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Last week, I was in India. It has been an independent country now, not under the British rule.
I remember our high-school textbook showing a drawing of Queen Victoria as empress of India. Part of the legacy of British colonization was that they thought it was OK to rule the world. The expression was, “The sun never sets on the British Empire.”
I was at a wedding and briefly met a man whose family held the famous diamond, known as the Koh-i-Noor diamond. This is now the large diamond part of the crown jewels in England. The British took it, just like they took what is known as the “Elgin Marbles” beginning in 1801. The Earl of Elgin took these from the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Greece. Neither the diamond nor the marbles have been repatriated. They reside in the former colonial ruler’s capital city, London. Both countries want their stolen goods back, and the British are not giving them back.
On my way back home from India, and as the congressional “budget” (there is none, only broad changes from sequestration and a continuing resolution) took hold, I began to wonder if were beginning to look like a colonial power and if our hold on the world is going to go the way of the British.
The British took things such as diamonds and marble. Through our vast spying program, we have taken phone conversations and emails from countries that we have no right to take. It is just as much hubris as taking diamonds. Who do we think we are? Do we really think we run the world and have a right to do it? Do we think we have the power to spy on elected leaders from around the world?
Back home this week, that colonial type hubris showed itself in our budget, or lack thereof. It was a classic case of people making the laws being out of touch with the citizens of this country. Ever since the crash of a poorly regulated investment system in 2008, many people have been without jobs. Just like the colonial British, policies were made to help those in power but not the majority of people that were being governed by that power. Jobs have improved since the crash, but many policies, such as the “safety net” for the poor, have not.
The popular buzzword of politicians these days has been “middle class” but not poor. Yet it is the poor people who have been robbed of some basic rights because Congress is not doing its job passing a budget. Our lawmakers turn a deaf ear to the poor. This week, the poor got screwed, and it was done via Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (food stamps).
According to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, 48 million Americans and 22 million children will have their food subsidy cut. They say that the benefit cut will reduce SNAP benefits, which are already modest, for all households by 7 percent on average, or about $9 per person per month. Without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits in fiscal year 2014 will average less than $1.40 per person per meal. In addition, their research shows that “SNAP helped to keep nearly 4.7 million Americans out of poverty in 2011, including 2.1 million children, and has been a stepping stone for millions of Americans while they look for work and get back on their feet.”
Congress is filled with people who have “made it” in the system, and they have jobs and can feed their families. They are able to turn a deaf ear to people who do not have jobs or food. The SNAP benefits were increased when the stock market plummeted after 2008, but that expired this week. Congress can’t get it together to put this safety net back into the budget or to get put a program in place to fix infrastructure like roads and bridges that would put people back to work.
Like the British of the 19th century, Congress has an easier time allowing secrets to be stolen and to worry about Wall Street and the rich than the poorer people they rule and govern.
In the year 2000, books declared the previous hundred years as “The American Century.” We will no longer be in that place in the world if Congress rules like the British, and if we continue to behave like a colonial power, only concerned with the upper classes and forgetting about the poor.