It is the time of year to give thanks and think about what we can do for others.
An article in The Eagle and the Texas Tribune of December 1, 2017 regarding how little the State of Texas and the federal government do to help the poor was a saddening reminder of how little progress we have made since President Johnson declared a war on poverty in the 60s. Next came passage of the House and Senate tax bills, which are indisputably giveaways to corporations and the already rich, and will perhaps add an additional 1.5 trillion to the nation's debt. Thereafter, Trump and the Republicans immediately turned their attention to "Welfare Reform". At a speech (rally) in Missouri, Trump said: "Does anyone want welfare reform? I see it, and I've talked to people. I know people that work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn't work at all... So we're going into welfare reform." According to the Wall Street Journal, they are also aiming at Medicaid, the source of medical care for millions of the poor and nursing home care for the elderly poor.
Setting aside for a moment the question of whether Donald Trump actually knows anyone who works 3 jobs and who he talks to other than the ultrarich at Mar-A-Lago, which of these conflicting narratives is true?
43 million Americans receive assistance through food stamps.
3.5 million people receive help through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
The poverty rate in Texas has remained relatively constant over the last 20 years, but Texas has significantly reduced the amount of federal anti-poverty cash assistance it pays by making it more difficult to qualify for assistance. Texas has actually used the money it "saved" to fund other budget priorities. In other words, Texas lawmakers just redefined what it means to be poor so more people could be excluded.
There are already strict caps on how long a family can obtain benefits which are based on education, work experience and income.
To qualify for a maximum of $290 per month in monthly cash aid, a family of 3 with one parent and 2 children, cannot make more thank $188 per month. Think of trying to make that work.
By 2015, only 4 of every 100 poor families with children in Texas received cash assistance B down from 47 in 1996. Again, poverty didn't change, the eligibility requirements changed.
As this blog is being written, KBTX is conducting its annual food drive. According to the Brazos Valley Food Bank, between 7/1/2014 and 6/30/2015 they served 55,742 unique individuals and 44,313 of them were from Brazos County, even though we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the Nation. The statistics regarding food insecurity in our area can be found at https://www.bvfb.org. If food insecurity is a persistent problem in a prosperous area such as ours, you can imagine how bad it must be elsewhere.
The percent of children living in food-insecure homes ranges from a low of 9% in North Dakota to a high of 26% in Mississippi. The percentage in Texas is 23.8%, even though Texas has a very low rate of unemployment.
Unemployment in the United States stands at around 4.5% to 4.7%. This is traditionally considered full employment, yet wages adjusted for inflation have been stagnant for most workers, particularly the poor, for many years.
The problem of affordable housing for the poor in the United Stated is especially appalling and no public official is even discussing it. You will recall that Trump appointed Ben Carson as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Insofar as I can tell, Ben Carson has not uttered a single word about this chronic problem since being appointed. Maybe that is what Trump had in mind when he appointed Carson? For an in-depth discussion of housing for the poor, I highly recommend the book "Evicted" by Matthew Desmond, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017.
It is especially cynical and just plain mean for the President and his party to take from the poor in order to give to the rich - a reverse Robin Hood.
There are organizations such as the Brazos Valley Food Bank, Twin Cities Mission and Habitat for Humanity that are working hard everyday to help the poor among us overcome adversity that is real and beyond our comprehension.
If the government won't help, and they won't, it's up to us. Please give generously this Christmas season. Lots of folks are counting on us.