Who Speaks For The Poor And The Hungry?

Not Republicans. They continue to vote to cut unemployment benefits, food stamps, Head Start, minimum wage, labor unions and public education. Indeed, last year’s standard bearer was caught on tape deriding the bottom 47 percent for paying “no taxes” and wanting “free stuff.” Certainly not the Tea Party parasites. They contemptuously refer to the working poor as “freeloaders.”

Even Democrats seem far more concerned with the middle class and labor unions than the poor.

Christian churches? Some actually care enough to try to help. But many of today’s mega-churches are mere social clubs, more interested in politics and social engineering than the poor and the hungry. They talk about “tough love” to “free” the poor from safety net programs that they claim create dependency.

As a result, many of the nation’s poor are left to survive any way they can in our cities’ ghettos and in small rural communities. One in six don’t know where their next meal will come from. Many of these people work, but are paid so little, they can’t afford to live. Many single parents make less at the available jobs than the cost of day care, so unless they have friends or family who can babysit, they can’t afford to work. Thousands of families are homeless despite working one or more jobs. (Imagine a family trying to make ends meet in a large city on $15,000-$20,000 a year.) And none have health insurance, so they can’t afford to seek help unless it’s an emergency.

Despite all of the stark, all too depressing evidence of poverty in the US, few in government are motivated to help. After all, the poor can’t afford to make campaign contributions. They have no lobbyists to finance political campaigns. They can’t afford to wine and dine elected officials on junkets to resorts and exotic places.

Even when the working poor do have a roof over their heads and a small budget for food (usually the result of food stamps), the food they can afford is loaded with more sugar and fat than nutrition. This not only affects their health. It contributes to our nation’s obesity problem and rising health care costs.

And for the children of the poor, good luck with school. It’s hard to concentrate on assignments with your stomach growling. Not surprisingly, most schools in impoverished areas are underfunded and overpopulated. With few resources and large class sizes, teachers do what they can before they pass the struggling children along to the next grade. Moreover, because of their work schedules, many parents have little time to help their children with homework…homework they, themselves, may have failed. This all but ensures that the family economic problems continue generation after generation.

How can we change things?

To begin, we can raise the minimum wage. (No one who works a full-time job should be paid a wage that leaves them below the poverty line.) We can fully fund programs such as food stamps, instead of cutting them as Teapublicans demand. We can fund Head Start, unemployment benefits and welfare (welfare for the poor, not corporations). We can create safe and affordable day care programs for low income families. We can make certain that all schools are adequately funded and we can create after-school programs for children who want to put in the extra work to succeed. We can make sure that every American has access to health care…especially preventative care. We can drop the farm subsidies for big corporations and redirect them to small independent growers who make fresh and healthy food available to poor neighborhoods.

If you think our nation can’t afford to fund such common-sense humane programs, think again. We need only take a fraction of the money from our bloated war industry (In a country that has spent all but a few years of its history engaged in war, calling it a defense department is a misnomer.).

It’s long past time that our nation invested in people not corporations…humanity not war.