The media is full of bad economic news we hear everyday: foreclosures, rising fuel and food costs, cuts in government budgets and a growing number of people without health insurance. These issues affect the daily lives of most families in one way or another. People previously secure may now be worried. Those who were only marginally getting by are now hurting. In times of a widespread economic turndown, it is easy to forget those who were not making it in the first place. They have been and still are hurting the most.
Disabled and elderly people, who must rely on fixed incomes, were already making tough choices between necessities. Low-wage and part-time workers were already forced to frequent soup kitchens and food pantries. Families with children depending on cash assistance were already living at less than half the poverty level. These people were already hurting before the recent round of price hikes for basic necessities like food or fuel.
So where is the sense of urgency to save them? I would say that our state and federal governments have forgotten them, but that assumes anyone in government was concerned about the poor to begin with. When faced with the largest surplus of federal welfare funds in the nation, Ohio chose to spend it primarily on people who weren’t poor. When reauthorizing the federal Food Stamp program, Congress did nothing to address the inadequacy of the benefit levels, even while lines at food pantries and soup kitchens grew. And, in the debate about the stimulus package, the first sacrifice was the proposed increase in Food Stamp benefits and an extension of unemployment assistance.
Assistance to help corporations or middle-class households seems to be the first priority. We have moved from trickle down economics to trickle down compassion. It seems to be a platform both political parties embrace.
We must refocus our assistance on the poorest of the poor first and immediately. They have no safety net.
Jack Frech, Director