I woke up this morning to an article in the New York Times whose headline read, "As Debate Reopens, Food Stamp Recipients Continue To Squeeze." The piece details how several families in Dyersburg, Tennessee (the name of the town is not lost on me) struggle with all of the issues born out of chronic underemployment and food insecurity. It also details the mentality held by members of Congress who seek to cut the benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, in half, over the next 10 years.
At a time when I am generally boiling water for my morning tea, I found my blood boiling instead.
So, let me get this straight: We bail out banks yet fail to feed the hungry?
The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 authorized the United States Secretary of the Treasury to spend up to $700 billion in TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) funds to purchase distressed assets, mostly redirected to inject capital into banks and other financial institutions, foreign and domestic. PLEASE NOTE: On September 24, 2008, then Republican Party nominee for President, John McCain, and Democratic Party nominee for President, Barack Obama, issued a joint statement asserting their support of this measure to "save the American economy." In 2009, it was found that the Federal Reserve had committed $7.77 trillion to rescuing the financial system- MORE THAN HALF THE VALUE OF EVERYTHING THAT WAS PRODUCED IN THE U.S. THAT YEAR.
And you mean to tell me that we can't set aside $80 billion annually to feed 48 million Americans? The proposed $40 billion cut over the next decade would push nearly 6 million people, already fighting poverty, off the rolls- many of them, searching for work in places where work has simply disappeared. So, the option that is gaining traction is to morally haze people for being "able-bodied adults" who desire to work but cannot find a job, by forcing them to ration food, skip meals, hunt for food in the wild (if that is even geographically possible) and go without milk for their children? In 2013? In the United States of America? Really?
To be certain, I stand for personal responsibility (within the context of a thorough understanding of the savage inequalities that have plagued certain sectors of American society, from the founding of our nation, that demand redress and reparation) and abating waste and misuse in any and all government programs. But am I really to accept that the majority of the rest of the 268.9 million Americans believe it is perfectly fine for our brothers, sisters, babies, seniors and disabled, to struggle to get by like this?
What has become of us?
To add insult to injury, Congressman Robert Fincher used the biblical reference of 2 Thessalonians 3:10, "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat," to justify these cuts. Mind you, this is the same man who received about $3.5 million in farm subsidies from the government from 1999 to 2012. Associate Pastor of Memphis' First Congo Church, Rev. Sonia Louden Walker, could not have corrected his remarkably caustic use of scripture more perfectly when she declared:
"Congressman Fincher’s attempt to find biblical support for his view in Second Thessalonians, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” reflects a complete failure to take into account the specific historical situation that Paul was addressing in this letter, which had nothing to do with government taxation or distribution of wealth. Paul is addressing a group that for theological reasons refuses to work, relying instead on a misguided view that the end is near and therefore there is no need to work. What such a group and Paul’s response to them have to do with the contemporary issue of assistance to the poor through food stamps is beyond me."
In fact, these are the types of ahistorical, inhumane talking points that have become hot commerce traded by many in the political arena because we are too uninformed and thirsty for the simplest articulation of any sentiment that seems to support our most base assumptions, even if they are incorrect and out of order. We have no problem using the Bible, the Constitution, or any other text that is widely known, yet vaguely familiar to the masses, to win people to our side of the debate. Historically and again presently, the hypocrisy of the use of documents that can call forth our better angels to disparage others must be called into question.
Rather than demonizing people who are in dire straits, would it be too much to ask of our leaders to come up with solutions to problems that have become nearly (yet not entirely) intractable in some sectors of American society for far too long? To ask them to use their wit and wisdom to create effective policy and incentives that promote the agency of Americans who desire to be employable and employed? Or are we just more committed to the optics of political theatrics on both sides that keep these inequalities in place as we spend our time debating party positions while the number of people plummeting toward poverty continues to rise?
And to think some of you choose to fill your social media feeds with posts about narcissists who make money off of your attention and never lift a finger to help others.
It is time to wake up!
It is time for you to make a commitment to move beyond complaining on Facebook and Twitter to using Facebook and Twitter to encourage, strike that, DEMAND ACTION!
It is time to call Congress and take a stand for the 48 million of our brothers and sisters who are food insecure!
It is time to raise holy hell!
April Yvonne Garrett is the curator of the inspiration, lifestyle and social commentary blog, www.TheAYGList.com and host of The AYG List with April Yvonne Garrett on the Tavis Smiley Network on BlogTalkRadio www.blogtalkradio.com/theayglist
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