6 Facts About Hunger That Demonstrate the Shameful Excesses of American Capitalism

AlterNet [1] / By Paul Buchheit,  June 23, 2013

Of all the miseries placed on human beings in their everyday lives, the lack of food may be the most inexcusable. Even in a world controlled by unbending attitudes of self-reliance and individual responsibility, the reality of children and seniors and disabled citizens going hungry is a stain on humanity, a shameful testament to the capitalist goal of profit without conscience.

The facts presented here all touch on the lives of human beings, in the U.S. and beyond, who lack food or the means to pay for it.

1. Congress wants to cut a food program that feeds low-income children.

According to the Department of Agriculture [3], 48% of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in 2011 were children. Either unaware or indifferent to this, Congress is considering a new farm bill [4] that would cut food assistance by $2 billion a year while boosting the farm subsidies of big agriculture.

2. Some individuals make enough in two seconds to pay a SNAP recipient’s food bill for an entire year.

Americans [5] Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison, two Kochs, and four Waltons made an average of $6 billion each from their stocks and other investments in 2012. A $6 billion per year person makes enough in two seconds (based on a 40-hour work-week) to pay a year’s worth of benefits to the average SNAP [6] recipient. Just 20 [5] Americans made as much from their 2012 investments as the entire SNAP budget [7] for 47 million people.

Capitalism encourages an individual to make as much money as possible, even without producing anything. Most Americans accept that. But questions should be raised about a system that allows the yearlong needs of a hungry person to flash by in two seconds of an investor’s life.

3. McDonald’s profits are double the total wages of all its food servers.

McDonald’s has 440,000 [8] employees, most of them food servers making the median [9] hourly wage of $9.10 an hour or less, for a maximum of about $18,200 per year. The company’s $8 billion profit, after wages are paid, works out to the same amount: $18,200 per employee.

As noted by MSN Money [10], the company pays its front-line workers minimum wage or very close to it. But instead of passing along part of its profits to employees, McDonald’s just announced plans for increased dividends and share repurchases.

4. Just 10 individuals made as much as all the fast-food counter workers in the U.S.

The 10 richest [5] on the Forbes list increased their combined wealth by almost $60 billion from 2011 to 2012. That’s approximately equivalent to the total annual salaries of 3,378,030 fast-food [11] counter employees if they were all able to work 40-hour weeks, 50 weeks a year.

5. Apple avoided enough in taxes to mount a global attack on malnutrition.

The World Bank estimates the total cost [12] for “successfully mounting an attack on malnutrition” would be about $10.3 to $11.8 billion annually. Apple [13] alone underpaid its 2012 taxes by $11 billion, based on a 35% rate on total global income. (The company paid $8,443 current taxes on $55,763 total income, or a little over 15%.)

6. Speculation on food prices has contributed to the impoverishment of 115 million people.

From 1996 to 2011 the portion of speculative [14] wheat market trades by Goldman Sachs and other players went from 12 percent to 61 percent. The price [15] of wheat went from $105 a ton in 2000 to $481 a ton in 2008.

Food prices dropped after the recession, but the World Bank [16] notes that they’ve jumped 43 percent since 2010. The World Food Program [17] reported that since 2008, high prices have pushed 115 million more people into hunger and poverty.

Speculation hasn’t hurt the speculators. According to the World Wealth Report 2013 [18], the number of high net worth individuals ($1 million or more in investable assets) increased by 11.5% in North America in 2012, the highest rate in the world.

Billionaires are on the rise, and a billion people are without adequate food. The speculators should be ashamed.

See more stories tagged with:

hunger [19]


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/hard-times-usa/6-facts-about-hunger-demonstrate-shameful-excesses-american-capitalism

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/paul-buchheit
[3] http://blogs.usda.gov/2011/06/24/fact-vs-fiction-usda%E2%80%99s-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program/
[4] http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/17/opposition-to-house-farm-bill-spans-political-spectrum/
[5] http://www.usagainstgreed.org/Forbes400_2011-12.xls
[6] http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/18SNAPavg$PP.htm
[7] http://www.obpa.usda.gov/budsum/FY13budsum.pdf
[8] http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/63908/000006390813000010/mcd-12312012x10k.htm
[9] http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#35-0000
[10] http://money.msn.com/investing/5-companies-that-owe-workers-a-raise
[11] http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#35-3020
[12] http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/resources/online-library/life-free-hunger-tackling-child-malnutrition
[13] http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/320193/000119312512444068/d411355d10k.htm
[14] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/23/goldman-sachs-agm-drive-food-prices-up
[15] http://www.odi.org.uk/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/1630.pdf
[16] http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2012/09/13/america_latina_crisis_precio_alimentos
[17] http://home.wfp.org/stellent/groups/public/documents/newsroom/wfp204445.pdf
[18] http://www.capgemini.com/sites/default/files/resource/pdf/wwr_2013_1.pdf
[19] http://www.alternet.org/tags/hunger
[20] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

The Rise and Fall of the American Childhood By Colin Greer

AlterNet, July 19, 2012

Excerpt

From the 1930s to 1980, child­hood in Amer­ica became a cher­ished space for young­sters to grow in. After 1980, and with increas­ing furor, that space has been under assault and child­hood ter­ri­bly com­pro­mised. Look at what we once did and what we’re now doing.

