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207 posts categorized "Hunger in the News"
By Sarah Godfrey
The now infamous video that shows presidential candidate Mitt Romney talking about “the 47 percent” of Americans who “pay no income tax” has the entire country discussing who does or does not pay taxes. Romney’s remarks have thrust into the spotlight a study that is actually a smart, common-sense analysis of taxation that shows that everyone—especially the poor— pays.
The "47 percent" figure is taken from a Tax Policy Institute study that found 46.4 percent of Americans did not pay federal income tax in 2011, but even the Institute itself has said its findings have been largely misconstrued. “Commentators have often misinterpreted that percentage as indicating that nearly half of Americans pay no taxes. In fact, however, many of those who don’t pay income tax do pay other taxes—federal payroll and excise taxes as well as state and local income, sales, and property taxes,” the group wrote in a 2011 response to its findings.
Derek Thompson, writing in the Atlantic on Sept. 18, put it plainly: “When you hear ‘The 47 percent,' you should think old retired folks and poor working families.” The Washington Post’s Wonk Blog analyzed the same Tax Policy Institute study, and found that of the roughly 47 percent of those who don’t pay income tax, 60 percent are still paying into Social Security and Medicare. Another 22 percent of non-payers are retirees. “Only about 7.9 percent of households are not paying any federal taxes at all,” wrote Brad Plumer. “That’s usually because they’re either unemployed or on disability or students or are very poor.”
The poor actually often shoulder a greater share of the tax burden relative to their income, contrary to the conventional wisdom in some circles. A 2012 Citizens for Tax Justice study found that the poorest fifth of Americans, a group with an average cash income of $13,000 per year, saw 17.4 percent of their incomes go to taxes last year.
David Beckmann speaking at the Sept. 12 Circle of Protection press conference. (Photo: Eric Bond/Bread for the World)
On September 12, the Circle of Protection debuted exclusive videos of President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney talking, on the record, about hunger and poverty. During the video release press conference at the National Press Club, faith leaders discussed the candidate statements as well as new U.S. Census Bureau poverty figures revealing that 15 percent of Americans—including one in five children—lived in poverty in 2011.
Coverage of the event was featured on the PBS news program "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly."
Watch the Sept. 14 episode of "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly" below (the Circle of Protection segment begins at the 4:30 mark):
A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web:
- "The Root of Drought Happiness": Gates Foundation intern Peter Kithene writes a personal piece about the importance of the cassava crop in sub-Saharan Africa.
- "The achievement gap, by the numbers": Using U.S. Education statistics, the Washington Post examines the public school achievement gap (with accompanying "Public School Students and Poverty" infographic).
- "The Election-Season Poverty Tour": Scholar Cornel West and broadcaster Tavis Smiley announce 'The Poverty Tour 2.0: A Call to Conscience," a series of town-hall meetings "to make the eradication of poverty a top priority in America." The tour, timed to coincide with the release of U.S. Census Bureau poverty figures, kicks off tomorrow.
- Review: "The Last Hunger Season": Paul Collier, writing in the Washington Post , says Roger Thurow's story of drought from the perspective of a smallholder farmer in western Kenya "aptly conveys the risky choices that farmers are required to make in highly constrained situations."
- "A million-dollar rain ': Drought-hit Minn. farmer feels ups, downs of passing storm": An NBC news team spends a day with Minnesota farmer Dean Tofteland and documents "the raw realities of farming and the weather, both drought and rain."
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a national Catholic social justice lobby, speaks at the "Nuns on the Bus" tour stop on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Monday, July 2, 2012. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Sarah Godfrey
In July, Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, talked to Breadblog about this summer's two-week "Nuns on the Bus" tour, during which a group of nuns traveled the country to protest budget cuts that would negatively affect poor and hungry people. Campbell talked about meeting a man from Milwaukee, WI, named Billy, who was forced to choose between feeding his children or keeping a roof over their heads.
Last night, Campbell shared Billy's story at the Democratic National Convention.
Campbell, who has been vocally opposed to cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), said that working families such as Billy's are relying on such federal nutrition programs to carry them through the current economic recession.
