Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake

Thanksgiving is replete with images of prosperity and plenty. The huge warm

turkey filled with stuffing. Yams, greens, mashed potatoes, breads made from scratch and

pies, Oh! the pies. Apple, pecan, mince are just a few brought out for dessert. The sights

and smells of Thanksgiving are a staple of American myth and lore about the richest nation

on earth.

As America sits down for this year's edition of the Pilgrim's meal, a new report is

out from the Agriculture Department showing the number of Americans worried about

having enough to eat rose 31% last year. According to the Wall Street Journal, this translates

into 49 million Americans (including 17 million children) worried about and not receiving

enough to eat. The article goes on to say Americans are not as bad off as people in many

developing nations; but 6.7 million American households experienced hunger and disrupted

eating patterns, and that is 47% more than the previous year.

This new report comes as the Senate debates a healthcare reform bill designed to

provide health insurance to more Americans. Forty-seven million Americans do not have

health insurance and thousands die each year due to lack of medical care.

Over six million households (four people compose "the household" for government

purposes, so this translates into over 24 million people) couldn't get enough to eat. Forty-

seven million people cannot get insurance to pay for medical care. Can there be more basic

needs than food and healthcare? The richest nation on earth hasn't got the resources to feed

and care for it's people?

While you fight with Uncle Arthur for the wishbone this year, the people who staff

and run food banks and pantries and dining rooms report a 30% increase in demand for their

services. Unemployment appears to be the problem.

While Americans get hungrier and sicker, the government gave Wall Street

$750 billion. While many Americans struggle to put food on their tables and can't afford

to see a doctor for an illness, the government has spent close to $1 trillion for the wars in

Iraq and Afghanistan and the President is contemplating sending additional troops to

Afghanistan. It's clear that the military-industrial complex is not suffering.

While unemployed Americans try to hold their households together, corporations

shelter billions of dollars offshore to avoid paying taxes, taxes that could be used to feed

and care for our needy here at home. At a time when individual Americans often face

economic ruin if they become sick, one Wall Street firm has a pool of over $15 billion from

which to pay year-end bonuses.

As Americans struggle with the basics, some of their representatives fight to reduce

food stamps and school lunch programs and oppose extension of unemployment benefits.

As Americans fight to keep their heads above water, some of their elected officials are

committed to killing healthcare reform which would expand health insurance to more than

30 million people who currently cannot afford it. While American parents try to feed their

children and keep them healthy, many of their representatives want to spend hundreds of

billions of dollars to expand a war with no definition of victory or how long victory will

take to achieve, if ever.

Want more? Thousands of veterans are currently homeless and millions more

Americans have lost or are currently losing their homes. Thousands of veterans die each

year due to lack of healthcare. Suicide is at an all time high in the military and the Pentagon

admits there are not enough mental health professionals available to deal with the increasing

problems caused by deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Are you sensing a pattern here? The infrastructure of our country is falling apart.

Tens of billions of dollars are needed simply to repair existing roads and bridges. Billions

more are needed to upgrade the electrical grid which has been described as a third world

system which can and has blacked out large swaths of our nation. Fewer and fewer Americans

have access to higher education due to the cost. Our community college system, once touted

as the best entry level system for higher education, is overwhelmed and turning students away.

So, the richest nation on earth is having trouble feeding, healing, sheltering,

educating, and transporting it's people; but has no trouble bailing out profligate banks,

protecting rapacious insurance companies, and conducting wars in far off lands justified

with lies and deception.

The gap between the rich and poor continues to grow with 5% of Americans

controlling as much as 90% of the nation's wealth. The richest 1% of Americans dramatically

increased their wealth at the expense of middle and lower class Americans.

As you consider what to give thanks for this year, perhaps it might do us well to

think about the kind of country we wish to be. Do we desire to be a nation where a larger

and larger share of the country's wealth is going to fewer and fewer people as the middle

class shrinks and the ranks of the poor and working poor grow? Do we want to be a society

where families have enough to eat, healthcare readily available, education affordable, and

shelter plentiful? Do we want an America where parents envision a future where their

children can achieve more economically and socially than they did? This is not a zero sum

game. We really can have a nation where all boats are lifted and we don't need to trickle

down on anyone.

Good jobs, based on a good educational system and protected by union contracts,

could be an option. Tax money devoted to research rather than arms would unquestionably

spur innovation and the creation of new industries. The fact is, there are many options we

are simply not being offered. Having a government dedicated to the everyday American

rather than AIG or the military arms industry would be a start we could truly give thanks

for. So, please stop for one moment amid the fragrances and sounds of Thanksgiving day

and give thanks for those feelings within your heart that care for the less fortunate; those

who are hungry, cold, uneducated and fearful, the forgotten and ignored among us. In caring

about these you are caring about yourself. This path has a future. It's time we re-discovered

America in it's people, all it's people! Trust me, there's enough cake (pie) for everyone.

What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to


1 comment:

  1. Bernie - I think you are missing the real root of the problem. The real root of the problem is that we have exported hundreds of thousands of jobs. Our children can't find those good paying job because those jobs are being done by in India/China by people getting starvation wages. Union contracts are no good if there are no union jobs...