Todd Akin’s Hunger Games

The Big Lebowski, Jeff Bridges, was on Morning Joe this morning talking about child hunger in America. Appearing with Bill Shore, of Share our Strength, Bridges shared this sobering stat:

Almost 16 million American kids—one in five—live in poverty.

From the Share our Strength website, we can follow the progression of what happens if kids—students trying to learn—go without food:

1. That child who doesn’t have enough to eat isn’t going to do as well in school.

2. And is likely to get sick more often.

3. She’s less likely to graduate from high school and go on to college, which will have a negative impact on her economic future.

4. If this happens, then twenty years from now, she’s much less likely to be able to earn enough to feed her family.

Seen that way, combating child hunger, apart from the obvious morality of it, is simply an investment in America’s future well-being.

And Mr. Legitimate Rape, Todd Akin, is on the wrong side of this moral and practical issue, too.

According to an article in the Forum section in Sunday’s Joplin Globe, 646,000 Missouri students received free or reduced-price meals at school in fiscal year 2011. A lot of those kids benefiting from that Truman-era federal program live around here, in conservative Republican-dominated Southwest Missouri, and from its beginning the federal school lunch program was opposed by—guess who?—conservative Republicans.

Todd Akin is one of those.  The Joplin Globe reports:

According to a report in The Columbia Daily Tribune, Akin said he wasn’t opposed to feeding children, but that it wasn’t the federal government’s job to pay for it.

The state, he said, is responsible for education, and if providing breakfast and lunch was important then state and local governments could pick up the tab.

If providing breakfast and lunch was important? Huh? The Globe continued:

Akin was one of only 13 members of the House of Representatives to vote against a resolution expressing support for the National School Lunch Program. In March 2010, Akin voted against House Resolution 362, a resolution expressing support for the goals and ideals of the school lunch program.

Those 13 “members” who voted against expressing support for the school lunch program were actually all Republicans, and they represent many of the nuttiest of the nutty Tea Party conservatives. Here’s a partial list, just to give you an idea of the kind of company Akin is in:

♦ Ron Paul (Yep! that one from Texas)

♦ Paul Broun (of GA; he once suggested Mr. Obama was ready to establish a Marxist dictatorship)

♦ Jason Chaffetz (of UT; this federal school lunch hater is a big-time Romney surrogate)

♦ Virginia Foxx (of NC; who once suggested that old folks would be “put to death by their government” if Democrats’ health reform passed; she also said we have more to fear from it than “any terrorist right now in the country”)

♦ Scott Garrett (of NJ; creationist birther)

♦ Doug Lamborn (of CO; Big Bird hater; the most partisan man in Congress and a man who suggested President Obama was a “tar baby”)

♦ James Sensenbrenner (of WI; introduced The Patriot Act in the House; if that ain’t enough, he referenced the First Lady’s “big butt”; to give you a sense of his temperament, Jon Stewart said after a weird episode in the House: “Oh my God, he literally took his gavel and went home; we are officially being governed by children.”; Rolling Stone referred to him as “the dictator”)

♦ John Shadegg (formerly of AZ; a man who called the health care reform effort, “full-on Russian gulag, Soviet-style gulag health care,” and believes Muslim spies are invading Congress

You can see that Akin, given his history of reactionary weirdness, can hold his own with these folks, and you can also see that his opposition to the federal lunch program is based on some strange moral principles that, for now, only a tiny minority of Republicans in Congress hold.

As far as “state and local governments” picking up the tab for school lunches, the Globe cites the Columbia Daily Tribune as saying,

ending federal subsidies for school lunches in Missouri would add $260 million to state spending. Budget and education officials say that money is not available, and Missouri requires a balanced budget.

Missouri has already made cuts for school buses, Career Ladder programs, teacher professional development and Parents as Teachers.

So, it is clear that there is no money in the budget and no chance that Missouri legislators, overwhelmingly Republicans, would raise the revenue necessary to keep kids from going hungry at school.

And Todd Akin, who is as we speak representing Missouri in the House of Representatives and wants to represent our state in the U.S. Senate, knows that. He knows that if his opposition to the federal school lunch program ever became the GOP majority view, if his party successfully killed it, that Missouri students would go hungry.

He knows that. And all Missourians should know that he knows that.


For her part, Claire McCaskill, who supports the federal school lunch program—which over this year will cost about the same as two month’s worth of the Afghanistan war does right now—said,

Do I want the federal government to spend less? Yes. But I don’t want to turn out the lights and go home on the most important parts of our economy.

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  1. Yellow Dog

     /  September 4, 2012

    Oh my, these Republicans just mentally wear me out. They make an old dog have to lie down.


  2. Duane,

    Not to give any credit to the nincompoops you listed, including Akin the A-hole, but I think it’s the political ideology and not the starving kids that is the issue here. That the states rather than the feds be responsible for the welfare of their citizens, including children, is classic Conservatism.

    As the national government has pumped more and more money into the states for everything from military bases to highway funds, the states in turn have become almost wholly dependent on that largess. Such addiction to federal money has lead many states, California for example, to reduce their own revenue sources to the point where they are dangerously close to bankrupting themselves. Thus, the “nanny state” takes on a whole new meaning.

    Of course the kids need to eat and the states are going to do everything they can to pass the buck for that responsibility.

    Although, it would be interesting to know how the kids from poor families were fed before the National School Lunch Act became law.



    • Well, kids were going hungry, Herb. It was a problem during the Depression and the school lunch program began in an incipient form at that time (which proved to be inadequate).

