This past week, how many TV stations ran news shorts about the poor, needy, homeless, and fell-on-hard-times folks filling their plates with turkey at the local soupkitchen, church, or charity? I'd guess roughly a gazillion. And how many well-meaning people, bowing their heads around a table, thanked God for the heapin' mounds of food they were about to hoover down, earnestly concluding "...when there are so many who go without"?
Well, this "let's take a moment to think about the poor" holiday reflex has become so cliche, that I was pleased to read about this more meaningful gesture launched in Durango, Colorado. The Walk a Mile project paired elected officials with low-income mothers. The local policymakers pledged to live on a food-stamp budget for one month, just like the moms. The result?
State Rep. Mark Larson, R-Cortez, blew the $114 budget for him and his wife in two weeks.
"It was really eye-opening how quickly that went away," Larson said. "I had to think what were the repercussions if I exceed that budget in two weeks and had to go two weeks without it."
Durango City Councilor Renee Parsons busted her $104 budget on holiday fixings.
"With Thanksgiving, it's an impossible situation. It's an impossible task," she said. "I don't even eat a lot of meat, and I'm a pretty frugal person."
Parsons said she began to feel tired after a couple of weeks on the food-stamp budget because she ate less.
Image if every policymaker who uttered holiday-cued nonsense about the poor were forced to participate in a program like this! Especially those Republican Congressmen (turkeys!) who are trying to extend their big tax cuts for the rich by squeezing the foodstamp budget.
Most foodstamp recipients are moms. Many are single and many of them work. Those are some hard shoes to walk in. Three low-income residents who responded to the Walk-a-Mile fliers were turned away because not enough policymakers were willing to participate.