MEEKS: Let’s stop robbing the poor

September 25, 2013 

I heard this story a few days ago while co-leading a dismantling racism workshop. The storyteller was walking in downtown Atlanta when he came upon a homeless woman asleep on the street. He stopped for a minute to observe the woman and realized that some kind person had left a $20 bill tucked underneath the article of clothing that she was using for a pillow. As he stood reflecting upon the woman, her situation and the unknown gift giver, three women, who appeared to be out on the town that night, came upon the woman. They quickly took her $20 bill while proclaiming they could have a drink or two with it.

The observer was stunned and while he thought of calling the police, he decided against it because it would be his word against the three women since the victim had no idea what had happened to her. He shared with the group that he had been haunted and saddened by this incident for days.

In much the same way as the workshop participant described, I am haunted by the House of Representatives’ action regarding the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). They voted on massive cuts to that program. These cuts, if made, would cause about 4 million people to lose their Food Stamps and many others to have reduced amounts. Already there are about 50 million Americans who experience what is known as food insecurity. That is, they cannot provide food for themselves and their families from one pay period to another because there is not enough money.

These days some of the most negative comments that one can hear are about all of the abuses to the Food Stamp Program. Yes, there are some abuses as is the case with many programs, but more important than the abuses are the millions who depend upon this assistance to help them get from one month to the next.

Millions of the recipients are children. When did we get so filled with disgust for the poor that we are content to allow them to go hungry, homeless, without medical care and with no opportunity to use many of the resources available to those who are not poor? What has caused us to turn the corner and to move to a place where we are willing to rob the poor just like those women who stole the $20 bill from the sleeping homeless woman?

The representatives from Georgia, Jack Kingston, Tom Price, Austin Scott, Lynn A. Westmoreland, Paul Broun, Doug Collins, Phil Gingrey and Tom Graves who voted in favor of the reduction in funding for the SNAP program need to hear there are some folks in Georgia who are saying “No, not in my name. I will not be quiet about such actions of inhumanity.”

There are many things that need to be defunded. I would like to begin with war. Let’s cut the spending allowances for war and all of the spending we give to countries such as Pakistan in the name of helping to make us safer while the money is taken with one hand as the other hand helps fight against us.

Let us see a vote to stop that kind of spending. Let us see a vote that is ready to do whatever it takes to bring jobs back to our shores so more of our people can earn a living wage and have the ability to buy their own food.

Let us see a vote to hold corporate perpetrators of fraud responsible for their behavior since we think it is a good idea to fight fraud when we find it among the poor. Let us see an end to the bashing of the poor with congressional energy being turned toward making better efforts to solve our problems.

This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at kayma53@att.net.

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