I’m probably the only person in my age group that will admit this, but I watch the Nightly News with Brian Williams almost every evening. Statistically, this television preference lands me in great company with folks in senior citizens homes. Logistically, I fell into this habit because of the time I get home from work to relieve my babysitter.
Either way you look at it, the fact remains I unabashedly love Brian Williams.
But this is not a post about his wry wit, his perfectly coiffed hair, his amazing ability to slow-jam the news or his cameos on 30 Rock.
This is about a segment he aired the other night that I can’t stop thinking about almost a week later. As of November 1st, Congress cut the food stamp program by $5 billion, resulting in cuts to a family of four of $36 per month. This might not seem like a lot of money but when you break it down and look at the choices people are forced to make when their assistance is diminished, it is tremendous. Are you still able to purchase that pack of chicken that would feed the family? Can you buy fruits and vegetables anymore? And how do you decide what gets cut from the family food budget?
I think the worst aspect of all of this is the toll on the children. Listening to parents talk about their kids and having to tell them they can’t purchase certain items at the store because they don’t have enough money or having to decide which meal should be smaller in order to make the provisions last longer is brutal. I can’t imagine having to make such choices. And I can’t believe we have become a nation willing to sacrifice the well-being of our children for some political gain.
Because that’s what all of this comes down to, a game of politics the Republicans are playing with the Democrats, ignoring the fact that many of their own supporters are being hurt by their actions. Among the 254 counties where food stamp recipients doubled between 2007 and 2011, Republican Mitt Romney won 213 of them in last year’s presidential election, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data compiled by Bloomberg. (John McCormick & Greg Giroux, “Food Stamp Cut Backed by Republicans with Voters on the Roll”, Bloomberg.com, 13 Aug 2013.) The program has become a target for Republicans over the years as they continue fighting with President Obama over the federal deficit. (Id.) However, as noted by Graham Wilson, the political science department chairman at Boston University, “ [even] if there was no deficit, they would still want to cut this kind of program…[t]hey have a fervent ideological belief that government should be cut back.” (Id.)
These are the same people that shut down the government, continued collecting their salaries and cared little for their constituents losing out on weeks of pay, many who said it would take them months to recover. So why would it be at all surprising that they are now taking out their political animosity on children? It’s interesting how the party that touts “family values” seems to see little value in the less fortunate families of this nation. Ugh. Makes my stomach turn.
When we become a society that sees nothing wrong with children going to sleep hungry, then we have some serious soul-searching to conduct, some core values to reassess.