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The Politicization of Child Hunger

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In the most powerful nation of the United States, there is an often-overlooked and egregious reality -- starving children. According to the Agriculture Department, there are now 17.2 million children that are at risk of lacking adequate food across the country. Sadly, as the economy still struggles to recover, we will only see these startling numbers rise, especially among those that are already the most vulnerable among us. And if a proposed GOP Congressional bill passes, these disenfranchised and forgotten ones could see what little food they have literally ripped from their mouths if a family member dare fight for his/her rights as a working, contributing member of society. It is beyond despicable; it is the politicization of child hunger.

According to a scathing piece in Think Progress, H.R. 1135 -- recently introduced by a group of House Republicans -- is not only pushing for an overall spending limit on means-tested welfare programs, but in an unprecedented and shocking maneuver, states that all food stamp benefits will be eliminated to any family where an adult is striking against an employer for any reason. Translation: any employee who may be bargaining for fair wages so that he/she may not have to put his/her family through the rigors of governmental aide in the first place, will likely think twice before taking such action now for fear of watching a child starve. It is the highest form of intimidation by those that already yield immense power over the nation's working-class and poor.

There are an estimated 44 million Americans that desperately depend on food stamps today -- an increase of 13 percent from last year alone. And a shocking 1 in 5 children in the U.S. get an adequate amount of nutrition thanks to food stamps. This latest gimmick by the far right to bully families and their children cannot be ignored, nor can we allow them to penalize our little ones as they play a game of politics. In a continuing effort to demonize and eliminate unions in this country, they now feel it is appropriate to use children as a casualty in their war on working families.

When the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went to Memphis, Tenn. in his final march in 1968, he was standing alongside laborers who were collectively chanting for livable wages and benefits. If this proposed legislation were in effect in '68, the children of those marching with Dr. King on that day would not have been able to receive food stamps. The right attempted to hijack the memory of Dr. King last year, and now they are sending a clear signal that they would rather allow the children of those protesting to starve than support the very cause Dr. King gave his life for.

The fact that such an outlandish proposal is even a thought in a civil society like ours is beyond the pale. It is cruel, and lacks any semblance of moral recognition. We all know that politics can and often is a dirty game, but when did our children -- innocent boys and girls -- become targets for self-aggrandizing individuals willing to do practically anything to advance their own (or their party's own) agenda? How do we as human beings think it is OK to take away food from kids because we don't want to pay their parents a decent salary? And how can anyone even think of starving the very young in order to punish a worker? We cannot, nor should we even dream of validating any of these reprehensible ideas.

If children in fact emulate adults, we must ask ourselves, what example are we setting here?