50 million hungry Americans

With the continuing toxic effects of the global economic crisis that started in the United States in 2008, America now has an estimated 50 million people – around a quarter of its population – living in poverty. We are talking here of 50 million people who are exposed to hunger, unemployment, poor standards of living and little to no access to health are. And this is in a country that has over the past decade spent a whooping US$2 trillion on starting wars that it should not have concerned itself with, and still spending billions today on other such wars. Is the United States trying to tell us that it would rather spend billions on “helping” people in other countries effect regime change than use that money to feed people? Apart from that claim being laughable, it would be interesting to know what the millions of hungry, unemployed, homeless and sick Americans think about the priorities that their own government has. This shocking figures of impoverished Americans are contained in a recent report by the World Hunger Service. Titled “Hunger in America”, the report shows that millions of Americans are not guaranteed just three proper meals a week – FOUR MEALS A WEEK! Compiled by an American Researcher, Coleman Jansen and released in September 2011, WHS’s “Hunger in America” notes that about 25 million of America’s 50 million poorest residents have been going to bed on empty stomachs at least three times a week since the global economic crisis. “Three years after the onset of the financial and economic crisis, hunger remains high in the United States. “The financial and economic crisis that erupted in 2008 caused a dramatic increase in hunger in the United States. “In 2010, 17.2 million households, 14.5 percent of households (approximately one in seven), were food insecure, the highest number ever recorded in the United States. “In 2010, about one-third of food-insecure households (6.7 million households, or 5.4 percent of all US households) had very low food security, compared with 4.7 million households (4.1 percent) in 2007. “In households with very low food security, the food intake of some household members was reduced, and their normal eating patterns were disrupted because of the household’s food insecurity,” notes the report. The report also notes that in 2010 alone, in one percent of households with children, one or more of the children experienced the most severe food-insecurity conditions, meals were irregular and food intake was below levels considered adequate by caregivers. At the same time, America is spending monstrous sums of money on equally monstrous wars virtually all over the world. The statistics of hunger exposure in the United States from 2008 to date is equivalent to the number of people without food in the rest of Africa. Jansen’s research, however, notes that while hunger in Africa is largely attributable to natural calamities, hunger in the United States is related to inequitable distribution of opportunities. In essence, the government in America is a predatory state. Buy bombs, not food Jansen’s research used the census findings of 2010 in the United States. These show that in 2008 alone, 39.8 million American people were in poverty, up from 37.3 million in 2007. “The 2008 poverty rate (13.2 percent) was the highest since 1997. “In 2008, the family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 10.3 percent and 8.1 million, respectively, up from 9.8 percent and 7.6 million in 2007 . 15.4 million Americans live in extreme poverty. “This means their family’s cash income is less than half of the poverty line, or less than about US$10 000 a year for a family of four while, 16 million low-income households either paid more for rent and utilities than the federal government says is affordable or lived in overcrowded or substandard,” notes the report in part. Jansen added that out of the two billion people worldwide anticipated to be living in dire hunger more than 50 million of the them are Americans. He noted that that the operation of the US political system and structures that should address the major problems of its citizens, is to a great extent not focused on fundamental concerns of poor people, but on other matters divorced from the. “Military and security expenditure represent half of US federal government discretionary expenditures, much larger that expenditures to assist poor people, and this budgeting is assisted by a strong web of political and financial connections which has been termed the ‘military-industrial complex’. “Corporations and the rich, through their ability to lobby Congress and the administration effectively by such means as spending large amounts of money on lobbying efforts and on political campaigns of elected officials have succeeded in establishing their priorities, including tax breaks and subsidies but nothing on bread and butter issues,” notes the report. A culture of inequality Jansen, in his report, also spoke of how people in the United States remained typically segregated by income and, often enough, race. “This can lead to crime as a way of obtaining income, and also to unemployed men not willing to marry, which can play a significant role in developing a cultural model of single parent families. “The lack of income, as described in the poverty section above create problems, including poor housing, lack of food, health problems and inability to address needs of one’s children. “As a result of their situation, people living in poverty can themselves have patterns of behaviour, such as alcoholism or a ‘life of crime’ that are destructive to them,” he further said. Jansen added that, “Fifty-five percent of food-insecure households participated in one or more of the three largest federal food and nutrition assistance programmes. “They were the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme (SNAP), the new name for the food stamp programme, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Programme for Women, Infants and Children and the National School Lunch Program meant to combat the hunger problem.” According to Jansen there are only three principal programmes that provide income and other assistance for poor people. These are the minimum wage in the US, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) programme, while other programs launched in the US to combat hunger with minimum results include Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Programme (SCHIP) and, for older people, Social Security and Medicare. The United States enacts a minimum wage (as do some individual US states) that tries to establish a floor for what can be paid as a wage by firms. “The current minimum wage is US$7.25 per hour. In 2008, the official US poverty level for a family of four was US$21 834. “With a 40 hour week, a family of four with one minimum wage earner would earn US$15 080, only 69 percent of the poverty level. “The minimum wage level is not indexed to inflation, which means that the real benefits will be eroded by inflation,” he added. Is is any wonder then that there is a widespread movement to “Occupy Wall Street”?

November 2011
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