An American Shame

By Mark David Blum, Esq.

Growing up “American” has always had in it a certain element of ethnocentric superiority. From day one, we are taught that we are the Richest, Most Powerful Nation on this Earth. As we mature we come to accept that capitalism and our natural resources and our military might have established us as safe from all threats; foreign and domestic. We count as among our blessings that we are of a very few peoples on this earth who can go to bed at night with confidence that our government and military will keep us safe and be in place in the morning.

But, I carry with me a certain shame about my nation. The New York Times reports that “New York City shelters are so full that homeless men and women have been left to sleep on benches, floors and dining room tables.” MSNBC, on child hunger in America discloses that, “the number of youngsters living in homes without enough food soared in 2008 from 13 million to nearly 17 million.” This trend is growing. Back in November 2008, the United States Department of Agriculture released its report for Hunger in the United States for the year 2007. In their own numbers, One in Eight Americans or 12.2% of the population – more than 36.2 million people -- could not put food on the table at least part of last year. Nearly seven hundred thousand of them were children.

The Richest, Most Powerful Nation on the Earth and in all of History, with the Greatest Liberty and Recognition of the Human Being and an Indelible Right to Life, stands quiet while more than 1 in 8 people go hungry. I am ashamed of my country. You should be too.

Let’s do some math: If you took the whole of the 36 million people and went for the worst case scenario by assuming that all of them had no food for one year. Then, if you went way over the top to feed them and gave them $10 a day for food per person for that one year (which for a hungry family of four would be a massive windfall and who would eat better than I). Your numbers would look like this: 36,000,000 x 10 x 365 = $131,400,000,000. Let’s say One Hundred thirty two Billion Dollars to fully feed every hungry person in America for one year.

Compare that to Congressional spending and the current bailout craze. Hundreds of billions of dollars were given to banks, car companies, insurance companies, and for clunkers. We are boosting our military obligations by more hundreds of billions. The Senate is presently debating how to throw around hundreds of billions for health care. Hundreds of billions are being earmarked for cap and trade. Still more billions are being slathered around in various pork projects.

We have a choice. Americans should guarantee and assure each other that every single American is fed. No one should worry about this most basic human right. We already feed fat cat bankers and auto executives. The choice of which others among us also deserve to eat is a moral one. The arrogance and ignorance of the refusal to recognize this homespun disaster says more about our nation than any Declaration of Independence.

Born not of constitutional law but of natural law, there are certain basic rights that inalienable and inherent to all human beings in the United States. Shelter, food, life, education, due process, and work are among them. Whether health care is also a human right is presently before Congress.

Ultimately, the United States should not be about exporting freedom, but rather exporting food. We should be the nation that guarantees a full stomach, a home, health care, education, and compassion for all its residents. We have to stop shelling out hundreds of billions of dollars for luxury policies and a luxurious lifestyle for lawmakers. With nearly thirteen trillion dollars in national debt, we are but a few years away from a national crisis of starvation here at home. More than fifty three percent of our gross domestic product goes toward debt service. That amount will reach 100 percent by the year 2020. Homelessness and hunger will be the national emblem if we do not do something about it soon.

While Congress and the White House lollygags and spends hundreds of millions at the whim of senatorial largesse, how many Americans will go hungry tonight? One is too many. Where are our priorities?

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