Mahatma Ghandi stated that “the measure of a civilization is in how it treats its weakest members.” What happens when a civilization (a government) ignores its weakest and most impoverished members. As I write this blog, we are commemorating the United Nations’ designated “World Hunger Day.” We are also watching our government in total gridlock attempting to prevent the destruction of a world economy. There are concerns about what will happen to the stock market? Will we lose more jobs? What about the poor?
On Tuesday, September 17, the Census Bureau released the 2012 statistics. (You could try to verify this data through http://www.census.gov, but when I went to the site today it was closed due to the government shutdown. This analysis is from Reuters http://www.reuters.com) The number of U.S. residents in poverty rose slightly to 46.5 million in 2012. This includes 16.1 million children and 3.9 million seniors aged 65 and older. The national poverty rate of 15% remained unchanged.
Although many of the number of jobs lost since the recession have been recouped (8 million), many of those jobs are in service industries that usually don’t pay well.
While the poor and working poor have been struggling to maintain the basic necessities of life, Congress has been shrinking the social safety net to reduce the government’s budget deficit. Those citizens least able to afford it are being forced to suffer to reduce the budget. Yet those who have actually benefitted since the recession are left alone or given stimulus packages. The food stamp program has been reduced, so that recipients will have a reduction in their food stamps in November. Food pantries and soup kitchens are fearful of the impact this will have on their already overburdened programs.
Pope Francis has made it clear where he stands. “Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry. We all have to think if we can become a little poorer, all of us have to do this. How can I become a little poorer in order to be more like Jesus, who was the poor Teacher?” …”
We know where Pope Francis stands. We know where the original Francis of Assisi stood. Let those in power know where we stand… with the impoverished members of our society… and we expect them to stand with us.