Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor. . .
Do these words sound familiar? Do they resonate? Or are they passé? According some in the U.S. House of Representatives this sentiment is not relevant today. Their vote, 217-210, to cut a devastating amount – about $40 billion over the next 10 years – from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), perpetuates and intensifies a position against those who are living in poverty ~ both those who live generational poverty and the ‘new poor’ who were formerly middle class. While taking food off the tables of families significant subsidies are provided to agri – business.
Who are those living in poverty? Statistics abound! I believe this summary reflects an overview of the persons who will be drastically hurt:
American Community Survey data from 2009 tells us that 55.2 percent of the 42.9 million people living in poverty in the United States are women and girls. Women’s higher likelihood of living in poverty exists within every major racial and ethnic group within the U.S. Among people in poverty, 16.7 percent are younger women ages 18 to 34, compared to 12.3 percent men in that age range. Older women are also much more likely than older men to live in poverty. (IWPR – Institute for Women’s Policy Research) Statistics today are comparable. (www.americanprogress.org)
I frequently remember the words of Marjorie Tuite, a Dominican Sister and friend who dedicated her life to the empowerment of women; especially those women living in poverty: I think it’s key to hear the voices of the women. There’s a cry of the earth to be free, and the first step is to hear the cry. So it’s very important to keep in close touch with the women who are in the condition of poverty, because if we simply talk about these women it winds up as charity . . . . It’s one thing to talk about the victims. It’s another thing to talk with the victims. When it happens to you, you get in touch with a lot of things . . . . I’ve learned that unless you stay in touch with the lives of poor people you have nothing to say. And most of the poor people are people of color.
What a learning it would be if many of our legislators would take time to meet and listen to those in their districts that are on or need to be on this program. What a difference in could make in their voting records. . .
I am convinced that a radical restructuring of social, economic, political and ecclesial institutions is absolutely essential if we ae effectively to alter the status and opportunities allotted to those living in poverty; especially women whether they be white, African –American, Hispanic or Native American.
Poverty is violence! Marginalizing, dismissing, destroying human lives is not what our country is, or should be, about. Rather we need to bring this issue to public debate, to write our legislators, to do our homework about the draconian steps being attempted to cut out assistance to those most in need within our country.
During the Recession and slow economic recovery SNAP spending increased by 135% between 2007-2011, Without SNAP at its full capacity, poverty and hunger will be much worse. What then??