Letter: Numbers Don’t Tell the Story

To the Editor:

Government figures representing citizens who are homeless, living in poverty and without health insurance err on the low side. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development claims that 633,782 people across America were homeless last year, based on a “point in time count.” This has been disputed by homeless advocates who estimate the actual number at closer to 3 million, and the government numbers are somewhat suspect as they rely on shelter counts only. Who, I wonder, is counting the homeless who seek shelter under bridges or on top of heated subway grates?

Forty-eight million among us live in poverty with an overall rate calculated at 16 percent of the American population. (Without Social Security payments to the elderly and disabled, the poverty rate would be closer to 25 percent.) These numbers are generated in part by those who receive government assistance. With a recent $5 billion cut in food stamp aid in November, hunger is on the increase, which by itself is scandalous and directly related to the dissonance between our political parties. Furthermore, the recent cancellation of unemployment benefits to 1.3 million citizens who provide food and shelter for their families will swell the need for public assistance as they disappear from the government unemployment figures.

And finally, regarding the oft-discussed figure of 48 million citizens without health insurance, the amount used by the president and his supporters to impress on the public the need for a revamped health care system: Recently President Obama chose the “bronze plan” for himself. Perhaps this pleases him. However, what he does not wish to acknowledge, although trumpeting the latest figures, is that even if counted within the 48 million, the overall results of slightly more than 2 million inductees is extremely discouraging. The notion that the Affordable Health Care Act would accommodate these millions who remain without insurance is as much a lie as Obama’s “promise” about keeping one’s existing health insurance. Perhaps the American people are as challenged as Obama’s handlers seem to suggest. I wish I knew. But I suspect the reason a great many signed up in recent months was because of the cancellation of their existing policies.

Duncan Mackintosh