Thu | Aug 13, 2020

Norris McDonald | Poverty, hunger, dumpster diving and the fight for social justice

Published:Sunday | January 5, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Norris McDonald
In this Tuesday, January 27, 2015 file photo, Terry cleans out his tent at a large homeless encampment near downtown St Louis. The gap between the haves and have-nots in the United States grew last year. Income inequality in the United States expanded from 2017 to 2018, with several heartland states among the leaders of the increase, even though several wealthy coastal states still had the most inequality overall, according to figures released by the US Census Bureau.

“It was the best of times,

It was the worst of times!”

– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities


‘Dumpster diving’ is a sad reality for many Americans who are part of the 50 million people who are not able to find a daily meal, therefore, they scrounge for food in garbage dumpsters.

More than 40,000 veterans of United States (US) wars are homeless on any given night Government data reveal.

These homeless veterans, like many other poor people, are not enjoying “the best of times” that Donald ‘The Great-Impeached’ Trump boasts about. He is always boasting about “the lowest unemployment in 50 years” and “record-high stock market growth” under his presidency.


The crass realities of America are that the rich are getting richer while workers, who are paid starvation wages, are getting poorer and poorer. Therefore, the working people simply cannot afford the rising cost of food, rent, medical expenses, transportation, among other necessities of life.

As their daily conditions of life worsen, millions of people become the faceless numbers, not caught up in the rosy statistics bragged about by television pundits and conservative politicians such as Donald Trump.

Of great significance, too, political economists have long identified “this general tendency for wages to move towards a starvation point” where, as we see now, the working classes are not able to afford food.

There are also racial disparities reflected in those who are poor and homeless and who have been left behind by the purported gains of economic progress.

African Americans make up 40 per cent of homeless minorities even though they are just 13 per cent of the general population. Hispanics make up 21 per cent of the homeless even though they are just 18 per cent of the general population.

This shows that people of colour are being left behind by the gains of the free-market economy.

Increased poverty directly led to a rise in food banks. Food banks are places set up to help the needy get a daily meal. And according to researcher Larry Romanoff, the number of food banks increased from 200 in 1980 to more than 40,000 now.

He notes that “50 million hungry Americans today includes the 25 per cent of all children in the US who go to sleep hungry at night”. (Global Research. December 18, 2019).


Meanwhile, tax dodging by rich people has caused lost revenues of more than US$280 billion, Reuters reports, adding that there is more than US$32 trillion hidden in non-tax-paying, offshore bank accounts.

‘The Panama Papers’ exposed some of this disgraceful, unlawful behaviour. This was a trove of 11.6 million files belonging to a law firm, Mossack Fonseca, that was leaked to the press.

More than US$1.2 billion in back taxes and penalties was recovered from some tax dodgers, including Apple, after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published The Panama Papers.

American tax dodgers, identified in The Panama Papers included several persons from Donald ‘The Great-Impeached’ Trump’s inner circles.

Two of Trump’s Cabinet members were named, one of whom is an Exon-Mobil executive.

Among the reported top companies that pay little or no tax are Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, General Electric and a host of multinational corporations, and big business leaders.

Yet, they benefited from a US$1.3 trillion tax cut Donald ‘The Great-Impeached’ Trump gave himself and his cronies.

In another exposé, on October 26, 2018, Jon Schwartz revealed in The Intercept that Goldman Sachs, a very large Wall Street investment company, was found to have 551 tax-dodging subsidiaries registered in The Cayman Islands.


Despite the façade of Trumpian economic success, there is a septic rotting underbelly of cancerous poverty that is spreading through the dirt-poor, rural-poverty pockets – the Appalachian Mountains; McAllen, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; and urban America, where there are the highest concentration of poverty.

The middle class is also very squeezed financially. According to the World Inequality Report, 2018, the world’s middle class, which contains “all the global 90 per cent of income groups in the United States and the European Union, are being financially squeezed. Meanwhile, the top one per cent grabbed twice as much of global wealth as the poorest 50 per cent of the world’s population.”

This is a political economy of poverty and social oppression.

Given these realities, at what point does there emerge the need to balance the scales of economic justice to achieve the general economic well-being for the whole society?


Meanwhile, as the American 2020 general elections gather steam, progressive politicians such as Senators Bernie Saunders and Elizabeth Warren are leading the fight for political, social, and economic justice.

Bernie Saunders is a democratic socialist. He is campaigning for some of the same type of egalitarian principles and policies that Michael Manley – and the People’s National Party under his leadership – once advocated for Jamaica.

The American democratic socialists are the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Political solutions advocated by these conscientious American social reformers include:

• Mobilising and educating citizens to get involved in the fight for social and economic justice.

• Fighting for a ‘living wage’ of US$15 per hour, which is twice the national minimum wage.

• Affordable, universal healthcare for the American underclass.

• Tuition-free college education up to a first degree.

• Progressive tax policies to make the rich share the national burden.

It is delusional, therefore, for Donald ‘The Great-Impeached’ Trump to boast that unemployment is low and the stock market is at a record high.

How does this help the 50 million Americans who go to bed hungry at night?

Many of these poverty-stricken souls forage for scraps of food in garbage dumpsters. That is extremely bad and sad for an extremely wealthy country.

That is just the very sad, sad, bitta truth!

- Norris McDonald is an economic journalist, social researcher, and political analyst. Email feedback to and