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Starving for Change

Posted on Nov 24, 2008
AP photo / Kiichiro Sato, file

Leah Poare visits a food pantry in Columbus, Ohio. Even with the help of free groceries, Poare and her husband limit themselves to one full meal a day, usually in the evening, so that their three children, ages 6, 7 and 17, can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.

By Chris Hedges

(Page 2)

      States, facing dramatic budget shortfalls, are slashing social assistance programs, including Medicaid, social services and education. New Jersey’s shortfall has tripled to $1.2 billion and could soar to $5 billion for the next fiscal year. Tax revenue has fallen to $211 million less than projected. States are imposing hiring freezes, canceling raises and cutting back on services big and small, from salting and plowing streets in winter to heating assistance programs. Unemployment insurance funds, especially with the proposed extension of benefits, are running out of money. Governors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger in California and David A. Paterson in New York have called special legislative sessions to deal with the crisis.

If Barack Obama continues to turn to the elites who created the mess, if he does not radically redirect the nation’s resources to assist the working class and the poor, we will become a third-world country. We will waste gargantuan amounts of money we cannot afford on our military, our national security state and bloated corporations while we damn the middle and working class to the whims, idiocy and greed of an entrenched, corporate oligarchy. Obama’s appointments of Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers as director of the National Economic Council are ominous signals that these elites remain entrenched.

Dolores Williams, 57, sat in the cramped waiting room at the Crisis Ministry clutching a numbered card, waiting for it to be called. She has lived in a low-income apartment block known as The Kingsbury for a year. Two residents, she said, recently jumped to their deaths from the 19th floor. She had a job at Sam’s Club but lost it. No one, she says, is hiring. She is desperate.

    She handed me a copy of The Trentonian, a local paper. The headline on the front page read: “Gangster Slammed for Bicycle Drive-By.” It was the story of the conviction of a man for a fatal drive-by shooting from a bicycle. The paper, as I flipped through it, was filled with stories like these, the result of social, economic and moral collapse. Poverty breeds more than hunger. It destroys communities. There was a report about a 56-year-old woman who was robbed and pistol-whipped in the middle of the afternoon. There was an article about the plight of four children whose two parents had been shot and seriously wounded. “Libraries OK Now, but Future Is Murky” a headline read. Another announced: “Still No Arrests in Hooker Slayings.”

“It is like this every day,” Williams said. 

So while our nation crumbles, physically and morally, while our empire implodes, while our economy tanks, the bankrupt elites who got us here play the merry-go-round game of power in Washington. They will continue to oversee our demise, including the obscene drain of our military and security budget, which now accounts for half of all discretionary spending. Pentagon officials have reportedly asked the Obama transition team for $581 billion, an increase of $67 billion. This increase does not, of course, include the $3 trillion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We will pay these loans later.

      Banks, automotive companies and investment firms, all sinking under the weight of their own incompetence and greed, head to Washington, usually in private jets, to engage in the largest looting of the treasury in American history. And Congress doles out our money without oversight in the greatest transference of wealth upwards in modern times.

      As this pitiful march of folly rolls forward, children in Trenton and across America go to bed hungry. 

Chris Hedges’ Truthdig column appears every Monday.


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By Ed Harges, November 24, 2008 at 2:36 pm Link to this comment

The root cause of the banking crisis is the loss of decent-paying jobs in America. People can’t make enough money, so they can’t pay their debts, and then the banks fail.

So if we really wanted to stabilize the banks, we wouldn’t throw money at the bankers. We’d invest the money in jobs for the American people. Then the debts would be paid on schedule, and the banks would be fine. But of course, we can’t help actual non-rich people directly - that would be “socialism”.

So we give trillions to the bankers, and they just spend it on more private jets and tropical vacations and golden parachutes, and then demand more, because those millions of mortgages and credit card balances are still going unpaid, because the jobless or underpaid American people still can’t pay them.

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By writeon, November 24, 2008 at 1:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The truth about words is that one can easily twist them to mean virtually anything, even the opposite of what most people think they mean, in the right persons mouth. Sentences, are, if anything, even worse than single words.

