Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hunger — In America

Stella works a half-day on Thursday. (Really? that's what you think? You try to find a full-time job with full benefits in America today.) When she got home, she was pretty hungry, and said, I assume you've already had lunch? No, said I, but I'm not quite hungry yet. Stella went on to prepare something for herself; after a while, I finally felt the urge and heated up some veggie chili (who knew Hormel made a decent non-meat product as well). Now neither one of us is hungry.

That conversation, and that conclusion, are by no means universal in American households today: lunch or no‑lunch is often enough a big deal. Congress just axed food stamps (part of SNAP) for everyone, to save the taxpayers' money... $8 billion of it, as I'm sure Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Hunger) would tell you. That's biiiig bucks, right? Wrong! As Laura Clawson at Daily Kos finds, using CEPR's Responsible Budget Reporting Calculator, that's 0.04 percent of federal spending. A micro‑drop in the feral budget bucket... but all the food some families get to eat. A great trade, eh? Maybe if you're a well-off GOPer it's a great deal, but if you've been pounding pavement for months on end looking for work, that might not be the way you'd put it. These days, cruelty has a name, and its acronym is G‑O‑P.

When I think of hunger due to poverty, I think of my sainted father. Now he and his family experienced genuine hunger in the Great Depression. Dad's father was part of a road‑building crew in Arkansas; Dad used to say that to the extent technological facility is inheritable, mine came from my granddad: reputedly he could disassemble a piece of road equipment in situ on the job, fix it, put it back together and get things going again in a hurry. Unfortunately, I never met my paternal grandfather: he skipped out on his family, his wife and three growing boys. All the boys took part-time jobs at night, but even that was barely enough. Dad described meals at home: if you wanted two chops, not just one, you'd better take both the first time the platter was passed, because the platter was always empty after one time around. Dad got a lot of grief from his brothers (particularly the youngest) for going to college, even though Dad saw to it that the family was never out one penny for his doing so. (As a consequence of his college degree, Dad, when W.W.II came along, entered the Navy at officer level, for which the youngest brother again gave him grief. Some people cannot be pleased.)

Dad gave up his football scholarship after his sophomore year. After that, he skipped a lot of meals in his junior and senior years... and, as he told it, made his best grades ever in that period. That notwithstanding, when he married and started a family of his own, he was determined to see to it that we never went hungry. And we never did. And so far, I still haven't missed any meals for lack of means to pay for them. But who knows what this Great Recession, even if it's truly over, will spell for my declining years. As President Obama ought to understand, but seems not to, hunger is an ever-present danger for a family in an alleged free-market economy, and we have the Koch Brothers and their Tea Party doing their damnedest to make sure that's exactly what we experience.

Here's to food. May you never lack it! May no one ever starve!

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