Hunger is Universal

MoneyThe NCAA tournament makes my blood boil, especially with the disparity of money strewn around. Head NCAA basketball coaches, along with head football coaches, are usually the highest paid employees of a college or university. Terms of their employment are spelled out in great detail within complicated contracts that often span dozens of pages. For instance, when the University of Louisville beat Michigan State University, Coach Rick Pitino earned an additional $50,000 bonus on top of his salary of more than $3 million. Ohio State University Coach Thad Matta earned over $1.6 million a year. Yet he received $20,000 bonus when his team beat the University of Cincinnati.

So how about the college kids who made the shots, the free throws and performed the week-in week-out work? What kind of bonus did they receive? Zip. Zero. Zilch. In fact, University of Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier created quite an uproar when telling reporters he goes to bed “starving” because he can’t afford food.

In maybe the most absurd NCAA-related story you’ll ever read, the eligibility of three University of Oklahoma student-athletes was in jeopardy after they ate too much pasta at a graduation banquet, which apparently is some sort of infraction. In order to regain their eligibility, each player had to donate $3.83 (the cost of the serving) to charity. Today one of the players tweeted that he donated $5.00 because he feels like he ate more than $3.83 worth of pasta.

So let me remind you, the top ten NCAA college coaches made in excess of $35 million dollars last season. Let me remind you that in 2010 the NCAA signed a 14-year, $10.8-billion contract with CBS and Turner Broadcasting to televise its men’s basketball tournament. The vast majority of those dollars will go to elite programs while smaller athletics departments will have to continue to rely upon their tournament distribution to support the day-to-day activities that keep their programs afloat. Still, at the end of the day, many go hungry.

There is nothing ‘moral‘ about the NCAA’s portrayal of vulnerable kids playing basketball and receiving a degree as to the betterment of the kid. That’s a national disgrace and tends to distort our humanity of life and living as something wonderful. The “poor kid gets a college degree” is so overused. Yet every March, this tried and true rule is used to disparage those who call for change.

In a broader context, many fail to see how life … imitates life. A hungry NCAA college player mirrors our own world. In truth, one in seven Americans uses food stamps—that’s more than twice 2000’s number. The fastest-growing groups of participants are people with jobs, who work all year round. Many of these workers are employed by big retail chains like Wal-Mart, whose operations that take in tens of billions of dollars in food stamps.

Yet, Fifty-nine (59) percent of the Wal-Mart PAC’s contributions to congressional House members who voted on the minimum wage increase went to candidates who opposed the increase, while 95 percent of individual Walton family member contributions went to candidates who opposed the increase. Micheal Duke made approximately $1000 for every $1 of an associate’s. This imbalance equates to about $23 million annually. Mike Krzyzewski receives approximately $7.2 million.

Here’s what strange, Warren E Buffett, as in the Warren Buffet of the Berkshire Hathaway fame, collected $490,000 million salary. This begs the question, “Why?” Why does Duke need $23 million? Why does Krzyzewski require $7.2 million?

It’s rare in all this dialogue that serious evidence offered for their assertions. Both the NCAA, businesses at large and congressional candidates don’t present statements of fact; they are declarations of faith. In truth, hunger is just as real whether you’re an NCAA player or live as a poor farmer in middle America. And in spite of all the rhetoric, there’s ample evidence that some Washington programs significantly reduce poverty.

Programs like Medicaid and food stamps are (brace yourself) “entitlements.” That means that when recession hits and more people need them, spending on these programs goes up. That may or not be good for the federal budget, but it’s good for the poor, who can see a doctor and afford food in good times as well as bad. With block grants, by contrast, Washington gives the states a fixed amount of money irrespective of fluctuations in need. When times are good, the block grant may be sufficient. When they aren’t, the states—most of which are legally barred from running deficits—generally cut benefits.

Alleviating stubborn poverty is difficult and expensive. Direct government aid — money, food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance and the like — is not enough. Poor people need employment that offers a brighter future for themselves and their children. Which means they need job skills. Which means they need education. Which means they need good schools and safe streets.

Education and good schools mean little when you’re hungry. And to afford good schools, people need jobs.



Categories: Life Lessons, Social Justice

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2 replies

  1. Priorities–fame…power…prestige are more attractive than hungry children. It’s a sad commentary on today’s America.

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