Thanksgiving would be more enjoyable if the fortunate among us knew that all Americans would be equally blessed with a full table and a warm home on this holiday weekend.
During this week's World Food Security summit in Rome, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual report on hunger in America.
The numbers of hungry Americans in 2008, those experiencing "food insecurity" to use the USDA's politically correct term, is 17 million households. About a third of those had "very low food security," a term which translated means that at some point during the year they skipped meals, cut portions or sacrificed eating.
The remaining two-thirds had food but compromised by eating cheaper, less healthy foods while relying on food stamps, soup kitchens and various charities.
More bad news included the grim statistic that of the 49 million people who faced hunger on at least one occasion last year, 16.7 million were children, a 4.2 million increase from 2007 and the highest on record since 1995.
When word of America's hunger crisis reached President Barack Obama in Asia, he issued a statement saying that his administration is "committed to reversing the trend of rising hunger...the first task is to restore job growth..." [US Department of Agriculture Report Shows 17 Million Americans Struggling to Put Food on the Table, Herald Sun, November 17, 2009]
Whether you are hungry or not this Thanksgiving, Obama's empty words provide no comfort.
Obama's first task is not restoring job growth, as important as that is, but to instead rearrange America's spending priorities.
The truth is that the U.S. has enough money to make sure everyone can eat. For decades, though, the government has squandered our wealth.
Think back six years ago to when the Iraq War began. You'll recall that George W. Bush's administration pledged a quick, cheap and successful conflict. Bush broke all his promises.
Gradually, Iraq War expanded into Afghanistan. The oil revenues projected to cover war's costs never turned up. Finally, "success" is the wrong word to apply to America's middle east conflicts.
Originally the White House scorned Larry Lindsey, President Bush's economic adviser and head of the National Economic Council, when he suggested that the Iraq War costs might reach $200 billion. If only Lindsey had been right!
Here's what happened instead.
During the next budget year, the Afghanistan War will cost Americans more than the Iraq War. By the end of the next fiscal year, which starts October 1, the total military budget costs for both wars will have exceeded $1 trillion.
An analysis made by the Christian Science Monitor explains a trillion dollars this way: If you had an expense account good for $1 million a day, it would take 2,935 years to spend $1.071 trillion. The cost to the typical American family of four will reach roughly $13,000 by next year.
Officially, Afghanistan war costs are budgeted at $65 billion for fiscal 2010, somewhat more than the $61 billion for the Iraq war, but less than the $85 billion other defense experts place the total at.
All in, Harvard professor of economics Linda Blimes predicts the total cost of the two wars will be "significantly more" than $3 trillion. [The Three Trillion Dollar War, by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, The Times, February 23, 2008]
Now going on eight years, the Afghanistan war already rivals the Revolutionary War as the second-longest United States armed conflict (after Vietnam). If it drags on four more years, it will become America's longest war.
Twelve years in Afghanistan will also ensure that America keeps her rank as the world's No. 1 military spender, representing up to half of what the world spends in aggregate on defense.
While the federal government always has a reason to spend billions on questionable foreign conflicts, it never occurs to them that only a tiny percentage of the war chest would feed millions.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.