On this day of plenty, dont forget the hungry

On this day of plenty, dont forget the hungry

November 28th, 2013 in Opinion Times

On so many days. our lives feel like the race between success and loss.

But take that thought back to the 17th century when our forefathers and foremothers measured that gamble as a race between luck and pluck or famine and extinction.

Luck and pluck -- along with the friendship of some Native Americans who we later double-crossed -- won. Thus we have Thanksgiving. Add three or four centuries to the story, and find us here at this time-honored day we celebrate as a noun, though it was built around a verb form: Giving thanks.

Most of us will push away from the table today feeling much too full. Not just too full of Thanksgiving fare, but also too full of life blessings to recount.

We'll give thanks for so many things -- deliverance from war, loss, despair; and thanks for our plenty, our duty and service, and the very circle of life as one generation succeeds another.

But there is an elephant in the room. The gap in our country between success and loss is widening.

One in 7 Americans need the help of food stamps to eat, and food stamps don't give you a Thanksgiving meal. The average food stamp benefits are $4.40 a day. And most of the people receiving food stamps -- two thirds -- were children, elderly or disabled folks. Most of the rest of recipients are adults with children.

Now, compare that with today's "success" stories. Adjusted for inflation, the income of the top 1 percent of Americans rose 31 percent from 2009 to 2012, even while the real income of the bottom 40 percent fell 6 percent.

As the Great Recession took hold and that income gap widened, food stamp use has more than doubled in cost since 2008, to almost $80 billion a year.

The increase in food stamp need in the past six years is completely understandable. It is a program that is doing what it is supposed to do -- helping the poorest and most unlucky of us. The number of recipients has jumped from 26 million in 2007 to 47.6 million in August of this year.

Just three months ago, 23 million households received an average monthly food stamp benefit of just over $275, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The increase has turned the food stamp program, known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- SNAP -- into a target for congressional Republicans looking to reduce spending.

The U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year voted to cut $40 billion over 10 years from food stamp spending. The Senate sees what they think is a more reasonable $4.5 billion reduction over the next decade.

Tennessee ranks among the top seven states for food stamp use, followed by Alabama and Georgia, according to the Pew Charitable Trust.

About 20 percent of Tennessee's population receives food stamps, compared to about 19 percent in Alabama and Georgia. And, no, it's not all among minorities and it's not all concentrated in urban areas. Nearly 40 percent of Grundy County's population receives food stamps, and eight other area counties have more recipients than the Tennessee state average. The rolls have lengthened as the economy has struggled.

But as we endured the Great Recession, we -- and our neighbors -- needed that help. They have needed both thanks, and giving.

This Thanksgiving, let us be thankful for luck and pluck, and for having enough to share. And instead of looking so hard for cuts, lets look harder at ways to grow the economy so jobs will take the place of need.