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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Près de 50 millions d’Américains ont faim

by Jacques Coubard

Nearly 50 million Americans go Hungry

Translated Tuesday 22 December 2009, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Isabelle Métral

“This is socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor,” commented Joseph Biden, the Vice-President of the United States, revealing a rather curious sense of humor.

Once upon a time there was an American Dream that prosperity would be shared by all, and now the fairy tale has given way to a nightmare. Every day, 49 million U.S. citizens (16% of the population) go hungry, including 17 million children. [1] Fast forward to long lines at the soup kitchens and food stamp offices.

There isn’t the slightest doubt about the figure, although it has not been played up in the media. It comes from the Department of Agriculture, which has published the statistic every year since 1995. As a matter of fact, this is the figure for 2008, which does not take into account the recent shock wave of unemployment, which now officially stands at 10.2% of those of working age (in reality 17%, if you count those who only work a few hours a month and who consequently no longer figure among the poverty-stricken).

Indeed, among the victims of hunger the Department of Agriculture also notes the existence of the working poor, people who live below the poverty line even though they draw a salary. One child in four went without food in 2008. This represents four million more than the preceding year. It is families with children who have been the main victims of this wave of poverty. The level is comparable to the 1930s, at the beginning of the Great Depression. Women and children are thrown overboard first, followed by blacks and Hispanics.

“This is unimaginable. It’s as if we were living in a Third World country,” exclaimed Vicky Escarra, the president of Feeding America, the nation’s largest food bank network and provider of emergency food.

These figures “sound a warning” for Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, and are a consequence of the collapse of the job market. The sums allotted at the beginning of the year by President Obama to provide for children suffering from malnutrition have proven insufficient, and there will be no end to the nightmare without a policy to create jobs. Obama himself recognizes this. But his economic stimulus package amounted to saving the big banks that are responsible for the financial crisis that sparked the cataclysm. The President’s choice has caused anguish and anger, and his approval rating in the polls has fallen below 50%.

Obama’s vice-president, Joseph Biden, jokingly revealed the cause of the disaster on television [2], recalling what his grandfather had said about similar economic stimulus packages: “This is socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor.” The studio audience laughed with him. This odd sort of humor did not draw a significant reaction, so great is the pressure of the dominant ideology, which ends in fatalism.

In the name of sacrosanct free enterprise, the capitalist empire has continually attacked the welfare state and assistance that sap its profitability, so that Wall Street might thrive, even at the cost of triggering the new catastrophe whose nose is showing just behind the hunger statistics.

According to the latest news, they’re hiring in a vital sector: the lobbyists, who harass members of Congress into voting against a reform of the health system prejudicial to the profits of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. All is not lost. Joseph Biden’s grandfather was right...

[2You can watch the video of this hair-raising interview on the Huffingtonpost.com Website (November 18, 2009).

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