It’s close to a rule that the political abilities of outstanding orators are usually in inverse proportion to their skill with with words and their gifts for working a crowd, the bigger the better.

I think Obama’s reign will turn out to resemble Tony Blair’s to an extraordinary degree, as he has many of the same characteristics and attitudes and weaknesses. What’s sad is that so many young people are going to see their hopes, enthusiasm, idealism and trust; trampled in the dust, with only cynicism left, as the people they didn’t vote for return through the back door as if nothing really changed at all, par for the course.

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By prole, November 24, 2008 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment

Barack Obama has no choice but to “turn to the elites” who not only “created the mess”, for self-serving motives of their own, but created St. Barack himself. Without the elites, who invented his political persona and bankrolled his campaign – he pointedly refused public funding, recall - he might be shuffling up to a food pantry in North Lawndale himself now, instead of having two luxurious mansions (not as many as McCain, but still not shabby for a putative ‘community organizer’) and living the high life, rubbing shoulders with the Pritzker’s and doing deals with the Rezko’s. If Obama Copacabana turns on the elites, they will turn on him. He is where he is, and does what he does, at their sufferance. They can shut him down in an instant, by fair means or foul. There is no room in the White House or anywhere near the pinnacles of power for radical egalitarians or even do-gooder reformists who would even remotely contemplate daring to “redirect the nation’s resources to assist the working class and the poor”. For a highly placed government official – or aspiring candidate - to even mention in public the dreaded words “working class” is strictly taboo. To actually attempt to act upon any such redistributive notions is to invite political oblivion or worse. The “ominous signals” were readily apparent in the Obama campaign carnival all along for anyone who bothered to peer past the confectionary rhetoric and giddy emotionalism that swayed most “illiterate” voters. Obama’s vaunted ability to ‘reach across the aisle’ has meant a near capitulation “to the whims, idiocy and greed of an entrenched, corporate oligarchy.” Reaching across the aisle means always reaching farther to his right, not reaching across to food pantries, shelters and ‘third world’ refugee camps. Once again we’re confused with this “we” crap. More to the point They “waste gargantuan amounts of money” that We “cannot afford on” Their “military, [their] national security state and bloated corporations”. And it all makes perfect sense for Them, it’s perfectly ‘rational’ for serving Their interests since it doesn’t much matter if We, the underlying population is reduced to so-called “third world status”. Capital movement is trans-national and the new class elites are globalized as well, with little nationalist allegiance anymore. Class solidarity across national borders among the proles has yet to catch up with Davos and WTO and class coordination among the elites. Perhaps, in an ironic sort of way, it may provide a silver lining in an admittedly very dark cloud, if America’s own underclass began to think of themselves as ‘third world’ and identified more with those in similar predicaments around the world – many of them victims of American elites predatory imperial foreign policies. For too long, the American working class has for the most part been a very reactionary force in society, identifying more with its own elites on jingoistic nationalist grounds. As long as that continues, it will be easy to enlist them in the service of empire, as cannon fodder, or factory fodder, or ‘silent majority’ accomplices. Maybe at last the blinkers will be removed and We will start to question the “entrenched, corporate oligarchy” a little deeper, instead of pitifully supplicating some corporate-oligarchy false messiah like Obama will open the welfare spigots again, enough so a few nourishing drops will trickle down to the huddled masses.

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By Frank, November 24, 2008 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment

Oh come, on , there can’t really be homeless or hungry people in America in need of help, otherwise why would all those good christians who supported Palin be spending their money on new TV ads to fawn over the running mate of a candidate who lost.

Obviously, homeless and hungry people are to blame for their problems, they just don’t work hard enough. I heard it from the GOP myself.