Addressing the DNC last night, she said, "In Milwaukee, I met Billy and his wife and two boys at St. Benedict's dining room. Billy's work hours were cut back in the recession. Billy is taking responsibility for himself and his family, but right now without food stamps, he and his wife could not put food on their family table. We all share responsibility for creating an economy where parents with jobs earn enough to take care of their families."
Campbell also said that faith "strongly affirms that we are all responsible for one another."
"We care for the 100 percent, and that will secure the blessings of liberty for our nation," she said.
Watch Sister Campbell's speech in its entirety:
Sarah Godfrey is associate online editor at Bread for the World.
(image courtesy Urban Ministries of Durham)
by Robin Stephenson
Simulating poverty does not give one the lived experience of poverty, but it can begin to expose the truth about choices—or lack thereof—that people working low-wage jobs face every day.
We are called to compassion—meaning to suffer together, but it can be hard to make a compassionate connection when paths don't cross. So when I’m invited to speak to church groups, I emphasize personal stories, knowing that statistics don’t always engender compassion and solidarity.
A few years ago I gained greater compassion and insight into the realities of poverty when I participated in an elaborate simulation. Even though it was imaginary, the activity made me stop and think about poverty as a time consuming and complicated condition.
Marie Crise is able to use her SNAP benefits to purchase fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables at the Abingdon Farmers Market in Abingdon, Va. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
by Eric Bond
On Monday, New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman wrote a tribute to the farmer—and the joy to be had from fresh produce. He points out that as much as chefs are in the spotlight these days, the bulk of the hard work and artistry in a meal happens on the farm:
These are tasks that take weeks, if not months, of daily activity and maintenance. Like anything else, you can get good at it, but the challenges that nature ... and the market ... throw at you are never even close to being under control in the same way that a cook controls the kitchen.
As Bittman revels in the fruits of labor coming to farmers markets in the waning days of summer, he recognizes the reality that many people do not have the access or the finances to enjoy the pleasures of fresh produce. Bittman calls for the following actions, which will better support small farmers, feed more hungry people, and share the bounty of a functioning farm system:
Alex Morris, from Bend, OR, depends on SNAP, WIC, and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system. (Photo by Brad Horn/Bread for the World)
by Christine Melendez Ashley
Misinformation about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) is far too prevalent. Sometimes it seems that I can’t check the news—or even Facebook—without reading another inaccurate claim about the program and its participants.
As a domestic policy analyst at Bread, I know that the facts tell a different story. SNAP served more than 46 million Americans in May. Here are some hard facts about the program:
Bread for the World activist Kaela Volkmer (left) talks with Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) as staffers listen during Bread for the World Lobby Day in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
More than 60 young religious leaders—"agents of change" from communities around the United States—came to Washington, DC, for Bread for the World's Hunger Justice Leaders training, June 9-11. Their jam-packed schedule included three days of worship, workshops, and a chance to lobby members of Congress on behalf of hungry and poor people. This story of one hunger justice leader comes from Bread's summer 2012 "Legacy of Hope" newsletter.
In two Nebraska congressional offices, newly minted Hunger Justice Leader Kaela Volkmer countered the myth that poor people abuse the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and the Women, Infant, Children food program (WIC).
“It’s painful for me to see the polarization happening now. We must find a solution that doesn’t put poor and hungry people in greater peril, ” Volkmer said.
The night before, Kaela and 60 other young church leaders from across the nation were commissioned as Hunger Justice Leaders. The next day, the Hunger Justice Leaders joined hundreds of Bread for the World members in visiting congressional offices to urge members of Congress to protect funding for programs vital to hungry people.
Kaela calls the three lobbying visits she made “real world experiences in reasonable dialogue.” Face to face with Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), she told him about a mother who handed her baby to Kaela, begging for help feeding her children.
Kaela admits it wasn’t easy to respond calmly to charges that SNAP is “too big and rife with abuse.” But she came armed with the facts, and imparted them—also delivering a petition supporting the maintenance of levels of aid to hungry families signed by scores of her fellow Nebraskans.
Kaela’s Hunger Justice Leader colleagues were similarly impassioned and equipped by the training they’d just completed: “The training empowers the powerless. I thank God!” said Rev. Christina Reed of Washington, DC. “This has been a truly transformative experience. Through worship, conversation, song … I have felt the spirit of God moving.”
