So much to be thankful for, if …
As I See It
As Thanksgiving comes again next week, many of us are fortunate to have an overabundance of blessings to be thankful for. The first is to be living in the United States of America instead of Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, much of Central and South America, and most of eastern Europe, including Russia.
But even here in the U.S. many families do not have many of the things to be thankful for that most of us take for granted. We have much to be thankful for if:
We have good health. But there are many who are suffering from chronic diseases or crippling injuries.
We are secure in having our health care needs covered by a group insurance plan, or private insurance we can afford.
We are secure in a well-paying job and can put a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner on the table for family and friends. This is a major challenge for growing numbers of Americans for a several reasons. People are steadily being replaced by technology in commercial and industrial jobs as computers and robotics take their place, unemployment has been aggravated by moving jobs abroad, and the Great Recession, brought on by unscrupulous banking practices that destroyed the jobs of millions of Americans, many of whom have not recovered financially, and probably never will.
As a consequence, millions of Americans have been forced to scale down to the only jobs available, resulting in a major reduction in family incomes, sending many into poverty. In 2000, there were only four states (Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico) in which low family income qualified more than half of the public school students for free or reduced-cost lunches. In 2011, that number had rise to 17 states, including California, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. It is currently estimated that one out of every six adults and one out of every four children in this great country are uncertain as to where their next meal is going to come from.
Those most devastated by these events are single mothers raising children on their own, males between the ages of 18 and 29, and people over age 50 whose jobs no longer exist. The latter two are less likely to have the burden of meeting the needs of supporting young children. The appalling statistic is that there are now 10 million single mothers trying to provide necessities for 20 million children. Many of these mothers are employed in minimum wage jobs, or may be working part-time jobs, most of which do not provide any health insurance.
In addition, they are burdened with the responsibility of finding and paying for child care. The federal Child Care Assistance Program helps with these costs, but the co-payment for a mother earning $10/hour is $84/month (5 percent of her monthly income), and a mother working at a minimum wage job still has a co-payment of $33/month.
Low-income single mothers also need and are eligible for food stamps to help feed their children. The average yearly income of families on food stamps is $8,928, well below the federal poverty level of $19,530 for a family of three, and is less than the $14,500 from a full-time job at the minimum wage of $7.25/hour. The average monthly food stamp benefit for a family of three is $401, which usually runs out by the end of the third week each month — and won’t last until Thanksgiving (and also Christmas). The only way these families will be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner is through a food-pantry or an open table charity.
It is hard to imagine what keeps these single mothers going, with the never-ending struggle to provide for the needs of their children and themselves — many times they have to give up their own meals in an attempt to prevent their children from going hungry. What must it be like to wake up every morning to face another day without enough money to meet your children’s and your needs, and see no hope for improvement?
As you gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, count your blessings, and enjoy the day. Be thankful for your good fortune, but do not forget those who are less fortunate and are facing hardship on what should be a day of celebration for everyone. Urge your congressmen to repeal the 20-percent cut in food stamp funding, and to adopt a minimum wage people can live on.
— “As I See It” appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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