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By KDelphi, November 24, 2008 at 12:03 pm Link to this comment

Thank you, Chris Hedges

Gawd, there are so many good ideas , and motivations here..what shall we do?

troublesum, TAO, Spiritgirl, lichen, G. Anderson, Amarcissie (I especially like “with or without him”)—I am with you.

felicity—what about the working classes and the poor? These stimulus packages rarely include anything for people who do not make enough to pay taxes. Yet, we vote for your candiate over an over, while you promise to hold them to the “change” the promise..someday never comes.

michele—wait? for whom? I am actually WORSE off then the article! My SSI is smaller , because I had some money left from a settlement, when I had to go on Medicaid. It is less than $600. I have friends, family help(although alot less now!!) I dont live alone, basically—I have to, legally. There are people here who would be in the snow if they werent here. So,. they contribute what they can, and stay.

michele—I am for you…why are you not for yourself?

PEOPLE ARE DYING! michele, we are not. Not yet.But, many will tonight—there is snow again.It is sad that, ever since I went into social work, the snow only makes me think of how many will die in it tonight. They will not wake up tomorrow. What shall we do??

GW—-single payer all the way. Incremental change will let people die!!STOP the empty pursuit of profits!! STOP the military agression!! PEOPLE ARE DYING!!

What about all the money this campaign cost? Still thnk its “great” that so many poor people gave what they were convinced that they could?

The Bush tax curs are so immorqal, that, anyone who would not call for their immediate rollback , care about the poor NOT AT ALL! I just heard Summers at He will advise Obama to NOT roll them back, to just let thwm expire in 2011. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. The “war on terror” is not acceptable!

What shall we do? We cannot ‘wait”.

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By troublesum, November 24, 2008 at 11:27 am Link to this comment

Obama’s news conference today was nothing but hot air.  All the people who have helped to create the crisis have been chosen to fix it.  The working class does not exist according to Obama.  There is only the middle class and the wealthy.  And we’re all in it together.  Billionaires and the unemployed together.  One big happy family, just as long as we put partisanship aside.  Putting partisanship aside means going along with what is good for wall street bankers.

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By Spiritgirl, November 24, 2008 at 11:15 am Link to this comment

The stories that you write about here are a compilation of years of disastrous policies by a corrupt Republican party and their spine-less Democratic collaborators over the last 30 years!  Yes, Bush deserves massive credit as his policies have promoted the avarice and unrestrained laissez-faire approach that has culminated in the current crisis that we face as a nation!  Americans are also at fault, believing in the rhetoric and voting for the very people that were ignoring the interests of “Main Street” as they pandered to their corporate controllers! “Main Street” ah, well we’ve bought the farm of “free-market capitalism” in the form of consumerism! 

So now it’s time to pay the piper.  Am I angry that these larcenous pigs have the nerve to think that they need to feed at the trough of public money, even as they show up on their own private jets - you d-mn right!  I also believe that the Military-Industrial-Complex needs to ended, NOW!  There are myriad programs (Star Wars, anyone) that don’t work, haven’t been proven to work, and probably won’t ever work!  I’m sure that a few billion saved from that disastrous adventure can be utilized to start to help get “Main Street” back on course!

The days of endless consumerism and waste are over, and the faster Americans realize that the easier it will be!  We cannot continue to pollute the environment, consume endlessly, allow ourselves to be divided by nonsense, bully the rest of the world, and allow corporate oligarchy to continue!  The real change we want starts with all of us, one step at a time!

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By TAO Walker, November 24, 2008 at 11:09 am Link to this comment

Has anyone else noticed the great blossoming of “semiotics” in institutional discourse here in these latter days?  Seems like everybody is always “sending messages” of one kind or another to allies, adversaries, “the public,” you-name-it.  So here’s Chris Hedges again acting as probably unwitting “transmitter” of the one real message the “powers” that wannabe have for everybody else:  YOU ARE ALL SHIT-OUT-OF-LUCK, Suckers!

They’ve been telling you lesser orders this loud-and-clear since at least the advent of the have-mores’ messiah Reagan.  They’ve been rubbing your runny noses in it all through the Clinton and Bush II regimes, and ALL the “signals” so far shout MORE-OF-THE-SAME from the “new New Deal” coming (not simply to office, but) to POWER a couple months from now….call it Clinton redux?

