If America is the greatest nation in the world—and there are many who feel we may justifiably consider ourselves so—why can’t we eliminate (or significantly reduce) hunger and food insecurity in this country?
We would do well to listen to what Rachel Bristol, longtime CEO of the Oregon Food Bank has to say on this subject. Bristol has 30 years experience on the frontlines working with people in poverty, and she knows the terrible truth.
It is our society that is largely to blame for the huge numbers of people living in poverty, and unable to properly feed themselves and their families. And, it’s a problem that can only be solved if we take it on as a societal issue of national importance.
The status quo requires change, and this direction of change is anathema to powerful vested interests. In an era where economic wealth and political influence are great (not since the height of the Great Depression have we seen such a high level of disparity between the rich and the poor), there is little political will toward so-called “progressive” national policies. Despite the obvious harm to those most in need today, the dominant political will is toward reducing entitlement programs—those that especially aid the poor.
According to University of California-Santa Cruz sociologist G. William Domhoff, as of 2007: 1% of households own almost 35% of all private wealth; the next 19% own over 50%; and of the 15% of private wealth that remains, it is shared by the remaining 80% in our society (the masses).
A leveling of the playing field is needed. A profound shift in our thinking on the fundamental issues of fairness and equity, to recognize that “corporate subsidies” and “public welfare” are but two different sides of the same coin. That almost by definition, for every billionaire that our society produces, many more people must be consigned to levels of poverty to support such obscene prosperity.
As a society, should we first not ask the question: what kind of an economy do we wish to achieve? Do we wish people to accumulate wealth through hard work and personal achievement, or principally through their portfolio investments? What does it mean for the continued well-being of this country when wages remain flat for decades of time, or if high unemployment rates remain high for years to come, or that livable wage jobs continue to become more scarce? If we wish to shrink the size of government, who then stands up for the rights of the individual, the environment, to provide the bridge between the necessities of today, and the conflicting imperatives of tomorrow? Ultimately, if we make government weak, who do we hold accountable to protect the public interest?
Perhaps it’s time to put aside our outmoded personal ideologies that have not served us well. As America celebrates its 235 years of existence—founded on the principles of individual freedom, we find ourselves consigned to a form of economic tyranny that directly undermines our democracy, and limits our future greatness.
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