Monday I sat down to write, but was unable to get started. I had a topic–charitable organizations alone can not adequately address poverty and food insecurity. I had done reading on the topic and had even written out some notes and a basic outline. Still nothing came. I am very familiar with the topic, having touched upon it several times already in my writing, and have definite ideas about the role charity should play in addressing poverty. I thought maybe the strong opinions I had regarding the topic might be creating a barrier to writing. Sometimes the posts I am the most emotionally attached to are the more difficult ones to write. Consequently, I decided to put my chosen topic away and look for another one to write about, maybe something positive and uplifting as I was feeling a bit overwhelmed at the enormity of the problem of food insecurity. I began searching on the Internet, reading articles and postings on various websites, but nothing jumped out at me, certainly not anything positive. And then, just before I my blogging day ended and I had to shift back into Mom mode, something caught my eye. The President had released his proposed budget.
As I transitioned from my home office to the kitchen, I switched on the radio to listen to the evening news cycle. The release of the proposed budget dominated the evening news, with NPR even incorporating the budget release into their banter during their winter fund drive break as a result of the budget’s proposal to zero out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Dinnertime neared and the radio got turned off. It wasn’t until later that night that I was able to check back in to various news sources to get an update on what the budget contained. I expected there to be information and even some criticism from various news outlets. While I was not expecting good news to come out of this budget, I was not quite prepared for what greeted me.
There were articles and analyses about the content of the proposed budget, but there were also statements and press releases, from various organizations advocating for and assist with those experiencing poverty and food insecurity, who I follow on Facebook. And these organizations, who make it their purpose to assist those in poverty, who understand intimately what the result of these proposed budget cuts will be, were outraged. Among those responses, the harsh statement from Abby J. Leibman, President and CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, calling the budget proposal a “moral disgrace,” really grabbed my attention. At that moment I realized that the statements from the these organizations, condemning this budget, were making the same point I had been planning to make in my aborted post on Monday. Philanthropic organizations alone can not make a dent in the problem of poverty or food insecurity. Nor should they be expected to take point on a problem as complex as poverty. These organizations, who are in the trenches trying to help people who are hungry, know that if you further slash these social safety net programs or re-work successful programs, like SNAP, real people will suffer and the problem will only get worse.
The anti-hunger field has been prepared for disappointment, but this proposal is beyond the pale.
Abby J. Leibman President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
Over the past couple of days I have learned more about the President’s proposed budget, especially with regard to social safety net programs like SNAP. I have saved numerous articles and website postings critiquing this budget and the changes it proposes to these programs. The despair I felt paralyzed by on Monday has been replaced by anger and indignation. I am going to spend some time reading all the material I have saved. Once I have done that I will share with you why this budget is the train wreck so many people who study poverty and/or work with the poor know it to be. For now I will leave you with the main question on my mind. Have we Americans lost our moral compass when it comes to understanding the reasons for poverty and the steps needed to be taken to successfully address poverty? Looking at this budget, it sure feels like it.