“So when ya gonna wake-up….” people?  The “message” ain’t going to change.  That ought to’ve been painfully obvious after the 2006 faux elections.  Barack Obama, even if he really wanted to, is absolutely powerless to “change” the fundamental institutional, ideological, and technological arrangement he only wants to tweak a little anyhow.  So continuing to look for “help” from on-high will continue to be the heighth of folly for those billions of expendables beneath the very apex of the “global” pyramid scam.

No doubt many of those “redundant individuals” will go on looking to this or that member of the “divine” orders for ultimate salvation from this “vale-of-tears.”  Best of luck to ‘em.

Here in the actual Living Arrangement, though, us surviving primitive Savages at least know enough to count on each other and All Our Relations, along with our Mother Earth and Life Herownself, to provide The Way through the catastrophic collapse of yet another dead-end civilization here.  Our Lakotah cousins call it The Tiyoshpaye Way….genuine living organic Human “community,” not the cheap imitation plastic substitute for it pushed by vested intersts needing unlimited supplies of isolate “individuals” to fuel their false economy with.

This old Indian is here to say again, tame Two-legged Sisters and Brothers….This is NOT a test.  This is the actual EMERGENCY!  Better get your shit TOGETHER before your tormentors and their inhuman “agents” finish having their degenerate “way” with you.  They are not kidding in their “message” to you all.

Over and out.


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By lichen, November 24, 2008 at 11:03 am Link to this comment

Where are those great things we heard from the republicans during the election, about spreading the wealth, socialism, and the revival 60’s radicals?  Lol… 

But yes, the news today says that obama announced an economic stimulus plan of well over 700 billion between now and 2011, and also said that he is considering waiting until 2011 to repeal bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy…  So where is the funding going to come from, fool?

There is enough money in this country to house, clothe, feed, educate/train, provide living wages, and medically treat everyone on 100% truly green energy.  So it is time to fucking do that already!!!!

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By Tom, November 24, 2008 at 10:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What is best way we folks with jobs can help Elba & Dolores????

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By felicity, November 24, 2008 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

Revolting as it is, the fact that America’s financial sector is now one-half as big as the total profits of America’s non-financial firms qualifies the financial sector as too-big-to-fail. (In the ‘70’s and ‘80’s it was one-fifth as big.)

Admittedly it’s stomach-turning to have to provide a reprieve to firms directly responsible for the misery too many Americans are now experiencing, but if we don’t, the misery will only become deeper and more wide-spread.

Consumer spending makes up 70 percent of our economy. Without access to credit, businesses will fold, jobs will be lost, consumption will decrease.  The resulting downward spiral of the economy will be devastating to far more Americans than are presently experiencing financial hardship.

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By GW=MCHammered, November 24, 2008 at 9:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hafta stop the mindless greed-humping. No better place to begin detoxing than with the Health Scare industry, nationalize it: End our Oil Addiction: End Bush’s wars and rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. Make education and government more efficient and accountable by comparing to systems abroad, implement strategies accordingly. No more bailouts but taxpayer loans doled according to jail terms for criminal CEOs and their fellow felons. We need real human accountability or it’s just more of the same perversion.

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By HeevenSteven, November 24, 2008 at 9:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well that’s the bad news; is there any good news?

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By Virginia777, November 24, 2008 at 8:24 am Link to this comment

Can we please place blame where blame lies??

Bush, yes absolutely, needs blaming. But Obama? Everything he has done remains to be seen if it is effective or not.

This article focusing on the poor and hungry is so important - but there are so many other more valid “targets” than Obama.

For one, how about pointing the finger at the donors who have lowered their donations. Where are the Liberal elites here? How come the conservative churches are usually the biggest donors of food (and other services) to the poor?

How come liberal elite donors (like George Soros) give so much money to “human rights” groups, that then focus their energies on human rights abuses in OTHER countries? (and not ours!) This is senseless.

Can we focus our attention please? on re-assembling (and motivating) the greatly weakened Left in our country. This is where we can find hope.

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By Anarcissie, November 24, 2008 at 8:19 am Link to this comment

I read an article some time ago by J. K. Galbraith arguing that the U.S. was already a Third-World country.  I think we went by that milestone a long time ago.

