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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Robinson Cano and the fight against poverty

This is the time of year when baseball fans live in a state of perpetual hope that their favorite team will acquire some decent players so that next season won’t be a disaster. Players come and go during the winter, with the vast majority of free agents, whether talented or not, getting big contracts.

The most recent headline that dominated sports talk was the departure of Robinson Cano, the Yankees’ second baseman, to the Seattle Mariners for a record $235 million contract. Cano was offered $175 million by the Yankees, which he described as “showing no respect.” When I heard Cano’s comments I was wondering what some full-time employee at a fast-food outlet, earning minimum wage, was thinking at that very moment?

In baseball, rabid fans dote on statistics. Batting averages, home runs, earned run averages for pitchers and countless other measures of performance are the topic of continuous discussion. So in this holiday season, I was thinking about some other glaring statistics that say a lot more about who we are as a nation than how much an all-star second baseman can get on the free market.

Instead of greedy, overpaid baseball players, let’s talk about the people who live a hand-to-mouth existence in our great nation. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 49 million people in this country are classified as living in poverty. Poverty, for a family of four, is defined as having annual earnings of less than $22,113. Approximately 15.9 million people struggle to put food on the table. Seventy-nine percent of single mothers who head a household work.

Looking at these figures, and watching how little Congress is doing to help people who are not loafers, creates a sad contrast. To their credit, the Republican members of Congress, still smarting from their dumb shutdown of the government, decided to pass a bipartisan budget deal. What they didn’t do was pass a farm bill, extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people or anything else to help people in need.

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