The Ladies Who Lunch at the Food Bank
by Carol Parker
It has always been a dream of mine, and most women of my generation, I suspect, to one day see a woman elected president of the United States. I still hold that dream. But I know in my heart (call it woman's intuition if you like) that right now, at this moment, Bernie Sanders' solutions to all the financial worries that keep me up at night make the most sense. I trust him because he has not wavered from his principled positions his entire career. I believe he, and he alone of all the candidates running for the presidency, is most in touch with middle class, working class, and poor Americans.
This summer Hillary Clinton rolled out her proposed economic plan in a much-anticipated speech. As populist as she sounded, I am still not persuaded her solutions are bold enough to restore prosperity to the average American.
UC Professor Robert Reich is someone I much admire. His documentary movie, Inequality for All, is a must-see if you want to understand just how we got ourselves into the economic pickle we're in and how best to get out of it. He blogged about her speech giving her props for saying that “the defining economic challenge of our times” was "to raise incomes for hard-working Americans so that they can enjoy a middle-class life.”
But Reich went on to say, "I was disappointed she didn’t call for busting up the biggest banks or resurrecting the Glass-Steagall Act." He also said he expected to see more from her on corporate reform. "Overall," he said, " the proposals she advanced didn’t rise to the important economic objectives she articulates." He concluded by saying, "Hopefully, she'll provide more in coming weeks and months."
And that's the thing. We don't have to wait weeks and months. Bernie Sanders has been unequivocally saying, since the inception of his campaign and for years before, that we need a major restructuring of our tax and banking systems. He has called for reenacting the Glass-Steagall Act. Unlike his opponents, he is not accepting donations from the same corporations and banks that need reining in. Unlike his opponents, he has condemned unfair trade practices like NAFTA and the pending TPP. He advocates for strong unions, and he voted against the devastating and costly Iraq war.
From a symbolic standpoint, electing our first woman president would be a wonderful thing. Let's not deny it, sisters, it would be awesome. But we have such a superior alternative in Bernie Sanders that we can be patient a little longer. I believe it is worth the wait.
Bernie speaks authentically and authoritatively about the concerns of the poor and those of us who struggle to stay afloat in an economy that is far from recovered. He, himself, came from very humble beginnings and has spent his lifetime pursuing justice for those in need.
For many years I have volunteered in my community, and in the past decade I have seen a gradual erosion of middle class well-being.
People who are educated and experienced want to work but cannot find full-time jobs with benefits. The only thing they can secure are low-wage, temporary, part-time positions. Many resort to contract work in what we're now calling the "gig" economy. Some have given up on our political process altogether. Trickle-down economics has failed them. They are gripped with uncertainty. I have seen their worry first hand, and more and more I think about how close I am to being in their shoes. When I encounter others who doubt things are as bad as they are, I share with them the kinds of conversations I've had with women I've met while volunteering at food programs.
Here's a sampling:
The SeniorShe edges up through the line along the conveyor belt so I can present her with a can of tomato paste. It is cold and drafty in the huge warehouse. At the end of her three-hour journey of waiting and snaking through the long line, she will walk out with a bag of non-perishable groceries valued at somewhere around $15. If she is lucky, an additional bag of fruit gleaned from local gardens and some day-old bread donated by a grocery chain will also ride home with her on the bus. She is there because her meager Social Security check and paltry savings comes nowhere close enough to keeping a roof over her head let alone food on the table.
That could be me, I think, in just a few years. Then I remember Bernie Sanders' call to not only preserve but expand Social Security. He has been a champion for seniors and veterans his entire career.
The MillennialsYoung adults arrive - some female students from the nearby college and their friends who are recent graduates. None have been able to find living wage jobs. They tell me they are there gathering peanut butter and tuna to complement their Top Ramen diets.
They could be my own young adult children, I imagine, if mine weren't still living at home. Then I remember Bernie Sanders' promise to reduce interest on existing student debt and make public colleges and universities free. I remember that he's lobbying for a $15 an hour minimum wage. While other candidates have put forward their own proposals to make college more affordable, I believe Bernie's plan is more generous to students and includes a specific plan for funding it.
The BoomerIn walks a former mid-level manager who can't find work. Her husband has been furloughed and his income slashed. She tells me they're close to losing everything. She's brought a sandwich with her and shares it with another woman in line next to her. "Look at us,” she muses. "We're the Ladies Who Lunch at the Food Bank."
Millions of middle-class, paycheck-to-paycheck families lost everything in the Recession and have fallen far down the economic ladder, my own family among them. Bernie will make the systemic changes in our financial system needs to get to the root of the problem and bring American jobs back home, create new jobs in green industries, and rebuild our country's crumbling infrastructure. He has won endorsements from key labor groups, including National Nurses United. He stands with the American worker.
For the "Ladies who Lunch at the Food Bank" now (and those of us women who may be dining there soon if things don't improve), I invite you to join me at Bernie Sanders' table where truth and justice are consistently served and none need go hungry.
You can find out how to support his campaign and become involved in your local community by going to berniesanders.com.
http://bayareaforbernie.com/ on whose website an earlier version of this article first appeared. A life long peace and justice activist, she currently serves on her synagogue's social action committee. Previously she was involved with Occupy Oakland, served as vice president of the Alameda Food Bank board of directors and was a regional coordinator for the Beyond War Movement. During the 1980's she founded and led an organization for parents called "Raising Children a New Way in a Violent World" and won a national "People Speaking" award for her child advocacy.
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