Feeling Our Pain

05/25/2011 12:30 pm ET

In this exceptionally painful period of economic chaos for so many families, our safety net here at home is shredding. The number of Americans using safety net organizations like hospital emergency rooms, public health clinics, school-based health clinics and community food banks is growing dramatically even as these essential services are being cut back or closing down. There were already over 45 million Americans without health insurance but now even that shocking number is likely to rise dramatically.

Government, at all levels, is awash in red ink and cutting its services just when they're needed most. If it's bad here, imagine what it's like in countries with much weaker economies.

Obviously, those who brought us the Iraq War, at an estimated $3 trillion cost and a current price tag of $15 billion a month, bear the major share of blame for our woes. When you include the war's significant effect on world oil and gas prices (which contribute to global food shortages and the threat of famine in a number of countries), we can thank George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for getting us into this mess, one which may last for decades as the bills come due. In China, there is capital punishment for such financial malfeasance while, here, Bush and Cheney will be pensioned off and overpaid by toady crowds to hear them reinvent their place in history.

The imperative at this moment is to help lessen the pain so many are suffering in our own country. We need to strengthen our efforts here at home without harming those abroad in places like Darfur and Tibet whose plights we have internalized as our own.

The "noise" of the Bush-Cheney wartime recession, a growing preoccupation with personal finances and a $4 billion general election are overshadowing the needs of our neighbors here and abroad.

This is an important election year, of course, and people should participate, both personally and financially. But history has shown that charitable organizations struggle to keep their heads above water during such times. We should not sit by and let that happen to them this year. Our needs are simply too great.

The bell tolls for all of us.