Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Publicity Stunt or a Real Effort to Learn

I've been following the 4 congressmen and their families that this week are living on what is deemed an average food stamp budget of $3.00 per day. They are blogging the experience, and I think the blog has been very enlightening for the congressmen and their wives, especially the comments that the blog has elicited. I admit, I've commented several times, trying to make them understand that although I appreciate the effort they are making, a week on a limited food budget doesn't come close to actually understanding what it means to be poor. Maybe if they did it for 6 months, living on a very limited income that included payments for rent, utilities, food, clothing, and incidental, they might have a real glimpse into what it means to be poor in America.

For me, one of the most gratifying results of this attempt was reading the comments that other people are leaving. So many stories are similar to mine. So many disabled people that don't qualify for food stamps. So many people that are desperately poor and yet fall through the 'safety net' in this rich country. Most of the time I feel very alone. Nobody I know struggles like we do. Nobody we know has hungry children like I do. I don't know a soul that sends their kids to bed at night, knowing that they are hungry but not being able to do anything about it. I don't know anyone that wears clothing as old as mine, or that can't afford simple things like buying new underwear or socks.

I know that they're out there, but I just don't know them, living in my ultra privileged community filled with million dollar homes. Heck we LIVE in a million dollar home! It would sell for about 45K in North Dakota, but whatever. We know people who give $250 gift cards for birthday presents. It's ridiculous, and we don't even try to compete because we can't.

But I don't know anyone that tries to balance a checking account month after month and seeing a zero balance after the 15th of the month. So when I read about these congressmen, I was a bit insulted that they believe they'll "KNOW" what it's like to be poor after 1 week. Especially after I read what they bought with their $21. Beef. Chicken. Tuna Fish. Apparently they didn't do much research on how to stretch the food budget.

What I'm hoping is that they go into Congress and explain that the cost of living is increasing tremendously in this country, and yet the federal poverty rate, upon which entry into any federal program is based, hasn't changed in dozens of years. Just yesterday I read that the cost of food has skyrocketed lately, due to the price of corn (I KNOW!) that is being diverted from a food commodity to ethanol manufacture. Virtually every item in the grocery store has seen a price increase in the last few months. Some items, like milk, have increased about $.60/gallon in the past month. That's a mega increase. Interestingly, this article also reiterated what I've been claiming for years, that food is more expensive in California than anywhere else in the nation. California. Where food is grown. Pretty odd, huh?

I'm so weary of all this. Poverty is exhausting. Fighting agencies with secret motto's like "First, always deny or decline" is hard, depressing work. I just stood up to yet another one yesterday. I'm sick of it. I don't want to live like this. I want the US to respect its elders, its disabled, and its poor. I want money to stop being diverted from social programs like food stamps and subsidized housing to go to Iraq. That's morally wrong. Taking food from the mouths of American children to spend it on a killing machine in a far off land that did nothing other than own oil is despicable. It needs to stop.

American cannot be a great country if it continues to allow it's citizens to be hungry, homeless, and cold. We need to change this. We need a government that cares about the people who live here. You can help with that. Go comment on this blog. Tell them that you want them to represent the poor. That you want things to turn around. That you don't want to ever hear about another hungry, cold, homeless family again. Use your voice. Tell your representatives to change the federal poverty rate to acknowledge regional differences. Give the poor a raise.

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Blogger Deb said...

Excellent, well-written post. I agree that it's not enough for them to only go a week. I would even challenge them to try to live a 'middle class' life for any amount of time. I hope the difference in standard of living, no matter how short the duration, is going to make some sort of impact.

18/5/07 1:19 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

I'm really glad you posted about this, Margalit. I had no idea this little 'challenge' was going on. I read from one of the links you posted, and it made my stomach turn. Especially when one wrote about what they were going to eat when this is all over. Wha??
Doesn't seem like they're taking it very seriously.

19/5/07 10:07 PM  

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