In the first three days of the Trump administration there seems to be a rush to make sure that poor folks know that the hammer is dropping on them. First, with health care and now with food stamps, the administration seems to be in a hurry to make it clear that the poor have to be put on notice. Though this attitude of disdain for the poor is not really a new one, it is not easy to see it taking center stage again.
While there are many in our country who link their racism with poverty finding it easy to believe that people of color represent the majority of the poor, that is not actually the case. It is important to note that of the folks who receive food stamps in America, 40.2 percent are white, 25.7 percent black, 10.3 percent Hispanic, 2.1 percent Asian and 1.2 percent Native American. It appears that these folks would participate in voting in a manner that would benefit them, but this does not happen because since the founding of this republic, the powerful have played the white poor against the poor of color. They have been quite successful in their efforts to keep the poor thinking that their fellow poor citizens are the problem instead of placing responsibility where it actually belongs.
One of the first places to lay responsibility is at the feet of all of our leaders who keep us in war. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost our country over $5 trillion thus far which is estimated to be about $33,000 per person for everyone who lives in America. It is important to think about what could have been done in our country with such resources. Of course this is a small portion of the war expense picture and it appears that we have not seen the end of the war hungry spirit given the attitudes expressed by President Trump and many of his team.
We have many difficult questions to answer about our situation with the poor in America. There are nearly 50 million poor folks in our land. These folks live below the poverty line and many of them live several levels beneath it. A vivid example of our poor are coal miners living with little prospect of any new jobs and are being threatened now with losing their health care benefits.
We can also begin to reflect upon the urban poor who live in our cities watching the resources dwindle while the attitudes of many of our city officials grow more hostile toward them. Along with this we have to think about the ways in which we have relegated Native Americans to nonexistence in our land and our reflection upon all of these groups should be sobering.
We watched Native Americans mobilize a few months ago around the Dakota Pipe Line issue, we see our urban areas becoming more restless and it is likely that others who are suffering from long-term neglect and feeling forgotten will realize they have power also. It seems reasonable to think about the possibility that we are not going to continue to enjoy the luxury of simply doing business as usual while ignoring this large percentage of our sisters and brothers who cannot acquire the minimal resources to live.
All of us need to pay attention. We have a new administration of billionaires who seem to believe that poor people are the enemy. Where are we headed? Saturday, after watching millions gather across this country and the world to make a statement that all is not well, it seems we need to pay close attention. There is a very interesting spirit blowing across the land and all of us need to keep our eyes focused upon our core values while working to create a more perfect union and promoting the general welfare of everyone in America.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at email@example.com.