How About a War on Poverty Instead?


The local news was replete with images of First Lady Michelle Obama in the elegant, strapless designer gown she wore for this White House’s first state dinner.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to look at gowns by Naeem Khan as much as anyone, but as we edge closer to that holiday most often associated with abundance, and overindulgence, one can’t help but be distracted by the equally stunning number of people who find themselves hungry and poor this Thanksgiving.

More than 12% of all Americans know what it means to be poor in America. While they’re conspicuously absent from reality T.V. shows, from box office movies, and political party platforms, they are increasingly visible at food banks, and shelters.

Too often, politicians of both parties speak of the need to save the middle class, but nobody talks about the working poor. There is little mention of those who return from the battlefield only to struggle to keep their homes, their dignity, and find a way to feed their families.

As the Web site Feeding America reports, in 2008:

40 million, or 13%, of Americans lived in poverty. 8 million families, or more than 10%, were in poverty 22 million, or nearly 12%, of people between 18-64 were in poverty. 14 million, or nearly 20, of children under 18 were in poverty. Nearly 10% of households with seniors were food insecure. 3.6 million seniors, 65 and older, nearly one in ten, live in poverty

In 2008, 49 million people lived didn’t have enough to eat (32 million adults and 17 million children). A disproportionate number of those who face the gravest food shortages are men, women, and children of color. The number of households that experience food shortages has increased by 3.5% from 2007-2008 alone.

Ironically, the state with the second greatest percentage of hungry residents is Texas, home to our previous president, George W. Bush.

In 2002, 35 million went hungry, a number that has increased by 50% since then.

Last year, 4% of all U.S. households, nearly 5 million Americans, accessed emergency food from a food pantry one or more times.

In 2008, too, more than 50% of all households experiencing food shortages participated in one of the major federal food assistance programs, but that’s not enough. Instead of the trillions of dollars this administration has committed to buying drones, building embassies in Iraq, and sending thousands of more servicemen and women into combat, we need to fight the war on poverty here at home.

According to the Oakland Institute, a staggering 50% of all Americans between 20 and 65 (4 out of every 10 adults in America) will use food stamps in their lifetimes. 85% of African-Americans will need to use food stamps. African-Americans and Hispanics make up the leading groups of those experiencing the most egregious food deprivation.

In 2008, households with children were more likely to experience food insecurity than single households. Nearly 40% of households headed by single women experience hunger while nearly 30% of households with children run by single men have dire food insufficiency.

Clearly, Congress is making a good start by working to pass legislation that will enable more Americans to get affordable health insurance, but that’s only a start.

If this government devoted even half the resources to the war on poverty that it has to the war on terror not one child in America would go to sleep hungry tonight.

I don’t want to be a party pooper and suggest that the mainstream media run footage at food banks, and encampments where people have now moved after losing their homes to foreclosure instead of the Obamas at tonight’s state dinner. It’s nice to have a break from reality once in awhile.

But, when the president announced today that he intends to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, it becomes clear the job he needs to finish is here, and not in the Middle East.

JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?
Barry Lando
Syria: Obama’s Bay of Pigs?
Karl Grossman
The Politics of Lyme Disease
Andre Vltchek
Southeast Asia “Forgets” About Western Terror
Jose Martinez
American Violence: Umpqua is “Routine”?
Vijay Prashad
Russian Gambit, Syrian Dilemma
Sam Smith
Why the Democrats are in Such a Mess
Uri Avnery
Nasser and Me
Andrew Levine
The Saints March In: The Donald and the Pope
Arun Gupta
The Refugee Crisis in America
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Lara Santoro
Terror as Method: a Journalist’s Search for Truth in Rwanda
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Elections and Verbal Vomit
Dan Glazebrook
Refugees Don’t Cause Fascism, Mr. Timmermann – You Do
Victor Grossman
Blood Moon Over Germany
Patrick Bond
Can World’s Worst Case of Inequality be Fixed by Pikettian Posturing?
Pete Dolack
Earning a Profit from Global Warming
B. R. Gowani
Was Gandhi Averse to Climax? A Psycho-Sexual Assessment of the Mahatma
Tom H. Hastings
Another Mass Murder
Anne Petermann
Activists Arrested at ArborGen GE Trees World Headquarters
Ben Debney
Zombies on a Runaway Train
Franklin Lamb
Confronting ‘Looting to Order’ and ‘Cultural Racketeering’ in Syria
Carl Finamore
Coming to San Francisco? Cra$h at My Pad
Ron Jacobs
Standing Naked: Bob Dylan and Jesus
Missy Comley Beattie
What Might Does To Right
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi Jayanti, Gandhi’s Dream
Raouf Halaby
A Week of Juxtapositions
Louis Proyect
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Iran
Christopher Washburn
Skeptik’s Lexicon
Charles R. Larson
Indonesia: Robbed, Raped, Abused
David Yearsley
Death Songs