetime, now is it? If this issue bothers you, give your elected representatives a call.

The switchboard on the Hill is (202) 224-3121. The nice folks on the line can connect you to your Senators and your Representative.  Raise your voice.

PS -- If you need help in framing what you want to say, Bill Moyers and Company have done fantastic reporting on poverty issues, and put together a great compendium of thoughts from leaders on poverty work.  You can find it here -- well worth a read and a lot of thought, too.


Anonymous said...

Some of your old friends have shared this on Facebook. So well-said, as always.
For my sins, Lamar Smith is my representative. John Cornyn just sent me an email newsletter headlined with a Republican talking-point-myth about Obamacare. There is no chance they will ever open their hearts to the poor and hungry.
But thank you for saying these things anyway.
I hope this piece of eloquence means that you are feeling better,and healing well.

Christy Hardin Smith said...

Feeling a bit better. Emerging from the dregs of the last round of chemo at this point, and am very grateful for it.

In better news, The Peanut is donating hair to Locks of Love today -- we are off for a hair cut in a few minutes. Am glad I have at least begun to pass along some measure of a helping people out mindset to her -- or, at least, I'm working on it, right?