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49 million hungry in the US? That’s just WRONG.

We are in the middle of one of the biggest redistributions of wealth ever seen in this country, thanks to George W. Bush and the Republicans. Now their chickens are coming home to roost, and it’s a disgrace.  This is not the country I have lived in all my life. I certainly never imagined I would see a day where reports like these are commonplace:

  • In 2008, one in five children went without needed food. That’s 17 million children. 17 MILLION. Of those, 1.1 million were outright hungry. The truly staggering statistic is the increase in number, from 12 million in 2007 to 17 million in 2008. That’s a 42% increase, in one year! (Source: USDA 2008 report (PDF))
  • Americans lacking dependable access — ACCESS — to enough food in 2008? 49 million. 49 million people in this country, one of the richest in the world, lack adequate access to food. That’s staggering. Why do they lack it? They have no money with which to pay for it.

These reports follow news that in an average month in 2008, 28.4 million Americans received food stamps, and half of those were younger than age 18. Let’s not forget the number of jobs permanently lost as the corporate citizens of our great land toss individual citizens out on the street and the unemployment rolls.

Just for some perspective, let’s have a look at the folks who are not worrying about food stamps or being hungry but who are standing in the way of ordinary people having access to health care, jobs, and food. To make it fair, I’ll focus on those people who are not elected representatives but have deep influence on how the economic stimulus package, health care reform, job creation and other social legislation is viewed.

  • Dick Armey, Chairman of FreedomWorks, one of the primary sponsors and promoters of the teaparty movement. Armey is a proponent of ‘smaller government, no taxes, no Big Government Programs.’ Among his disciples, Sarah Palin.

    Dick Armey was paid $550,000 in 2008 by FreedomWorks Foundation and its political arm, FreedomWorks. That paycheck came to him via a tax-exempt organization and a tax-privileged organization. In other words, his work to defeat health care reform was paid for, in part, by taxpayers. Us. That isn’t his only paycheck received in 2008 or 2009, either. Until July, he was also a principal at Shirley & Bannister, the Washington DC lobbying firm championing conservative and corporate interests.

  • Tom Donohue, Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is actively lobbying against health care reform, climate change legislation, and opposed the stimulus bill.

    In 2007, Tom Donohue was paid $3,287,372. I don’t know what 2008 was, because it has not yet been filed or disclosed. Let’s assume a 42% increase over 2007, just for the sake of keeping things consistent.

These are only two examples. There are many more, and these only focus on the non-profit lobbying sector. Have a look at the religious sector for even more. Family Research Council paid Tony Perkins nearly $210,000 in 2008 (PDF) to speak against just about everyone who isn’t white, wealthy and straight.

Here’s the bottom line. A family of four with take-home pay less than $22,000 is eligible for food stamps. 28.4 million Americans fell below that threshhold (or equivalent threshhold for single parent-households). Not only that, but millions of children and adults are going to bed hungry at night, or spending some part of their day hungry, while fat cats earning obscene amounts of money on TV and on political punditry circuits work to convince us that we should give them more and keep less.

Food banks rely upon donations from those who have the means to help. We give regularly to the one here and are grateful to be able to do it. But whether it’s charity or government assistance, this is not the America we can be, nor will it become that America until we admit that corporate interests do not work on behalf of individuals, nor should government be weighted in favor of the corporations.

After all, we’ve had about 30 years of letting the ‘markets take care of things’. It isn’t working. The middle class is disappearing, shrinking into the ranks of the poor, jobs are disappearing into the jaws of the bottom line, and people are hungry.

It’s time to make our country an investment in our future. I have much more faith in the government of this nation than I do in Wall Street. In the meantime, I’m going to keep donating as much as I can to food banks. The holidays are coming, after all….the idea of hungry children at any time is abhorrent, and doubly so during a season which should be a celebration of plenty, not want.

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