Conservatives in the GOP claim we don’t need no stinkin’ government, we’ve got charities to help the poor. There’s just one problem with that concept — and it’s a HUGE one: We’ve got so many folks who are poor, in a jam, living on the edge, and/or barely making it that charities can’t keep up.
How about our food banks? These well-run charities distribute food to the needy across the nation. Alas, they simply can’t do enough.
Feeding America reports some grim statistics for 2012:
- In 2012, 49.0 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children.
- In 2012, households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 20.0 percent compared to 11.9 percent.
- In 2011, 4.8 million seniors (over age 60), or 8.4% of all seniors were food insecure.
So, if we can’t get enough Americans to donate food or money to local charities, maybe these lazy freeloaders should get off their duffs and get a job.
Alas, that won’t help either. 64 percent of America’s hungry are too young, too old, or too disabled to work. 20.7 million of these 49 million food insecure people are children and seniors, and 10.9 million more are disabled.
How much can we really raise for charities?
Last year, 10-year-old Mario Martinez’s birthday went viral when he asked friends and family for food bank donations instead of birthday presents. He told Kianga Kelly from KSNW:
“I told them don’t bring any gifts, just bring money so I can donate it to the food bank […] There is some [people] whose fridge is empty, hardly anything in their cabinet, one day I decided eh, why not? I already got all the stuff I need.”
Thanks to drastic tax cuts led by Kansas’ GOP governor, poverty and hunger are on the rise in Martinez’s home state. Kelly reports that 433,360 face hunger statewide, and 78,030 in Sedwick County — where Martinez lives — alone.
So how much money did Martinez raise? $104.00, which the folks at the local food bank can stretch amazingly far. 422 hungry people will “finally get a meal because of Mario.” His proud mom told Kelly:
“If a 10-year-old can do this, what can the rest of us do?”
That’s an excellent question that deserves an answer, so we dusted off the old calculator.
To feed all of the 78,030 food insecure people in Sedwick County Kansas one meal a day, we’d need 185 Mario Martinezes raising $104 per day, every day, 360 days per year, for a total of $6,925,400.00 per year.
To feed them all three times a day, we’d need to triple those numbers, and raise $20,779,200 — over $20 billion a year — for just one county. That’s a tall order for a place where 14.4 percent of people live below the poverty line.
Why charities can’t replace the government.
These heartwarming stories of people like Martinez raising funds for charity and paying for children’s school lunches are inspiring and give us hope in these dark, scary times. Unfortunately, a few kind souls can’t possibly help everyone in need.
Charities contribute a lot towards alleviating society’s ills. But they can’t do it alone. Even the largest, most well-run, and reputable charities rely on donations from givers and labor from volunteers. When people are stressed out by an under-performing economy, they’re less able to contribute these resources.
Government-run organizations, on the other hand, have more reliable sources of income and labor for providing services consistently, day in and day out. By taxing everyone a little and using existing infrastructure, the U.S. government can feed every single hungry person in America.
The “war on poverty” programs of the mid-20th century made huge strides in reducing poverty for most Americans. Unfortunately, the GOP has greatly reduced the funding and effectiveness of these programs over the past three decades, after persuading Americans that “big government” is bad.
We could try raising the minimum wage so more of these people could feed themselves, but the GOP claims that’s too much “big government interference” and keeps voting it down.
Mario Martinez raises $104 for his local food bank.
Here’s the video with the news report from from KSNW:
Oh, and about those church-run charities the GOP loves…
“68% of churches in the West-South Central U.S., and 64% of churches in the East-South Central U.S. have expenses exceeding income.”
That’s right. America’s churches can’t even afford to pay their own bills, let alone provide services to the poor. And these reports come from the most active, church-going regions of the country! It’s time to send our GOP lawmakers back to the drawing board.