The Rise: Child labor laws, Civil rights pro­tec­tions for all chil­dren., Full and secure employ­ment for par­ents. Play as a mode of learn­ing. Early child­hood as a time to invest in child devel­op­ment through stim­u­lat­ing play…Access to qual­ity edu­ca­tion on an unprece­dented scale…The US moved toward uni­ver­sal inclu­sion from ele­men­tary through post-secondary education.

Yet once these gains were fully estab­lished in the top rungs of soci­ety, they began to shut down for the nation’s chil­dren as a whole. For 50 years, the pen­du­lum swung toward pro­tect­ing chil­dren and guar­an­tee­ing a child­hood for all; then it began to swing back when less than half of the pop­u­la­tion had securely achieved these ben­e­fits. So despite the lan­guage of “going too far” in the direc­tion of a pro­tec­tive, even a “nanny state,” we have never in fact gone far enough for the least priv­i­leged of us…

Chil­dren in poor and immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties are actu­ally work­ing — on the land and in sweat­shops — despite our laws to the con­trary. Chil­dren in this pop­u­la­tion have less than a 10% chance of a col­lege edu­ca­tion. Hunger and home­less­ness among these chil­dren is at shock­ingly high levels….The need for both par­ents to work in the face of not only eco­nomic down­turns, but the demand for higher pro­duc­tiv­ity from Amer­i­can work­ers and lower pub­lic ben­e­fits, puts the lives of chil­dren under stresses that we once aimed to eradicate.

In describ­ing both the rise and fall of Amer­i­can child­hood, I’ve quoted no data for two rea­sons. One, it is all out there. It’s in the press and in the pro­fes­sional lit­er­a­ture for all to find. Two, the gath­er­ing of data seems to make no dif­fer­ence to pub­lic behav­ior and pub­lic policy.

Per­haps it’s time instead for each of us to imag­ine just one child, one who looks like a child you know and love. Each of these chil­dren is the bearer of the accu­mu­lated loss sum­ma­rized in the Rise and Fall.

Full text

From the 1930s to 1980, childhood in America became a cherished space for youngsters to grow in. After 1980, and with increasing furor, that space has been under assault and childhood terribly compromised. Look at what we once did and what we’re now doing.

The Rise:

Child labor laws.
Civil rights protections for all children.
Full and secure employment for parents.
Play as a mode of learning. Early childhood as a time to invest in child development through stimulating play.
Contraception and the Pill allowed women choice and children to feel chosen.
Feminism brought fatherhood back home and encouraged men to be robust partners in parenting.
Protection from adult violence including corporal punishment and child abuse; the establishment of family and children’s courts, and special sentencing for minors.
Access to quality education on an unprecedented scale stimulated by competition with the Russians and influenced by deep psychology. The US moved toward universal inclusion from elementary through post-secondary education.

Yet once these gains were fully established in the top rungs of society, they began to shut down for the nation’s children as a whole. For 50 years, the pendulum swung toward protecting children and guaranteeing a childhood for all; then it began to swing back when less than half of the population had securely achieved these benefits. So despite the language of “going too far” in the direction of a protective, even a “nanny state,” we have never in fact gone far enough for the least privileged of us.

The Fall:

Schools, once protected from the workplace, have been turned into a workplace of rigid rules, intense competition and permanent stress. Even privileged children are educated in the fortress school mentality set in motion by Ronald Reagan’s “Nation at Risk” report and George Bush’s No Child Left Behind act. The pressure cooker of privileged schooling sets in motion a competitiveness, pitting kids against each other, and ironically, producing insecurity and trauma in the lives of rich kids, too.

Play is diminished in importance and recreational activity in the school setting has become a privileged enrichment benefit in private schools.

Unemployment and welfare reform have made family life insecure with its greatest impact on the lowest 40% of income earners.

Child consumption has skyrocketed as an advertising target, with violence all too often the trigger to this consumption. And despite our public recoil at child molestation, our media continue to sexualize children, especially girls.

Failure to protect children from adult assault has become a commonplace discovery in such basic institutions as the Church and sports. In born-again settings, corporal punishment is on the rise, according both to victims and the sale of popular books lauding it as a method of discipline. And of course, profiling in immigrant and poor communities has made vulnerable children even more so.

Children in poor and immigrant communities are actually working — on the land and in sweatshops — despite our laws to the contrary. Children in this population have less than a 10% chance of a college education. Hunger and homelessness among these children is at shockingly high levels.

Challenges to contraception have reached national credibility, with no regard to the memory of unwanted and maimed children resulting from aborted abortions.

The extension of the age of culpability for criminal behavior and the use of adult courts for teenage offenders is adding to the pain of children in parts of the socio-economy where the incarceration of parents is disproportionately high.

The need for both parents to work in the face of not only economic downturns, but the demand for higher productivity from American workers and lower public benefits, puts the lives of children under stresses that we once aimed to eradicate.

In describing both the rise and fall of American childhood, I’ve quoted no data for two reasons. One, it is all out there. It’s in the press and in the professional literature for all to find. Two, the gathering of data seems to make no difference to public behavior and public policy.

Perhaps it’s time instead for each of us to imagine just one child, one who looks like a child you know and love. Each of these children is the bearer of the accumulated loss summarized in the Rise and Fall.
Colin Greer is president of the New World Foundation in New York. Among his books is A Call to Character (HarperCollins, 1995).

© 2012 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/156380/