Rev. Libby Tedder of Casper, WY, agreed. She said the training program, sponsored by Bread for the World Institute, has enabled her to “speak with courage so that the eyes of the powerful will be opened to the plight of the hungry.”
Kaela Volkmer’s home congregation, St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church of Omaha, invested in her by sponsoring her Hunger Justice Leader training. Kaela serves as a member of the church’s human needs committee. Her particular passion is Catholic social teaching, which centers on addressing the root causes of inequity in addition to charitable acts.
“Catholic social teaching is so beautiful, rich, and needed in today’s world,” Kaela said. Kaela had assured St. Wenceslaus’s pastor that she would return equipped to bring back to the church the voice and the resources they need. “I came home unsettled, but in a good way,” she said. “I am ready to navigate the waters."
One of her first projects will be to help revitalize the parish’s Offering of Letters.
by Amelia Kegan
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted on two competing tax proposals: H.R. 8 and H.R. 15. News accounts reported that H.R. 15 would extend tax cuts for those earning up to $250,000 and H.R. 8 would extend tax cuts for everyone. But that is not the whole story.
H.R. 8 Would Not Extend Tax Cuts for Everyone
H.R. 8 failed to extend critical tax credits for low-income working families—the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). These are the salient details about the bill:
- H.R. 8 eliminates EITC marriage-penalty relief.
- H.R. 8 prevents families from earning even $1 of the CTC until they make at least $13,000.
- H.R. 8 reduces EITC benefits for families with three or more kids.
Congress has made significant improvements to EITC and CTC, so H.R. 8 would harm millions of low-income working families in 2013 by allowing the improvements to expire. These will be some of the consequences if the bill passes:
- 8.9 million families, including 16.4 million children, would be harmed if earnings below $13,000 are no longer counted toward the tax credit.
- 3.7 million families, including 5.8 million children, would lose the Child Tax Credit entirely.
- 6.5 million families, including nearly 16 million children, would be hurt by the expiration of the EITC improvements.
Heather Rude-Turner, 31, of northern Virginia, was once a single mom receiving WIC, SNAP, and EITC. Because of this, she said she can relate to some of the low-income families who bring their children to the childcare center where she works as a teacher. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.
House of Representatives Pulls Farm Bill Extension from Drought Relief Package
by Christine Meléndez Ashley
We had expected some floor action on food and farm policy in the House of Representatives on Tuesday through Speaker John Boehner’s drought relief proposal, which included a one-year extension of the farm bill. It was the first farm bill proposal we had seen coming out of this Congress that created a circle of protection around programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), which are vital to hungry and poor people.
While we have consistently maintained a preference for a full, five-year re-authorization of the farm bill, we were pleased to see no cuts to SNAP in that proposal.
Late Tuesday night, however, it became apparent there was not enough support to pass a drought relief bill with a one-year farm bill extension attached so they yanked it. The House currently plans to vote on a drought relief package separately from the farm bill this afternoon.
We continue to urge Congress to pass a bill that protects and strengthens SNAP and international food aid.
So far, the House and Senate have both proposed harmful cuts to SNAP. The Senate bill cut $4.5 billion over ten years which would result in roughly 500,000 households losing $90 a month in SNAP benefits. The House bill cut even more from SNAP, $16.5 billion over ten years. These cuts could lead to 2-3 million people losing SNAP benefits and 280,000 kids losing free school meals—in addition to the 500,000 households losing $90 a month in benefits.
We were happy to see the Senate’s international food aid provisions and disappointed that the House did not include similar provisions in its bill.
In fact, the House bill cuts international food aid quality programs so deeply that it would effectively end international food aid programs that focus on nutritional deficiencies and targeted populations.
Judging from the history of the 2008 Farm Bill, we do not discount the possibility of short-term extensions of the current legislation. The farm debate could very well spill into the next Congress, as has happened in the past. Stay tuned for updates as the 2012 Farm Bill process continues to unfold.
- Learn more about Bread's mini campaign for domestic nutrition assistance.
Christine Meléndez Ashley is an analyst at Bread for the World.