The news that 1.7 million North Carolinians will see a cut to their food assistance is alarming. North Carolina already ranks among the top 15 states for food insufficiency adding to this mix, the dramatic cuts to other family needs, places low-income families in a predicament that is unsettling.
How do families already struggling to make ends meet survive substantial cuts to basic human needs? The notion that if you cut their unemployment benefits, decrease the number of eligible weeks, make cuts to Head Start, employ dramatic social service qualification standards while at the same time negotiating marijuana as a viable “medical option” and restricting voter rights, should somehow inspire” the poor to promote personal self-sufficiency while both hungry and in need of medical care that the state leadership opposes and has rejected, is difficult to understand.
The belief that the poor are poor “on purpose” is mind boggling. The poor would have to have tremendous political clout, long-standing relationships with capital outlets wielding tremendous power and access to brokers of information and public policy giving them favorable nods by pushing their agenda. The poor have access to neither. Their collective will go unnoticed and no matter how hard they work to “rebrand” themselves; this too takes incredible power and access to mediums of public policy, private intent and outlets of media sources wielding their influence. It takes intentionality of the powerful to do such a thing. This is when accountability can be applied and appropriately. The poor can dream a dream and actually stand a chance of it coming true. They commit to bettering themselves and their families ending generational poverty and life on public supports.
But, to say all persons are due a decent human right to chase dreams and then cast blocks that make them stumble or build systems that are insurmountable, is just not fair. It contradicts intent thereby annuls the offer to help rid people of poverty. You cannot continue to enact laws that disproportionately harm the poor and dress it up as a need to be fiscally accountable with that accountability being defined according to a party’s platform and not according to human need.
Understood are very basic principles. In times of fiscal challenge, great care must be taken to “protect” the poor. Why? It becomes too easy not too. They lack political power, and fiscal might. They are least capable of defending their interest. Therefore, the tendency to cut, dissolve or minimize their survival needs is exercised with little pause. Their needs are labor intensive, strategically intentional and requires advocates on both sides of the aisle to see them first as living, breathing beings. Observations from any other perspective have a creative force that’s lopsided, prepped to be toppled- over and beyond what can be a balanced approach to personal accountability and self-sufficiency.
To cut food aid to poor families is not the way to balance budgets or use them as fodder in political exercises to get legislation passed- kicking them down a field of sorts, so a particular party can score. Food is a necessary substance. It is life. No one with a clear conscience can take already fragile frames that the poor have to work within, and diminish its strength without considering its impact, and then expect their performance to move them off of public support into self –sufficient.
Now is the time for a collective voice to be raised opposing legislation that targets cuts to food. Having access to “enough” food on a daily basis, is not a Democratic or Republican right, it is a human right. Families expect more of a democracy that has beckoned its tired and poor and disenfranchised to its teeming shores, promising refuge while figuring out all the complexity of all the other semantics of survival.