Tag Archive: Hunger

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.

timthumb.phpApproximately 49 million Americans live in a situation where getting fed isn’t necessarily a guarantee. Additionally, 75 percent of food-stamp participants are families with children; more than one-quarter of participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities. In spite of all that, some legislatures are advocating significant cuts in government programs assisting low-income families. Two hundred sixteen (216) House Republicans who voted for the agriculture bill decided move funds farm subsidies, with no food stamps component at all. And all 216 Republicans voted for it.

In truth, American taxpayers currently spend more than $20 billion per year on farm subsidies. The vast majority of these funds flow to the largest and wealthiest farming operations. The US General Accounting Office reported that in 2011 more than 50 farms received over $500,000 in crop insurance premiums. Many of these farms also obtained additional benefits from other subsidy programs, such as the Direct Payments program.

Under the Direct Payments program, payments to land owners and farms are unrelated to their actual production or crops raised. In other words, farmers receive the payment even if they have a great year with crop prices near record highs, as they are now. Additionally, many of these farming operations are organized as partnerships that typically own multiple farms and thousands of acres of cropland. The families associated with these partnerships are much wealthier than the average American household.

The full text of the legislation is not yet available, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has dropped hints as to where the additional $19.5 billion in cuts might be found. In a memo distributed to House Republicans on September 3rd, Cantor hopes the bill “restores the intent of the bipartisan welfare reforms adopted in 1996 by ensuring that work requirements for able-bodied adults without children are enforced—not waived—and eliminates loopholes exploited over the last few years to avoid the program’s income and asset tests.”

Here’s what that means: any able-bodied adult without dependents who do not meet the revise SNAP requirement are only eligible for three months’ worth of food stamps every three years. The current Republican proposal would eliminate any federal waivers of this revised legislation. This will cause approximately 4 million people to lose full eligibility and prohibit states from relaxing some of the federal government’s other eligibility rules, as most currently do.

Looming cuts to federal programs and shrinking state budgets mean that charity will have a bigger void to fill.  To bridge the divide, it has been suggested that private churches and charities to somehow nearly double their current food assistance. While Republicans prefer charity to taxes, local charitable organizations will be unable to meet the demand. In other words, doubling current food assistance via private charities is basically impossible.

In the Dhammapada, the Buddha stated “Hunger is the worst illness.” When people go hungry, life becomes degraded.  The body loses mass and withers and the prognosis for chronic hunger is grim: debilitating illness accompanied by early death.

We cannot end hunger unless we end poverty. Some food bank programs do a good job of alleviating hunger but we as Americans do little to end poverty. Private citizens have a big role to play. “We can’t rely on the government for all of this.”

In giving food, one gives five things to the recipients: one gives life, beauty, happiness, strength, and mental clarity.  In giving these five things, one in turn partakes of life, beauty, happiness, strength, and mental clarity, whether in this world or in the heavenly realm.”

~ Anguttara Nikaya 5:37 ~

————————– Updated 9/19/2013 ————————–

The Republican-run House of Representatives voted to cut spending on food stamps for the poor by $40 billion over 10 years on Thursday (September 19, 2013), defying a veto threat from the White House in the name of fiscal reform. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the driving force behind the legislation, said it was “wrong for working, middle-class people to pay” for abuse of the program, whose costs have skyrocketed in recent years. Democrats pointed to nonpartisan estimates that the bill would end benefits to 4 million needy people in 2014.