Sunday, June 10, 2012

Surely we can agree to do something for hungry children

A great national debate is in process. It is a presidential election year, enough said. But what is troubling to me is the venomous nature of the two major political parties and the complete lack, at least as evidenced by their rhetoric, respect for compromise, which is an essential piece of a democracy. Debate is good, but having respect and being civil to each other must be a part of the process. Compromise is just another word meaning coming together more towards the middle of some issue, which is also where a large majority of the citizenry tends to be found.

 But this year the debate is different, as the Tea Party has grabbed hold of the leadership on the GOP side. Now the Tea Party is generally a small piece of the GOP base, but they have money and a large influence. From all appearances in the press and with several people I have met who identify themselves as tea party members, I must say they appear unwilling to even suggest there is any role for government. Perhaps 'extreme' is an appropriate term. In one instance I brought up the fact that the Tea Party member I was talking with should find another way home, having driven partly on one of the interstate highways that would not be here had it not been part of a Republican President's interstate highway construction project (and is a major reason for a robust national economy he held so near and dear to his heart). But I digress.

I'd like to bring up one issue that I am hoping everyone will be able to find common ground. The poverty of children, and the resulting malnutrition that is occurring around the country. In a recent article in the local newspaper, there is an estimated 400,000 hungry children in and around the collar counties of Chicago. 400,000. This is an especially difficult time of the year now that school is out, and free or reduced cost lunches are no longer available for these children.

The U.S. is the wealthiest nation in the history of humankind. How can we allow 1 in 5 children to go hungry on a regular basis? This statistic may in fact be worse with the recession, and families having too much pride to admit they need to take part in a food program that is run, that is correct, by the federal government and administered through the states.

Can we try to maintain even some small level of compassion and not penalize children, who had no say to whom they were born or what neighborhood and family, and therefore financial status, they are part of? Let's keep free and reduced lunch programs in place. Nutrition is vital for health and cognitive development, and at the very least let's try to give all kids this basic life-sustaining need so they may have a chance to participate in the chase for the 'American Dream.'

This is one area government intervention, in conjunction with local food pantries, churches, community groups, and individual donations, is and should continue to make a difference. The numbers both locally and nationally are incredible, mind-numbing, and unacceptable. Political opposition should remain, I hope, in the background with some small numbers of extreme members who may propose budget cuts so there will not need to be any tax increase at all on the wealthiest Americans. Let's continue to select a child's basic life need over a few dollars for a multimillionaire. It is vital to our nation's future.

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