November 16, 2009

what are we recovering TO?

The number of people without sufficient food in the United States hit 45 million this year.

45 million.

That's nearly one in every six people in the United States going without sufficient food at least sometimes or frequently in the past year.

45 million is more than the population of 194 of the world's 223 countries.

Going without sufficient food doesn't mean that you ran out of chocolate or that you decided not to buy popcorn the last time you went to the movies. It means that you ran out of real food before payday. Or that you could get food, but it wasn't sufficiently nutritious. (I presume these statistics do not include former NBA head case Latrell Sprewell, who apparently found it difficult to feed his family on $7 million a year.)

This is acceptable?

The problem looks even worse when you talk about America's children, and it looks absolutely dire for specific populations when you break it down by race. (Read the article linked above.)

This situation is an indicator in so many ways it's difficult to count them all.

Only about half of the 45 million hungry people are actually considered in poverty, with household income at or below the federal poverty line. This means that our poverty and unemployment statistics are woefully inadequate and that a huge amount of the population are underemployed. It likely means that these households are not saving for the future. How can they? Why should they? The future has no opportunity for them, even with a trillion dollar "stimulus" package designed to shock new life into the DOW. We should call it the DOWfibrillator package.

Hunger also leads to health problems. The current Health Care Reform debate is all about whether the USA will become the United Socialists of America or we let the free market wreak its wonderful magic and keep the rich getting richer. Meanwhile our city hospitals are overrun by hordes of the poor looking for free medical care in the emergency room--bandages, cough syrup, Tylenol. Not only do they not have health insurance (who can afford that when you can't even keep Cheerios in your cupboard?), but their health suffers from lack of proper nutrition and overabundance of stress. We're worried about Death Panels in our health care reform? Why bother? We're already starving to death the people who would have to go in front of the Death Panels.

Our failing education system is another case of the rich getting richer and the poor falling into the abyss. Our top colleges, high schools, and primary schools continue to turn out some of the best educated people in the world. But on average, our school systems are sliding farther and farther behind other countries in critical areas such as creativity, analysis, and even the basics of reading comprehension and essential math. Yet the money continues to pour into the richest schools where property taxes are highest or where the richest donate to their own children's schools. I won't go into all the other things I think are fatal flaws in our system (tenure, centralized curriculum, NCLB, etc.). Instead, I'll just point out that children can't think clearly or retain knowledge when they're hungry. If we don't properly feed the children, how can we possibly expect them to learn how to lead the world in thirty years?

We've got a "recovery" that only a statistician could love. The DOW is soaring. Meanwhile, more people than ever in this country are going hungry.

We may be recovering, but to what exactly? How will we know when the recovery is over and we're back to normal? What is normal, and are we satisfied with it? If so, why are we satisfied? We were suffering and backsliding for decades before the bottom fell out of the financial industry and the economy.