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Operating with only a shoestring budget, a local chapter of Food Not Bombs provides a working model for communities around the nation to help fight hunger.
How do you feel the poor should be helped, if at all?
Americans seem to view the poor from two very different perspectives.
For some, the poor garners little sympathy, their plight is largely seen as a result of their own personal life choices often displaying one or more of the following characteristics: poor decision-making skills, laziness, lack of intelligence or drive, and mental illness. Some, harbor outright hatred toward the poor.
To those who may sympathize to some degree with people in need, they tend to feel that government assistance and safety net programs largely discourage individual initiative and encourages a state of dependence. And, at a time of deep concern over reducing our longterm national debt, they want to reduce the safety net, not increase it.
On the other side, there are those like the people in this video, who see the poor through eyes of compassion, with less judgement over the individual circumstances that may have led to their dire straits. To varying degrees, they see the poor as largely collateral damage from an economic system that is too heavily skewed toward the super rich, and the super rich corporations.
How some see addressing the poor
Level the playing field first, and then start addressing the costs of government (taxpayer supported) programs that extend a lifeline to the poor.
As the Noble Prize winning economist (and New York Times columnist) Paul Krugman often notes, recessions (especially deep recessions) are precisely the time that the public sector should increase spending.
If spending reductions occur in both the private and public sectors over an extended period of time, economists call that a “recession” . Unlike a personal household that may have to tighten its budget, if the private sector decreases spending (laying off workers, delaying capital expenditures, etc.), and the government doesn’t step in by providing a strong enough economic stimulus, the resulting lack of consumer demand will create the proper conditions for a protracted sluggish economy with higher unemployment.
Just what we have right now.
At a time when so many Americans are out of work because of the deep recession of 2008, and federal unemployment benefit extensions just ending, organizations like Food Not Bombs are needed more than ever.
And perhaps that leads to the larger question:
Are Americans capable of solving the root causes of poverty that require bold political leadership and steel-edge resolve?
Maybe it’s time to start focusing on eliminating the structural components that have resulted (over decades of time) to the almost record levels of income inequality in America that are hurling more and more families into poverty.
Income disparity not only means more wealth is concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, it also means less social mobility is possible. The American dream of working hard, playing by the rules, and ultimately achieving economic success, has become much less likely for today’s working poor.
Arguably, capitalism is the finest economic system ever devised to promote innovation, and spur individual endeavor. But even oxygen in too pure a form is lethal. We need a small countervailing breath of socialism to redistribute the unfair accumulation of wealth.
Wealth, not created by innovation, nor by personal initiative and individual skill, but profit extracted by virtue of size that enables a form of monopoly rent (making money from money) without providing any real benefit to society.
When we sit down at the table to eat, we don’t sit next to those who gorge themselves while others merely look on with empty plates. When we put food on their plates too, we call that sharing, not disdainfully “redistributing the wealth” or exercising some form of “Socialism”.
But there’s even a better term for a culture that takes care of those less fortunate among itself, they call it: a civilized society.
- More information on this Long Island New York, Hunger Relief Effort
- More Hunger for the Poorest Americans New York Times, 12-24-2013
- I, too, am one of the estimated 22,000 homeless students in New York The Guardian, January 1, 2014
- Lyndon Johnson State of the Union Address – War on Poverty (January 8, 1964) National Film Archives
- Remarks by the President on Economic Mobility (to the Center For American Progress, 12-4-2013)
- EVANGELII GAUDIUM (pdf) (Pope Francis on income inequality, 11-24-2013)
- This Week in Poverty: Signing Off (The Nation, December 13, 2013) Great list of resources after the post.
- Why Is a Senate Democrat Agreeing to Another $8 Billion in Food Stamp Cuts? (The Nation, December 5, 2013)
- 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty (The Pew Charitable Trusts, January 7, 2014)
- What Happens When the Poor Receive a Stipend? (NYT, January 18, 2014)
- Utah Ending Homelessness By Giving People Homes (Nation Of Change, January 18, 2014)
- How Inequality Hollows Out the Soul (NYT, February 2, 2014) How widening inequality corrodes society, and damages the individual psyche.