Tuesday, June 18, 2013

War on the Poor by Shannon Hill

War on the Poor
by Shannon Hill
I believe that one of the most important things in life is having "something to look forward to". I know that it can be different things for different people. For instance, I look forward to getting new socks, watching my kids grow up, and a long hug from my wife after a rough day or seeing her sleepy eyes when she wakes up. Sometimes we may look forward to a movie coming out, a new CD , or a book. These are the little things that give some of us joy and happiness. Others may look forward to a birthday party, a wedding, or the birth of a grandchild or child. Others look forward to being able to get a new car, a new house, or maybe a trip for vacation. Whatever it is, having something to look forward to is important to us all, it is what motivates us and keeps us going even when things are tough. 
 It is about hope and having something in our lives that is going to make things a little bit or even a whole lot better. I know we have all heard someone say "we may be poor but we are rich in experiences" or "rich in a loving family" and I believe that is true for many. However, I also believe many of our poor have a huge deficit in having something to look forward to.

When your hope is for enough money to be able to feed your children until the next pay day it is no longer hope, it's desperation. Hoping your electric, gas or water is not turned off is not something to look forward to, it's something to dread. Wondering if you are going to have enough gas in the car to make it to work the next two days before payday is a struggle.

Many in our society have very little if anything at all to look forward to. These people are of all ages from small children to our most elderly. In our country, as some describe it the richest country in the world, about 59% of our population will live in poverty at some point between the ages of 25 and 75. Currently the poverty threshold is set at about $23,000 yearly income for a family of four. In 2012, nearly 44 million Americans lived in poverty, including 20% of our children. This year children living in poverty is at a record high with 16.7 million now living in "food insecure" households. The number of homeless children hit record highs in 2011, 2012, and again in 2013 with well over 1.5 million each year and growing. About 4 million seniors, many of them that live alone, also live in poverty.

At the same time poverty is hitting record highs, corporate profits have gained about 20% per year since 2008, setting record highs year after year. Given these facts it is logical to think that the focus of government spending would be to help those in need but reason does not prevail in our society. 

Corporate welfare spending is triple what we spend on social welfare. In 2011 adding up tax breaks and subsidies big business received over $750 billion in corporate welfare. This cost the average tax payer about $1650 that year for handouts to companies with record profits. At the same time we collected $181 billion in corporate taxes, which paid for about 18 days worth or 5% of the yearly federal budget. That left we the people, the individual tax payer, to pay the other $3.4 trillion that funded the other 347 days or 95% of the 2011 federal budget.

In contrast, in 2011 we spent about $255.6 billion in actual social welfare and that is before deducting for administrative cost. Of this amount $103.2 billion went to food and nutrition including programs like SNAP, WIC, and other child nutrition programs. $55.4 billion went for housing assistance, $4.4 billion went for home energy assistance, $6.9 billion for the foster care system, and $17.1 billion for temporary assistance for needy families (TANF). The rest goes to other things like Children's Research and Technical Assistance, Payments to States for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Refugee and Entrant Assistance, Payments to States for Child Support Enforcement and Family Support Programs, a contingency fund and other similar programs. In all, social welfare cost the average tax payer about $610 per year with food and nutrition costing about $246 per year, housing assistance about $132.00 per year and TANF about $41.00 per year.

Summing this up, corporations, with record profits, pay 5% of our taxes for the federal budget but receive 75% of the total welfare while the people, with record poverty, pay 95% of the taxes for the federal budget and only receive 25% of the welfare. As bad as it may be, even this might make sense if corporations were creating jobs to help elevate people out of poverty. However, unemployment remains high after these same corporations have outsourced over 6 million jobs to other countries in the last few years while devastating our countries manufacturing base. Wages remain so low that a great many of those who work full time receive forms of social welfare (13% of those who receive SNAP assistance) to supplement their incomes from corporate giants like Walmart and McDonald's, which in the opinion of some should really be classified as more corporate welfare because of their refusal to pay employees a living wage.

So the question is, what do we have to look forward to from here? Corporations are expected to cut another 700,000 jobs as a result of the ongoing sequester cuts implemented by congress earlier this year. Our government continues to negotiate more Free Trade agreements that will encourage even more outsourcing of our jobs. The globalist economy we now live in expands the available work force for these multinational corporations which means it is likely unemployment in the US will get worse and wages will remain low or even grow smaller. 

In addition, funding for education is being slashed and its possible that student loan interest rates will soon double for those families and students that are carrying over a trillion dollars in education debt already. Government budgets at all levels are being cut resulting in many publicly funded jobs being cut as well. The house and senate both have passed their versions of the 2013 Farm Bill. The house suggest we cut $20 billion from SNAP and the senate's version cuts $4 billion from SNAP, both of these while also handing out huge subsidies to corporate giants like Monsanto.

Somewhere along the way the war against poverty became the war on the poor. We have seen a reduction in employment opportunity and at the same time an attack on social benefit funding. The way to cut welfare spending is to create jobs and put people back to work not to cut benefits and let people starve while living in the streets with no hope and nothing to look forward to. Poverty has human cost such as hunger and homelessness. Society in general pays the cost of higher crime rates, wide spread drug abuse, elevated levels of teen pregnancy and abortion, lower rates of education as well as higher medical cost. Poverty is not only a plague of the poor it has vast effects on all of us in our society.

It doesn't matter what your political bias is at all. Whether we are conservative or liberal we understand that our country has to have a safety net to help those that can't help themselves. We have to send a message to our elected representatives that this unbalanced approach of giving to wealthy corporations and taking from the poor is unacceptable. We need jobs not benefit cuts. We need policies that reward companies for growing jobs in this country instead of shipping them overseas. We need opportunity in place of rejection. We need to give ourselves and those in poverty something to look forward to instead of pulling the rug out from under them.

1 comment: