As I write this, it is recess and the kids are at play. The school is across the street from me here in the Bronx and it always amazes me how much energy a group of 50 or so grammar school kids can generate. They are laughing and screaming with glee, running around like little perpetual motion machines.
They had nothing to do with the economic collapse, our two unfunded wars, unnecessary tax cuts, costly Medicare legislation, the mortgage crisis or our (diminishing) budget deficit.
They, and their peers across our city -- and across our COUNTRY -- are at the receiving end of the shotgun barrels being pointed at them and their parents by members of Congress. The goal of these monsters is to keep the minimum wage at a minimum. Cut access to food stamps. Keep the ACA out of reach for those without healthcare insurance options.
For public dissemination, their rationale is simply financial. They say costs are out control and have to be cut. But the real reasons for their opposition to helping the poor are purely ideological and funded by our country's richest of the rich.
Meanwhile, blind eyes are turned to subsidies for agribusiness and energy, and to plum deals with defense contractors and Big Pharma, and to the shameless distortion of what is supposed to be a progressive tax code, for the benefit of the ultra rich.
This approach to governing is grotesque. Further, it can only exist if those most affected by such draconian measures cannot understand that they are voting against their own best interests. It is heartless and cruel, as Timothy Egan wrote so poignantly in today's issue of The New York Times.
Many of those who push for food stamp cuts and who vote tirelessly to make Obamacare disappear, also position themselves as men and women of God. I am not a deeply religious person and I have my personal issues with organized religion. Many of my friends who were raised to follow certain religions are no longer in the fold, for a variety of reasons.
But having said that, I do know this: at their core, religions are at least supposed to be a "how-to-be-a-good-human-being-on-Planet Earth-for-dummies" guidebook. Have a heart. Don't kick people when they're down. Lend a helping hand. Respect others. This is basic, Golden Rule stuff.
Which is why my heart breaks when I think of the cadre of fat, dumb and happy legislators -- men and women -- donning their metaphorical Marie Antoinette wigs and voting to gut SNAP. And to keep the minimum wage down and uninsured emergency room caseloads up.
For years, I was a volunteer resume editor for the Brooklyn Public Library. Every week, from the start of the Great Recession, a line of patrons would snake through the halls of the Grand Army Plaza Main Branch, waiting for my help. It was a saddening experience that inspired my story "The Resume Writer," in my collection Home Front. Now up in the Bronx, I donate big shopping bags full of non-perishables to our local food bank, the Kingsbridge Riverdale Marble Hill Food & Hunger Project, Inc. It is a drop in the bucket. They are strapped.
Everyone here has a friend or a relative in a household where at least one family wage earner was recently fired. This is no joke. Citywide, the potential for catastrophe, if these cuts are somehow passed, is very near. Across the country, the ramifications of a deep cut to food stamps or the unwinding of the ACA would be disastrous, not to mention immoral.
At the school across the street here, the teacher is ringing a hand-held bell now and the kids are lining up, quietly. They obey, and march back into their schoolhouse to learn. They are a rainbow coalition of children, all colors, all faiths. Just like the faces of the kids across the city and countrywide who are in families that desperately need intact social service programs.
What is it that we, as a society, will teach them? That our troglodyte legislators say it's simply survival of the fittest out there? Or, that they've decided that some people have, and others don't, and tough luck with that? Will we tell them, when they whimper as they go to bed hungry, or wait for six hours in the emergency room miles away, because their local hospital was shuttered, that Congress says they should keep the noise down and go to sleep?
To quote from Matthew 25:40 -- As you do unto the least among you, you do unto me. Or, to put it another way, let's have rachmunis for those less fortunate. Note to Congress: 2014 is coming and we, the people, shall not forget.
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