Letters: What Do You Think?
“Shootings of Innocents”
Like millions of others, I am dazed with sorrow since the massacre at Sandy Hook. I attended several vigils since that Friday; did you as well? We’re all heartbroken.
President Obama, a father, was clearly stricken with empathetic grief; his statements were beautiful and heartfelt. But will he lead on the “meaningful action” he called for? How many innocent lives have already been taken by gun violence? Who values their assault weapons more than their own children? If now isn’t the time to demand sane gun policy, then when? Mass shootings, along with the less dramatic yet steady flow of single homicides, will continue until we ban easy access to these armaments.
When our American forefathers acted to ensure “a well-regulated militia,” they never could have imagined these mass shootings of innocents in the name of Second Amendment “freedoms.” It would have horrified, enraged and revolted them. How can we continue to tolerate the worship of guns over the lives of our friends, neighbors and children?
Newtown teachers were brave enough to give their lives to try to protect other people’s children. Will politicians be brave enough to protect us from the NRA? The NRA and the gun culture are a cancer on law enforcement and a cancer on the country. No civilian should have access to any automatic, high-speed, high-kill weaponry. If we do not act, we’ll meet soon enough at the next vigil.
Sen. [Diane] Feinstein is bringing legislation to ban assault weapons on Day One of the new Congress. Let’s stand with her and pressure others in Congress to work for sane gun regulation. It’s no longer enough to cry, light candles or pray. The greatest tragedy of all would be to avoid our responsibility to our communities. Words of comfort from high or low will be meaningless without unified action. I’m in; are you?
Actions: The White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress.
President Obama: Gun violence in America must be addressed. http://www.signon.org/sign/president-obama-gun-violence?source=homepage
Contact your members of Congress: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm; http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
Our Neighbors Are Hungry
In Western Mass., we are experiencing a “new normal” state of food insecurity. More households than ever before are facing hunger for longer periods of time, and many families are experiencing food insecurity for the first time ever. This situation will worsen until and unless the economy grows, and jobs are created that pay wages that can support families.
This year, right here in Western Massachusetts (Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties), more than 135,000 residents relied on the emergency food network—made up of The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and 300 local feeding programs—for a bag of groceries or a hot meal. That’s one in eight of us.
Even though Massachusetts’ unemployment rate is down to 6.2 percent, Springfield and Holyoke remain well above the Commonwealth’s average, with 10.1 and 9.5 percent unemployment rates respectively. We also know that employment is no longer necessarily a guarantor of so-called “self-sufficiency.” Insufficient hours, too-low wages or a combination of the two prevent households from being self-sufficient. More and more working families are a pay check, an accident, a layoff away from food insecurity and the risk of outright hunger.
The Massachusetts Budget Policy Center reported, “Over the past forty years, the value of the minimum wage has been eroded by inflation. In 1968, the Massachusetts minimum wage was worth $10.52 (adjusted for inflation). Today it is $8.00. And over the course of a year, that difference adds up. A minimum wage earner working full time earns about $5,000 less today than in 1968.”
Today, about a half a million workers in Massachusetts earn less than $11 an hour. However, even two income earners making $11 an hour can’t support their family of four on $45,760. The Crittenton Women’s Union calculates that a family of four (two working adults with two children, one of whom is pre-school-aged) in Springfield must earn at least $56,347 a year just to meet its basic household expenses.
In addition to combating rising chronic food insecurity, a condition that emergency food distribution cannot solve, food banks are facing serious reductions in government support. The federal government reduced U.S. Department of Agriculture food supplies to the Food Bank by 1 million pounds, or approximately 15 percent of our total distribution, during the 2012 federal fiscal year, which ended on September 30th. Our goal for the coming year and beyond includes replacing the 1-million-pound decline in federal food this year and increasing food distribution by another 2 million pounds annually by 2018. In addition, we will sustain other strategies to help people access food, like conducting SNAP outreach and enrollment. For a relatively small staff investment, The Food Bank can tap into this federal program to increase the food purchasing power of thousands of eligible households with lower incomes, while also supporting businesses that employ residents to boost the local economy. (According to the USDA, every $5 spent on SNAP generates more than $9 in local economic activity.)
Without the SNAP program, we would be overrun by the demand for food assistance. More than 166,000 residents in Western Massachusetts and 45 million people nationwide receive SNAP benefits. Yet at this moment, Congress is considering cutting the SNAP budget by as much as $16 billion over the next 10 years. The fate of SNAP could be decided as early as this month or January, 2013. We are fortunate that the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation signed a resolution rejecting this proposal. I urge you to join us in urging Governor Patrick to request that the President protect SNAP with no cuts, including no changes to the so-called “Heat and Eat” policy. Call the governor’s Boston office, 617-725-4005, or his Springfield office, 413-784-1200, or send him an email by visiting http://www.mass.gov/governor/contact-us.html.