Think of All the Starving Millions… in America!

chinaI have always regarded vegetables as something cows and goats should eat – or maybe rabbits. As a child I would sometimes try to feed my vegetables to one of the dogs lurking hopefully under the table and the dog would have nothing to do with them. When my mother caught me, she would look at me reproachfully and say, “Think of the starving millions in China. Those children would be glad to get your vegetables.”

Now, I wonder whether Chinese mothers are telling their children to think of the starving millions in America.

For times have changed. As they say in Jamaica, “every dog has his day and every puss his twelve o’clock.” Now, it’s definitely China’s day. Consider this news item:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture disclosed Sunday that nearly one in six U.S. households went hungry at some time during 2008, the highest level since it began monitoring food security levels in 1995.

Altogether, 14.6 percent of households, or some 49 million people, “had difficulty putting enough food on the table at times during the year”, according to the report, “Household Food Security in the United States, 2008”.

That marked a sharp increase from the 11.1 percent of households, or 36.2 million people, who found themselves in similar straits during 2007, according to the report whose lead author predicted that the percentage was likely to be higher in 2009 due to the ripple effects of the financial crisis that erupted 14 months ago.

Among the 17 million households that experienced hunger – or “food insecurity”, as the report referred to it – during 2008, about one-third suffered “very low food security”, meaning that the amount of food of at least some household members was reduced and their normal eating patterns were substantially disrupted. Such households experienced such disruptions for at least a few days during seven or eight months of the year.

The other two-thirds were able to obtain enough food to avoid substantial disruptions by using a number of coping strategies, such as eating less varied diets, participating in government food and nutrition assistance programmes, or obtaining food from community food pantries or emergency kitchens.

And the number of households in which children, as well as adults, were subject to “very low food security” rose steeply – from 323,000 in 2007 to 506,000 last year, according to the report.

That’s right, in America where Wall Street bankers and influential investors are once again raking in millions – a lot of it from government bailouts – (and where it costs a million dollars to keep one U.S. soldier in Afghanistan for a year) millions of children are going to bed hungry.

Meanwhile, this from Reuters in China:

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is now the world’s biggest bank by market value, while Citigroup Inc., once the world’s No.1 bank, is worth the same as a second-tier commercial bank in China.

Two senior Chinese bankers said they had been invited this year by U.S. officials, investment bankers and financial advisers to look at several potential investments in U.S. banks, mostly in financial trouble.

“The trend is already there,” said one Chinese banker. “Now they’re going to make this into an agreement to show there’s a change in official attitude toward Chinese investments in the U.S. banking system,” said the banker, who declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the matter.

A Sino-U.S. Memorandum of Understanding to encourage Chinese banks to invest in U.S. lenders is in the making, and China’s banking regulator has sought feedback from big domestic banks, bankers told Reuters.

Over 100 U.S. banks have already been seized by regulators in the financial crisis, and more bank failures could come as the Obama administration also needs more capital to take over troubled lenders.

The Chinese are holding American government IOUs worth nearly a trillion dollars, and they’re looking to buy up America’s community banks with some of the excess money. They’re already using some of the U.S. paper to buy up raw materials all over the developing world and are cornering the market on the rare metals needed for electronics (most of which is to be found in China, anyway).

Are there still starving millions in China? Perhaps. The Chinese dictators don’t share such information. And with nearly a billion and a half mouths to feed, the Chinese government has a monumental task. But, from what I’ve heard on PBS, there’s a growing Chinese middle class, and China is taking the lead in such initiatives as “green” technology. Meanwhile, in America, the middle class is rapidly disappearing, and the promised “green revolution” is still a blip on the radar screen.

So, you can tell your kids (and grandkids) to save their unwanted vegetables for the rabbits and goats or whatever. The Chinese don’t need them any more.

 

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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