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Martha Burk Headshot

No Turkey, Just Trimmings for Thanksgiving

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The Christmas catalogs started arriving two weeks before turkey day. But last week a couple of outliers were in the stack with all the junk-filled junk mail. Two pleas from food banks asking for money to buy Thanksgiving meals. I tossed them aside, figuring I'd decide later which one to put on my donation list.

Then I realized that was silly. While far below the 1 percent, my family is comfortably situated in what's left of the middle class. Surely I could afford to write two checks. I did -- but with a little resentment too. Not resentment toward the families shown in the food bank solicitation, but those lazy bums who live off the rest of us taxpayers and just don't want to work.

You know -- like some members of Congress.

Not all of them, mind you, just those who would rather shut down the government and campaign tirelessly to discredit the president than actually do anything to benefit ordinary Americans, some of whom are having a mighty hard time these days.

If those who render the government dysfunctional did want to work, they could pass a decent food stamp bill, so charities wouldn't have to go begging in order to feed our fellow citizens.

I know, I know. The government can't do everything. But food ought to be a human right. Whether or not people get to eat shouldn't be left to the generosity of individuals. We pay our taxes, and in a civilized country a decent share should go to the less fortunate among us. And those ranks are growing, not shrinking. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 47 million people are now getting food assistance, largely due to the recession.

Both parties want to cut food aid to the poor -- they just differ on how much. House Republicans want a $40 billion cut. Senate Democrats want $4 billion. Whatever number they choose, it'll be on top of the loss these families suffered when a 2009 temporary increase ran out November 1st. That one trimmed $11 off an individual's food help and $36 a month for a family of four. These are families already doing without 24 very basic meals (no extras, no snacks), with another hit on the way.

And a turkey with all the trimmings? That's so far out of reach it might as well be on another planet.

To those who have the power, but do nothing for their neediest constituents, we must borrow from another time of meanness in our history and ask "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

Listen to the two minute radio commentary here: