Christina Spach, Program Manager
On the plane a few weeks ago I sat beside a gentleman who honestly believes that people are poor because they are stupid and lack initiative. This guy opined that laziness is the root cause of poverty, and while I realized he was thoroughly enjoying the debate at my expense, I also recognized he shares a drastically different worldview than I, and he certainly can’t be the only one.
Are we really so polarized in our country that we can’t even see that everyone does not have the same access to opportunities? Or do we still pretend that a college degree guarantees a job, or that a job guarantees we can feed our families?
Tell that to the thousands of college graduates who have returned to live with their parents because they can’t find employment. Or to the farmers, farm workers, food workers, and others who take on two and three jobs and still have to apply for food stamps.
And how far off is airplane guy’s belief that poor people are lazy from that of our legislators who continue to cut away at the social safety net, despite the overwhelming evidence of the struggles of our families to meet their most basic of human needs?
Because it certainly doesn’t feel like our legislators are acting for the benefit of the people when they cannot even pass the most basic of gun control legislation in the wake of a string of mass killings across the country.
I believe in a country where hard-working people can feed themselves and their families, where we all have the opportunity for a quality education, and where access to healthy food is not a privilege, but rather a human right. And I believe we can get there.
In my position at CFJC, I see that communities are doing amazing work despite the dysfunction of our Congress. It’s our job to be a resource for community; we don’t pretend to be the experts with solutions. We believe that communities bring their own solutions to the challenges they face, but often times lack the space and resources to come into their own power.
During my travels across the country I’ve seen that we tend to work in siloes, which further impedes our collective progress because united we stand and divided we fall. And doesn’t this only benefit the misguided belief that corporate profit should lead policy; that corporations are the “people.”
We believe equity can be the lens and guiding principle to align our efforts with our intrinsic values, valuing people over politics, and over political and corporate gain.
I challenge our Congress to follow the same logic, and for policy to reflect what communities actually need.
Two months ago we were hearing from D.C. legislative staff that we could have seen the end of the Farm Bill process as we have come to know it. The future looked like continuing resolution after sequestration after backroom deals. Then this past Monday we learned that both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are moving forward with their respective 2013 Farm Bill versions. It’s as if Congress is making up the process as they go along.
We believe it is time that policy reflects the needs of community and we are determined to see that Congress gets the message.