I was standing on the Flyer's loading dock last week when I heard a noise coming from the dumpster near the alley. I walked over, looked in, and saw a man going through styrofoam food boxes. He had a plastic bag, into which he'd put a few items of food he'd scrounged.
He looked up, startled, and said, "I'm just looking for something to eat."
"It's okay," I said. I turned to leave, then stopped. I stuck my hand into the dumpster and gave him five bucks. The guy looked at me in surprise, paused for a moment, and said, "Thank you. Do you have a car I could wash or something?"
I said no. He climbed out of the dumpster, thanked me again, and walked off down the alley.
We are in a recession, the experts say. But as Congress and the president diddled their way into creating a "Satan sandwich" deal to raise the debt ceiling, several other ceilings are being breached: There are a record 45.8 million Americans now getting food stamps. That's one in seven Americans who need public assistance in order to eat.
In Tennessee, 1,276,000 people get food stamps. Unemployment is around 10 percent. The economy is in the crapper, pure and simple.
And what do we get from our legislators? Proposals (which have passed into law in Florida and Missouri) to drug-test anyone receiving public assistance. Proposals to strip public unions of their bargaining power. Proposals to make voting more difficult for poor people via voter photo ID laws. Proposals to weaken public schools and fund private charter schools with taxpayer money. Proposals to cut funds from environmental and consumer protection agencies. Proposals to cut Medicare and Social Security, two of the vital safety nets for average Americans.
The middle and working classes in this country are under assault. Corporations have our legislative bodies under control. The deal is simple: If legislators pass laws that favor unbridled profit — including the right to move operations overseas to cheaper labor markets — and keep tax loopholes in place, the corporations assure their reelection with campaign contributions. It is a Satan sandwich.
The Republicans don't have a soul. The Democrats don't have a spine. The president doesn't have a clue.
At this rate, we're all headed for the dumpster.
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."