09 November 2013


A recent report from the U.S. Department of Education states that the number of homeless schoolchildren has hit a record high of 1.2 million. Meanwhile, on 1 November, the benefits of food-stamp recipients were cut by an average of 7%, almost half of whom are children.

A decade ago, Donald Rumsfeld spoke of known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. In the case of hunger and homelessness in America, perhaps we can add unknown knowns: those phenomena within cognitive reach that get pushed back from conscious awareness or rationalized away. For example, a recent guest on Fox network criticized the free school-lunch program on the basis that kids on free-lunch programs suffer from "obesity, and not the fact that they're not getting enough calories."  Is this the unknowing of poverty, and the cuts in the SNAP program the undoing of the doable?

In the meantime, politicians and mega-bankers know very well how to create the ecology for vast wealth accumulation for the 1%. No unknown knowns in this case. It is manifestly doingly doable when it benefits those in power. This is a known known. 

In these cases, I am not sure which is worse: the actual knowns or pretended unknowns? Either way, it is precisely known how to do both wealth and poverty: It takes place in public policies. These policies--our policies--are what we need to bring into the cognitive and civic knowingly known and doingly doable.

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