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Food Stamps are Normal

(Promoted by jimmoss – A good description of the reality of poverty in America.  It’s not a permanent underclass of lifelong welfare dependents, but rather a fluid group that will claim a major chunk of the population at one time or another.)

New Orleans Food stamps are a part of growing up, and in fact may be more common in the American experience than apple pie. Being hungry in childhood also seems to be something commonly shared according to surveys of the nation’s teachers.

Living in the world’s richest country, it is now normal for children to need assistance at some point during their childhood. This is a right of passage in America.

The numbers were published by sociologists from Cornell and Washington University using 30 years of data by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Simply put, they say at some point in their childhood, about half of the nation’s children will experience poverty.

There is a brouhaha because many ideologues, as I have found in my discussions with many recently while on the Citizen Wealth trail, still want to believe in the “culture of poverty” and “welfare dependency” myths, even though real life and hard numbers indicate that reality is different. In real life most people’s experience is transitional. They are on, often because of unemployment or unexpected divorce or health setbacks for a period of time, and then off again. Statisticians lined up to support the conclusions of the sociologists about the high level of sometime participation in food stamps.

Others note that even as the evidence is clearer and clearer, we are still not getting food stamps to many people who are eligible and need them. The urgency of a campaign to achieve maximum eligible participation is critical.

This is another one of those situations where the question of whether or not people are willing to really look at the facts, rather than their ideologies, is critical. In talking to people about Citizen Wealth over and over they cited times when they had been unemployed, or on welfare, or poor, but they wanted their personal narrative to read that they had “pulled themselves” up by their bootstraps and others were lazy and less deserving.

In fact, the evidence is that their story is not exceptional, but commonplace for most people who find themselves using the rights and benefits provided by our society and the government we instruct. They are simply normal. We in fact need a way to look at the experience of poverty now as normal and therefore something that we are prepared to fix immediately and fully, rather than allowing the psychic damage and continual threats to well-being.

Don’t get me wrong. It shouldn’t be normal for children to be hungry. It’s an outrage and a scandal, and we need to be angry and get aggressive in solving this problem. But we need to tear down the political and partisan walls around this issue and realize that we are hurting people permanently, even when their experience in poverty may be temporary, by refusing to understand that this is a failure of government, politics, and institutions and not necessarily a failure of the poor and people themselves.

Then there will really be Thanksgiving!

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chieforganizer

chieforganizer

Wade Rathke is the founder and former Chief Organizer of ACORN. He currently serves as the Chief Organizer of Community Organizations International (Formally Acorn International) and SEIU Local 100, has close to 40 years of experience. He has worked for and founded a series of organizations dedicated to winning social justice, workers rights, and a democracy where “the people shall rule”.

Wade Rathke and his family live in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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