by Jamison Maeda
The United States is home to 442 billionaires like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. It conjures images of movie star mansions, Beverly Hills, and Manhattan’s 5th Avenue. But the truth is, 1 in 6 Americans are “food insecure,” which is how politicians describe people who don’t have enough food to survive.
In many states, including Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama, hunger affects over 19% of the population.
Recently in Washington D.C. where 30% of children do not have enough food to eat, 217 Republicans in Congress voted to cut $40 billion from the food stamp (food assistance) program. Their argument is that it is unfair that able bodied people are supported by the tax dollars of the hard working middle class. The truth however is that half of food stamp recipients are children, and another 10% are over the age of 60. In fact 4.8 million elderly people suffer from hunger in the US, and over 5,000 food stamp recipients listed “active military” as their occupation.
“I didn’t risk my life in Afghanistan so I could come back and watch people go hungry in America. I certainly didn’t risk it so I could come back and go hungry” says Jason, a 35 year old Afghanistan War veteran.
Ronald Reagan warned Americans in the ’80s of the “welfare queens,” who drove expensive cars and cheated the welfare system out of thousands of dollars. And fraud does exist in 1.9 – 2.6 percent of cases. But every standard business can expect a 5% loss to fraud, roughly twice that of what we see in welfare fraud.
Cutting food assistance to millions of children and elderly people is a wildly irresponsible strategy to protect tax payers from 2.9% fraud. Particularly when the War On Drugs has costs tax payers more than $20 million a year for 40 years, and the US spends $37 billion annually in foreign aid, including foreign military aid.
Meanwhile, the US government shut down today due to a stalemate in public healthcare policy, leaving 800,000 government workers at home without pay. Excluding of course all congressmen, who will continue to be paid during the shutdown, no matter how long it lasts.