Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Ongoing Financial Crisis

Chronic poverty and hunger: from Meteor Blades:

I was 6 years old and sitting next to my grandmother at the table where as many as 14 of our extended family members ate our evening meals. I quickly finished my small plate of rice and beans, and said, "But, grandma, I’m still hungry." Everyone went silent. My grandma, Simmalikee, smiled at me, took her plate and scraped off the several spoonfuls she had not yet eaten onto mine. No, I thought. Not your food, grandma. Some other food. I sobbed as she coaxed me to eat each bite. No matter how empty my belly felt, I never again said I was still hungry after a meal.

That was a long time ago, and my grandma has been dead more than 50 years, but I have never forgotten that terrible moment nor what it means to be poor. If there was meat or fish on the table then, it was possum, deer, catfish and the occasional wild hog. In those days, before food stamps, we received surplus government hand-outs every month: rice, beans, cornmeal, lard, cheese and powdered milk. It was never enough, and toward the end of each month, everybody’s portions got smaller.

Since the enactment of what might be called the Third New Deal – LBJ’s Great Society programs: the Food Stamp Act of 1964, Medicare, Head Start, housing assistance, education grants and various other programs – the ravages of widespread poverty in America have been greatly reduced. Ameliorated, but not removed from what the propagandists so regularly call the No. 1 country on the planet. And lately, it’s been getting worse. Not just the ragged poverty many Americans associate with the Great Depression, inner cities or Indian reservations, but also middle-class slippage.

In the past few weeks, both from Republicans and Democrats, we’ve heard a great deal about the travails of Wall Street and the mythical Main Street in the acute economic crisis that has everyone who hasn’t already been downsized or foreclosed sitting on pins and needles. But far less – next to nothing, in fact – has been said about what’s going on elsewhere in America, in side streets and alleys where chronic structural economic problems dating back three decades continue to take a toll.

Today, about 20 percent of America’s children – 13.5 percent of all Americans – live in what is a very flawed federal measure of poverty whose parameters haven’t been changed in more than four decades.

Read the rest -- it's well worth your time.

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