We’re losing our precious freedoms
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Tomorrow we celebrate our Declaration of Independence, which was a manifesto of our freedom from British domination. In 1791, our young country added the first ten amendments, drafted by James Madison, and known as the Bill of Rights, to its four-year-old Constitution. The first of these amendments assures our right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech and the press.
It is in these last two freedoms that our country has failed to live up to that goal.
Today, millions of Americans are living in poverty and hunger, and in fear over their future economic status, their health care needs, and their physical security. Thirty-five million Americans are living in poverty ” half of them children ” and these numbers have been rising at a rate of more than 1 percent per year. And there are forty-five million people who cannot afford health care. These people are facing rising costs for food, housing and medical care, while at the same time being confronted with having to survive on much lower-paying jobs or not being able to find a job that pays a living wage. Add to this the mortgage foreclosure crisis, which is throwing people out of their homes into a high-priced rental market. Parents are going hungry to feed their children, and in many cases even that drastic measure is not sufficient to provide their children adequate nutrition. This has led to a 70 percent increase in the number of people forced to turn to food pantries and soup kitchens, which are rapidly running out of money to serve the growing need.
Food prices are rising in response to the steady increase in the world’s population and the demands created by the rising standard of living in developing countries. But the actions of our own government, instead of helping people in need, are actually harming them. Pushing for corn-based ethanol to fuel automobiles has driven up the price of both corn and other grains corn production has displaced, raising the prices of all foods produced from or dependent on grains, such as bread, cereals, dairy products, eggs and meat.
Our government, in its subservience to the farm lobby, in the recently enacted Farm Bill, has seen fit to continue dolling out billions of dollars in farm subsidies, the lion’s share of which go into the pockets of agribusiness corporations or affluent landowners, who know a cash cow when they see one. Liberally applied guidelines give generous payments to non-farming landowners, which encourage keeping land out of production. In Texas, there is now more idle rice land than producing rice land.
The term “drought” has been redefined to continue livestock compensation payments intended to soften the financial impact of droughts, even when there is no real drought. After collecting their subsidies, these growers are then free to sell their product overseas at higher prices. Events as ridiculous as space shuttle debris and earthquakes, any damage from which was inconsequential, have been used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as excuses for billions of dollars in damage compensation. The USDA even issued a memo encouraging farmers not to talk to reporters, and USDA county offices were mum on the subject.
So while the current farm bill increases its largess to affluent landowners and agribusiness, the government has no money to expand the food stamp program to help those in dire need, and refuses to increase the minimum wage to a level that anyone can live on. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the minimum wage was more than 50 percent of the average worker’s wage. By the early 2000s, it had declined to barely over one-third; and even with the increase to $6.55 per hour (which goes into effect this month), will be only 40 percent of the average worker’s wage.
Our country has not fulfilled the goal of freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
We must be ever-vigilant to protect our freedoms of religion, speech and the press from all enemies, domestic as well as foreign.
Hal Sundin’s column appears every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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