Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Stop Funding Unnecessary Sports Venues and Feed the Hungry, House the Homeless, Give Work to the Jobless, and Rebuild Our Roads

“The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all ... The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands, the ownership and control of their livelihoods, are set at naught, we can have neither men's rights nor women's rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.”  - Helen Keller

       When considering how the poorest of people are treated in a country that has generated more wealth since its creation than anyone could ever have possibly imagined, a sense of disgust moves over my head like a dark cloud. I remember all of the crap that we are fed about the 'Land of Opportunity,' the 'American Dream,' and the 'Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave;' among others, and I can no longer see those things as being even remotely true, at least not for everyone. I am more inclined to believe that we actually live in the 'Land of Oppression,' where we live the 'American Nightmare,' and are forced to accept our role in the 'Land of the Rich and the Home of the Wealthy,' while we are being forced each day to engage in back breaking labor for a pittance, if there is any work for us at all. All the while, the rich sit up in their fancy palaces and laugh while we fight for the scraps from their tables. What is worse is that the rich blame the whole situation on the poor, calling them lazy, stupid, and greedy. Excuse me? Who is it that made this situation the way it is in the first place, you steaming pile of mastodon dung? Yes, that is correct, it is you the rich, the uber wealthy, and the criminal element that sits at the top of our society bleeding the rest of us dry. I am speaking to you directly. If you do not get your house in order soon, your wage slaves are going to begin to turn on you.
        Now that I have gotten my ranting out of the way, let us look at the numbers. The National Football League is the most profitable of all of the sports leagues in the United States. In 2014, alone, the NFL netted $1 billion dollars in profits of off $10.5 billion dollars in revenues. This profit was not made without assistance. In the United States, government subsidies provided to sports teams for new stadiums run in the billions, annually. The federal government, alone, is on the docket for an average of $146 million dollars annually, usually dispensed through federal income tax breaks. The rest is made up by state governments, county governments, and municipal governments. The NFL gets discounts on the cost of property sales and taxes. They receive tax exemptions. They receive land allotments at the expense of residents already living in the area. They receive discounts on public services like gas, electricity, water, trash pickup and police and fire protection. They also get relief from state and local sales taxes. The NFL, in particular, which continues to exist and operate as a Non-Profit Organization, is exempt from federal taxes altogether. They are able to do so because the money they make is distributed amongst the teams, rather than being stored in a single account. The biggest kicker is that all of their expenses, in the full amount, not accounting for their discounts, tax breaks, and cost relief, are tax deductible at both the state and federal levels. 


        Good nutrition, particularly in the first three years of life, is important for establishing a good foundation that has implications for a child’s future physical and mental health, academic achievement, and economic productivity. Unfortunately, food insecurity is an obstacle that threatens that critical foundation. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 15.3 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life. Although food insecurity is harmful to any individual, it can be particularly devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences. Twenty percent or more of the child population in 38 states and D.C. lived in food-insecure households in 2013, according to the most recent data available. The District of Columbia (31%) and Mississippi (29%) had the highest rates of children in households without consistent access to food. In 2013, the top five states with the highest rate of food-insecure children under 18 were D.C., Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Georgia. Twelve million children are estimated to be served by Feeding America, over 3.5 million of which are ages 5 and under. While almost all (94%) of client households with school-aged children (ages 5-18) report participating in the National School Lunch Program, only 46 percent report participating in the School Breakfast Program. Nearly one in four (24%) client households with children report participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). In 2014, 15.5 million or approximately 21 percent of children in the U.S. lived in poverty. In fiscal year 2013, 44 percent of all SNAP participants were children under age 18. During the 2014 federal fiscal year, more than 21.5 million low-income children received free or reduced-price meals daily through the National School Lunch Program. Unfortunately, in 2014 fewer than 2.7 million children participated daily in the Summer Food Service Program.

        On any given night, there are approximately 643,067 people experiencing homelessness in America. 238,110 of those people are in families. 25% suffer from mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression, 17% are considered chronically homeless, 13% are fleeing domestic violence, and approximately 12% are veterans. The face of homelessness is changing. Though veterans, people with disabilities, and single parent families have always been at high-risk for homelessness, today, more and more of our country’s working poor are struggling with or at risk of homelessness. People recently released from prison and young adults who have recently been emancipated (or aged-out) from the foster care system are also at increased risk of homelessness. And, in Central Texas, the fastest growing homeless population is women and children. A "chronically homeless" person is defined as an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has either been continuously homeless for a year or more, or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years. No matter if you are mentally ill, suffering from an addiction, or physically disabled: low incomes and high housing costs are the root causes of homelessness. In fact, recent study shows that nowhere in the United States can someone who works 40 hours a week at minimum wage afford a one bedroom apartment at fair market rent. In Central Texas, a person needs to work 88/week earning minimum wage to afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent.

