Freeloaders in the Southern Tier
Posted by Jonathan Jaffe on April 13, 2012
This past Monday I had the opportunity to attend a Discussion on Homelessness and Hunger in the Southern Tier, with panelists Christine Olson, a Cornell Professor of Nutritional Sciences, Kathy Schlather, Executive Director of the Human Services Coalition for Tomkins County, Nathan Shinagawa, Vice Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, and Matt, the stand in for Natasha Thompson, President and CEO of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. The discussion revolved around the topic of hunger in America, which even has a presence – albeit a reduced one – in Tompkins County. The intent of hosting the panel at Cornell was to awaken Cornell University students to the notion of poverty in the area surrounding our community.
However, in spite of the panelists’ well-meaning intentions, the panel merely emerged as an opportunity for local area leaders to complain about the lack of handouts available to impoverished Americans, citing the need for the addition of 9 million tons of food to the supply at the Food bank of the Southern Tier. Surely, this is an unnecessary burden for taxpayers – individuals who work hard for their money and as a result can supply their own food. Panelist Kathy Schlather even goes on to say that it is the fault of government programs that people stay homeless, taking fault with a number of restrictions placed on federal stipends. In one such example, Schlather says that it is unfair to the hungry that there are restrictions on those individuals who can receive federal support based on current drug usage. Certainly it is not the job of taxpayers to support the unwise drug habits of others. If those seeking support refuse treatment, then it is no longer the responsibility of the government to provide them with food.
Schlather also discusses the inability for some of Ithaca’s homeless to obtain and maintain jobs, citing a lack of work experience and high housing prices around local places of work as the culprits for the place of America’s homeless in society. Furthermore, it is not the concern of the government that Ithaca’s housing prices are high, especially due the relatively cheaper housing options available in Cortland, a few, short miles away. If the federal government is willing to shoulder burden of the homeless, in the form of housing stipends, surely the homeless population can manage a longer commute to work.
In response to a question about funding for the ambitious plans proposed by the panelists, Nate Shinagawa, a United States Congressional candidate, suggested that the solution would be to raise taxes. However, while increasing taxes may provide Shinagawa with the funding he desires, a tax increase to support non-taxpayers seems insulting to average Americans who do not require the support of federal or state programs. Shouldering the burden of the minority of Americans who cannot find employment or maintain a job on their own is a ludicrous suggestion that propagates a cycle of dependence.
While it is true that homelessness and hunger in America are problems, it is not the job of the federal government to support those people who cannot support themselves. Instead, it makes far more sense for the federal government to provide the homeless with encouragement and training in order to find and secure jobs of their own, better providing for America’s future.