I suggest not mobilizing against but mobilizing for.  We (the United States) can certainly afford basic food, clothing and housing for everybody.  Let’s start with food.  Draw up a list of ten or twelve basic foods that will prevent people from going hungry: rice, beans, oil, flour, rolled oats, dry milk, and so on.  Give them to anyone who wants them—skip the bureaucracy.  The rich are not going to line up for bags of oatmeal and the middle classes paid for them so no harm if they take some. 

If we can’t afford this, we could always drop out of the war-of-the-month club. 

If Obama wants to come along, let him.  If not, let’s go without him.

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By Folktruther, November 24, 2008 at 7:26 am Link to this comment

No, it is not too early to mobilize against Obama.

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By michele hemenway, November 24, 2008 at 7:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Is it possible we could wait and see what’s going to happen once he’s actually in office? I am one of the people waiting and hoping for help, like ones described here. I am no better off, believe me. But you know what?
When people like this writer, who I truly admire, and who rightly tell these stories, continue to _____ all over the only hope we have right now for new governance, it’s not the helpful act he thinks it is from his writer’s tower.

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By Jim Yell, November 24, 2008 at 6:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think it too early to wring our hands, even though I am disturbed by the wholesale embrace of people like McCain and Lieberman. I am confused as to the wisdom of too many forgiven for their complicity in the last eight years and maybe even going back to St. Reagan.

However, we didn’t get the complete repudiation of the past 8 years that we should have expected from this election. Some reapproachment is absolutely necessary to keep from wasting energy that needs to be directed towards the nation’s problems.

So for now I can only ask is this wise? Is this brilliant? We won’t know for at lest the next 12 months. Due to our political system we will be locked into whatever direction things take for 4 years, just as we have been locked into the right wing debacle for the last 8 years.

If this turns into a wreck, I doubt the country can survive a combined and uninterrupted 12 years of bad government. Now we wait and see.

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By KISS, November 24, 2008 at 6:28 am Link to this comment

While I agree with most of G Anderson’s comment I think Bush more of Caligula than King George. The excesses of Bush and Co. is appalling and I see the Assignees of Obama more of the same we are now experiencing.Always in Ameika the rich and non-deserving are blessed by the government and the dupes who make up the work force get the short shrift.
The warnings were posted long ago and yet the dupes would not heed the warnings. Remember the stats on unemployment don’t count the one’s that are off the unemployment paycheck. Those figures are skewed by at least 10%.So if 20% is listed it is more truthful to be 30%. The great depression was listed at 25%, how many for a revolution?

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By G.Anderson, November 24, 2008 at 5:53 am Link to this comment

Practising third world politics is what this country has done since Ronald Reagan was in office.

Spending every dime we can on the military, while our people suffer, and supporting a handful of elite who control the countries political power. That’s classic third world poltics, and that’s been America since Reagan.

It’s my hope that President Bush keeps making speeches about how wonderful free trade has been for our country until his final days in office. Because each time he opens his mouth, conservative politics hastens it’s fall into oblivion.

The Democrats, to their shame supported many of the rights, third world at home policies, and seemed, except for a very small few, too weak to do anything else.

Yet even now they seem, like livestock on the way to the slaughter house, contentidly chewing their poltical cud, unaware of the jolt they are about to recieve.

Helping the banks, is not going to help. The only thing that will restore confidence to the consumer, is restoring their belief that they have some financial alternatives. This was why FDR created Social Security.

Our government needs to re examine this concept. “Social Security”, can only be restored when consumers have protection from the banks.
Which is exactly the opposite of what is happening now.

Until Credit Card reform, and bankrupcy reform, and labor laws, Consumer Protection Laws and NAFTA…and all the third world politics of the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan, have been repudiated by the Democratic party, America will keep sinking lower and lower.

The Maddness of King George, is there for all to see. He has accomplished more harm to this country than all it’s combined enemies for the last 40 years. Instead of making our country strong, he has made it weak. And because he has made us weak, he has made us vulnerable. Each and every man woman and child in this country will suffer from what he’s done.

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