        The United States determines the official poverty rate using poverty thresholds that are issued each year by the Census Bureau. The thresholds represent the annual amount of cash income minimally required to support families of various sizes. The methodology for calculating the thresholds was established in the mid-1960s and has not changed in the intervening years.  The thresholds are updated annually to account for inflation. A family is counted as poor if its pretax money income is below its poverty threshold. Money income does not include non cash benefits such as public housing, Medicaid, employer-provided health insurance and food stamps. In 2010, 15.1 percent of all persons lived in poverty. The poverty rate in 2010 was the highest poverty rate since 1993. Between 1993 and 2000, the poverty rate fell each year, reaching 11.3 percent in 2000. In the late 1950s, the poverty rate for all Americans was 22.4 percent, or 39.5 million individuals. These numbers declined steadily throughout the 1960s, reaching a low of 11.1 percent, or 22.9 million individuals, in 1973. Over the next decade, the poverty rate fluctuated between 11.1 and 12.6 percent, but it began to rise steadily again in 1980. By 1983, the number of poor individuals had risen to 35.3 million individuals, or 15.2 percent. For the next ten years, the poverty rate remained above 12.8 percent, increasing to 15.1 percent, or 39.3 million individuals, by 1993. The rate declined for the remainder of the decade, to 11.3 percent by 2000. From 2000 to 2004 it rose each year to 12.7 in 2004.

        The poverty rate for all persons masks considerable variation between racial/ethnic subgroups. Poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics greatly exceed the national average. In 2010, 27.4 percent of blacks and 26.6 percent of Hispanics were poor, compared to 9.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 12.1 percent of Asians. Poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black or Hispanic. In 2010, 31.6 percent of households headed by single women were poor, while 15.8 percent of households headed by single men and 6.2 percent of married-couple households lived in poverty. There are also differences between native-born and foreign-born residents. In 2010, 19.9 percent of foreign-born residents lived in poverty, compared to 14.4 percent of residents born in the United States. Foreign-born, non-citizens had an even higher incidence of poverty, at a rate of 26.7 percent. Children represent a disproportionate share of the poor in the United States; they are 24 percent of the total population, but 36 percent of the poor population. In 2010, 16.4 million children, or 22.0 percent, were poor. The only group of people that has seen a significant and consistent decline in the rates of homelessness, malnutrition, and poverty in their population is the elderly. Elderly poverty in the U.S. decreased dramatically during the twentieth century. Between 1960 and 1995, the official poverty rate of those aged 65 and above fell from 35 percent to 10 percent, and research has documented similarly steep declines dating back to at least 1939. While poverty was once far more prevalent among the elderly than among other age groups, today's elderly have a poverty rate similar to that of working-age adults and much lower than that of children.

        I offer a hearty thanks to the United States Government for the provision of all of these statistics! This is all absolutely ridiculous!!!!! Further, this all says nothing for the absolutely dreadful state of the United States' infrastructure, as the last three photographs can attest to. Nor does it account for the ridiculous nature of the American healthcare system, where more people die of preventable diseases than any other post industrial nation in the world. This crap has got to change. I mean, I like to watch sporting events just as much as any American in this country, but for Mother Gaia's sake, our enjoyment should not be paid for by the suffering of our fellow American citizens or anyone, for that matter!  Are we so locked up in the distractions that we have been provided with that we cannot see what is going on? If so, each of us needs to take a second and get a clue! Our government is not serving its people. It is serving its financial backers. This country cannot call itself the greatest nation on Earth and then turn around and take a fat steaming dump on its own people. Not only does it make the whole nation look bad internationally, it also makes it look bad to the people that it is supposed to being serving, but is instead, dumping on. It is up to us to make this change. We have to do something if we do not want to be made complicit in these crimes against humanity. If we do nothing but stand idly by and watch it continue, we are just as guilty as the people in our government and business sectors that are committing these crimes. If we do not act, it is our hands that will be stained with the blood of the innocent, not theirs!

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