When I was school age, we began every day with the pledge of allegiance. I can remember the warm feeling that rushed over me as I said the words which voiced my patriotism. In history class we learned about the courageous men and women who founded the United States of America. We read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. If we didn’t understand some of the wording, it was explained to us. The Fourth of July wasn’t just another holiday; it was a day when we showed the world that we were proud to be Americans. My family was poor, like most people I knew, but we believed that the United States cared about its people, and we would always be taken care of. I’m sorry to tell you, but that America has ‘left the building.’
Now at sixty-eight years of age, I am not so proud, and I know that the United States is no longer the greatest country in the world; we are not even in the top ten. Our government no longer cares for its people; America has become a big business, a corporation. Our government cares about money and wealth.
The travesty which is now the United States is best represented by our nation’s negligence to care for its children. The Census Bureau reported that 16 million children would not have had sufficient food last year without the assistance of the food stamp program. Before the near depression in 2008, one in nine children received food stamps; in 2014 the number rose to one in five.
Our government has decided that balancing the budget is more important than children living in poverty levels. Last year our wealthy Washington legislators proposed cutting $40 million over the next ten years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Farm Bill, which benefits corporate farmers, was subsequently signed and removed $8.6 billion from the program, eliminating assistance to some 850,000 families.
The Census also revealed another unforgivable statistic; nearly 2.5 of our nation’s almost 74 million children are homeless. One in every group of 30 children has no place to call home. The reasons are an increasing number of those who live at the poverty level; the elimination of sufficient affordable housing; and the distress caused by domestic violence, a situation which continues to lack necessary attention.
Our nation boasts more than 100 billionaires. The money spent on campaigns in a single general election would entirely eliminate the homeless problem in the United States. Our country’s priorities are upside down; at the top, increase and protect the wealthiest in our nation; and at the bottom care for America’s people. Our country found a way to bail out the largest of our banks; it chooses not to find a way to bail out our nation’s poor.
We must place the blame for this crime directly where it belongs; our legislators and the President. 536 people, aided by 9 in the Supreme Court, have created an Oligarchy. The preferences of voters have been completely ignored.
The number of homeless children increased by eight percent between 2012 and 2013. All of this is directly attributable to the 112th and 113th Congress’ who were labeled the ‘do absolutely nothing’ Congress.
Issues which are important to the American people are ignored, while our legislators battle over balanced budgets, waging another war, a woman’s control over her own body, and the rights of the LGBT community. Our government fails to attack the core problems of America and they are all the result of income disparity. At one end of America there is a rising number of multi-millionaires and billionaires; far away at the other end is a growing number of those living in poverty.
Prisons in the United States are filled to capacity; I believe we could make room for 535 more.
Commentary by James Turnage