[THS] Hunger in America
The Harder Stuff in news and commentary
ths at psalience.org
Fri Nov 19 14:12:15 CET 2010
Hunger in America
By Patrick Martin
November 17, 2010 "WSWS" -- Some 15 percent of US households, 17.4 million
families or about 50 million people, were too poor to buy adequate food last year,
according to a new report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). More than
a third of these households, with as many as one million children, were missing meals
on a regular basis, the study found.
The number of families classified as food insecure according to the USDA, which
administers the food stamp program, has more than tripled since 2006, before the
current economic slump which has brought near double-digit unemployment.
Because most people are reluctant to admit they have a problem putting food on the
table, particularly when they have children, food insecurity was calculated from
survey questions about skipping meals or running out of food stamps, combined with
comparisons of income and food prices.
Virtually the sole cause of food insecurity in Americathe largest producer of
agricultural and food products on the planetis lack of money. The poverty rate has
risen sharply over the past three years, with an estimated 50 million people living
below the official poverty line, which grossly underestimates the income needed for
Highlighting the significant inequalities in food resource availability across US
households, the USDA report noted that the typical food-secure household spent a
whopping 33 percent more on food than the typical food-insecure household of the
same size and household composition.
In keeping with the Obama administrations policy of minimizing the depth of the
social crisis, the USDA official who released the report, Under Secretary Kevin
Concannon, said the latest hunger survey showed a stabilization of the problem
compared to the year before. In other words, just as many people were hungry in
2009 as in 2008, as though that represented progress rather than making
permanent a level of social misery not seen in America for 40 years.
Concannon said the report was a hopeful one, since the number of hungry people
did not increase even though the number of unemployed Americans rose sharply
from 9 million in 2008 to 14 million in 2009. He credited food stamps and other
federal programs for staving off any further increase in hunger. This report
highlights just how critical federal nutrition assistance programs are for American
families, he said.
The number of Americans receiving food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP) rose to 42.4 million. Another one million children received
free or subsidized school lunches daily, while some 400,000 pregnant women and
nursing mothers received milk, butter, eggs and other food under the WIC program.
All told, one quarter of US households have at least one person receiving food stamps
or other food aid. However, 43 percent of food-insecure households were not
participating in any of these three programs.
Despite the complacency voiced by the Obama administration official, there is ample
reason to believe that the present nutrition programs, already inadequate to meet
the social need, will be further slashed by Congress. The Child Nutrition Act must be
reauthorized this year, and the Senate version of the bill cuts more than $2 billion
from food stamps in order to pay for the increasing cost of school lunchesessentially
robbing children at home in order to feed them in school. Earlier this year, an
extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless was funded in part by
cuts in the food stamp program.
In a society which took seriously the value of human life and the future of its
children, the spectacle of 50 million people at risk of hunger, including 17 million
children, would be a social emergency. Given that the United States once boasted of
its ability to feed the planet, the indifference to the growth of hunger at home is a
But in the America of 2010, the news about hunger was relegated to small items on
the inside pages of newspapers (A21 in the Washington Post, nothing in the New
York Times), and failed to make a splash on the evening news broadcasts, more
concerned with the engagement of Britains Prince William.
The hunger report provides another dimension for measuring the social
irresponsibility, greed and outright cruelty of the US financial aristocracy, which is far
more concerned with fattening its own outrageous bank accounts and assets than
with alleviating mass suffering in the richest country in the world.
The US Congress began its lame duck session Monday, to be followed by a
bipartisan summit Thursday between President Obama and congressional Democratic
and Republican leaders. The food crisis will not be on the agenda in these
discussions. The only hunger being discussed is the truly insatiable craving of the rich
for even more wealth.
The Obama administration and the Republicans are currently negotiating the terms
for the Democratic Partys surrender to right-wing demands for an extension of the
Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. This will cost $700 billion over the next decade, or $70
billion a year, more than the cost of all federal nutrition programs combined.
Meanwhile, Obama has praised the proposal from the chairmen of his deficit
reduction commission to impose drastic cuts in social programs for the elderly and
the poor along with lower taxes for the rich and for corporations and higher taxes for
the working class. The mantra of the White House, the political establishment and the
media is that the American people have been living beyond their means and must
accept a reduction in their consumption.
The US ruling elite and both its political parties, the Democrats as well as the
Republicans, are indifferent to the growth of hunger and deprivation. Those most
intoxicated by free market ideology likely regard such social evils as a positive good,
since hungry workers are more willing to take any job available, no matter what the
wages and conditions. They should be careful what they wish for.
The American ruling class is creating the conditions for an explosion from below that
all its servants in the political establishment, the trade unions and the media will be
unable to prevent. The most urgent task facing working people is to make the
necessary preparations to give the coming movement a revolutionary political
character. This means the building of the Socialist Equality Party.
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