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America's HUNGRY Ask: "Where's OUR Rescue?"

Von: James Fenimore (slipuvalad@yahoo.com) [Profil]
Datum: 29.09.2008 14:56
Message-ID: <8245cb0c-ac5e-45d3-9b45-c40942198396@59g2000hsb.googlegroups.com>
Newsgroup: alt.food alt.politics.economics alt.politics.elections alt.true-crime alt.impeach.bush
FORTY-MILLION food-needy U.S. citizens would like to ask these
questions of their "government," but they have little voice, and less
influence.

--------------------
"No Rescue For the Hungry"

By Joel Berg
The Washington Post
Sunday, September 28, 2008; B07


When social services advocates like me hear that the cost of the
federal bailout of the finance sector might top a trillion dollars,
we're not quite sure how to process such a massive figure.

Our country has been told that a gargantuan government rescue of the
private sector is necessary because the collapse of major financial
institutions would lead to unthinkable outcomes for society. Almost as
if by magic, our nation's leaders conjure up vast sums to respond to
this crisis.

Yet when advocates point out that our nation is facing an altogether
different kind of crisis, one of soaring hunger and homelessness, and
that a large-scale bailout is needed to prevent social service
providers nationwide from buckling under the increasing load, we are
told that the money these agencies need just doesn't exist.

In 2006, fully 35.5 million Americans, 4 million more than in 1999,
lived in households that couldn't afford enough food, according to the
Agriculture Department. Those households included more than 4 million
children.

Last December, the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported that out of 23
major American cities, 80 percent had an increase in people using
emergency soup kitchens and food pantries and 43 percent had an
increase in the number of homeless children. All that happened between
November 2006 and November 2007.

How did the federal government respond? It didn't.

The only federal program that provides cash to both emergency feeding
programs and homelessness prevention services, the Federal Emergency
Management Agency's Emergency Food and Shelter Program, wasn't
expanded by a penny. Even though the program enables thousands of
nonprofit agencies (many of which are faith-based) to aid millions of
struggling people nationwide, its budget hasn't been increased for six
years. Given that costs for food and housing have skyrocketed over
that time, the program has, in effect, suffered from massive cuts; the
charities that depend on this money are reeling from the strain, many
teetering on the verge of collapse.

Even the farm bill's much-touted increase in federal nutrition
assistance funding was nominal. The bill provided an extra billion
dollars in funding annually, but that works out to less than $30 per
year for every hungry American, an amount already lost to the spike in
food prices. When we ask members of Congress and lobbyists to help
obtain serious funding increases to meet the soaring needs, we are
patronizingly praised for our good work but told that times are just
too tough to increase budgets. Maybe there will be more money when the
economy improves, they tell us, oblivious to the reality that funding
for our programs is most needed when the economy is weakest.

In New York, where I live and work, the situation is bleak. The number
of meals served by city-supported soup kitchens and food pantries was
up 9 percent in the spring from a year earlier. While the City Council
rebuffed Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to cut funding to these
agencies in June, Gov. David Paterson has persuaded the state
Legislature to cut funding for emergency feeding programs twice in the
past six months.

The state slashed funding for community-based feeding agencies 16
percent in April and an additional 6 percent in August, after having
ruled out a plan to avoid these and other cuts in social services by
restoring previous levels of taxation on New Yorkers who earn more
than $1 million per year. Other states are making similar budget
choices.

We're told to simply accept these cuts because everyone is suffering.
But that's just not true. According to Forbes, there are 64
billionaires in New York City with a combined net worth of $344
billion, a staggering 469 percent more than the collective worth of
the city's billionaires two years ago.

Federal tax cuts are a major reason the net worth of billionaires is
still astronomical nationwide. Surely, if some of those tax cuts were
rescinded and the money was used to reduce the hunger and homelessness
of their fellow Americans, those billionaires would somehow manage to
muddle through.

Just as it is unthinkable for the country to allow financial giants to
go belly up, it should be unthinkable to look the other way as tens of
millions of low-income Americans (the types of people who clean the
offices of AIG and Fannie Mae at night) go without food or shelter.
It's time to get our priorities in order.

(Joel Berg is executive director of the New York City Coalition
Against Hunger and author of the forthcoming book "All You Can Eat:
How Hungry Is America?")

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/26/AR2008092603265.html

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