      And some states don’t even bother passing the buck because they don’t care all that much if there is a buck to pass. The kids of conservative legislators don’t want for food, my friend, and when their conservative ideology informs them that government feeding poorer kids conflicts with that ideology, the kids will have to find comfort in the fact that these inviolate principles were kept free from their tainting hunger.

      “Classic” conservatism can mean all things to all people. For me, classic conservatism, when it counted for things like fighting poverty and ending third-class citizenship for black folks, for instance, was on the side of state’s rights, which meant in practice in the South, state oppression. And I’m against oppression, and conservatives, even classic ones, should be too.

      I do not understand the conservative infatuation with the kind of vehicle the food travels in toward the stomachs of hungry kids. I don’t care if it has a federal stamp on it or a state one or a local one, but history has proven that without federal prompting—these collective promptings make us a nation, by the way—some things that should be done in a wealthy country won’t get done.

      A lot of the opposition then and now to things like government-sponsored lunches is because it allegedly helps breed that dreaded “dependence” on government. Bullshit. We’re all dependent on government in some way or another, although some are, admittedly, more dependent on it than others. So bleeping what? Nobody is getting rich on food stamps or school lunches. We’re talking about chump change in the scheme of things. And, as I said, it is an investment in the future and the national well-being.

      And it is not “conservative” to insist that kids born in, say, Texas—as “Americans” I remind you—are not subject to enjoy the same nationally sanctioned well-being as kids born in, say, Romney’s Massachusetts, before Romney really became a classic or, excuse me, “severe” conservative. The reason it’s not really conservative is because it is immoral and destabilizing, and moral and stable societies are what old time (“classic”?) conservatism used to desire. And besides that, how can a hungry Texas kid and a half-satiated-by-government Massachusetts kid both be American in the same sense?

      Further, other than their always present and misplaced fear of European-styled socialism, I don’t understand the conservative fear of federal expansion, which was largely the basis of opposition to the school lunch program. I don’t understand, for instance, why conservatives fear the hand of government if it is a federal hand and tend to find local government hands more friendly. I have met local government officials that I find just as troubling as conservatives find federal ones. And, certainly, we have all met agents of local government—the police—who scare the hell out of us.

      I also don’t understand why conservatives fear government generally, which “we the people” can theoretically control, and don’t fear private actors, which we mostly couldn’t control, if conservative philosophy ruled the day. We have much more—much more—to fear, in terms of our constitutional general welfare, from greedy private-sector folks than liberal do-gooders in the government. That seems as obvious as anything to me.

      So, I don’t get it. Government in this country, local, state, and federal, is of the people. It’s ours no matter where we encounter it or what badge it is wearing, and we are free to shape it any way we want, as the 2010 Tea Party surge proved. Free to shape it, I say, until the money men completely buy it at all levels.



      • Duane,

        Whoa. Take a breath there, Duane. My point was and is that there are two separate issues here; one is about hungry kids and the other is about politicizing the issue. I think the GOP would be most supportive of organizations like the one “The Dude” is involved in. And there are many other NGO’s like the Salvation Army, Feed the Children, and assorted missions and churches available for assistance to families and children. I think we can all agree too that whatever form it takes, it should have direct community involvement. No doubt the Conservatives would also add that government should keep their bureaucratic noses out of it as much as possible. And where there are such charities available in the community, then I would agree.

        I think it’s also important to note that the inability to care for one’s children is child abuse. And that IS a government obligation. In such cases the child or children are removed from the home and given temporary quarters until they can be placed in foster care.

        As to schools in particular, it should be a simple matter for school administrators to find out which kids are stealing condiments for the weekend and then alert the appropriate authorities to take the appropriate action.

        I know that there are many families out there who have found themselves abandoned by our somewhat tenuous economy and that having to give up their children would be just another blow to their already severely damaged self-esteem. I can’t imagine how I would feel in such a situation. My only solace would be to know that at least my children would not starve.

        So, I guess the takeaway here is that there are many resources, both public and private, to take care that the nations’ children don’t go hungry; that such programs are best managed at the local level; and that a federally funded school lunch program is only a partial solution which, I’m guessing here, is likely most expensive option on a per meal basis.

        Therefore, IMHO, the Conservatives have a legitimate beef here (pun intended) but the American Taliban don’t have the intelligence to articulate it. Stupid is as stupid does.



        • Herb,

          You wrote,

          I think we can all agree too that whatever form it takes, it should have direct community involvement.

          The most effective direct community involvement, in terms of participation, is through government. We all should be paying taxes to support such programs, at least those who can pay taxes. You said that if there were “charities” available to take care of social needs you would prefer government to stay out. I couldn’t disagree more.

          I don’t like the idea of someone having to depend on a local, most often a religious local, who is either working for brownie points from Jesus or working on some kind of salvific mission. And often that kind of charity—if you call it that, since some of it is based on quasi-selfish motives (“it feels good” or “Jesus would want me to do this”)—perpetuates fundamentalist religion, by giving that fundamentalism a pretty face. See Mormonism, for example. Otherwise we might laugh it out of popular existence.

          Finally, all the government programs are managed “at the local level.” I have no problem with that. In the cae of school lunches, the schools determine eligibility (this fact is one that the states’ rights champion CATO institute holds against the program, by the way, because CATO claims the locals have no incentive to adhere to the guidelines). The question is who sets the standards, not who actually hands out the benefits or manages the distribution. I prefer there to be national standards of decency. Texas children, for instance, should not be at a disadvantage just because they were born there. Same with Louisiana or Mississippi. (Damn, what do those states have in common? Oh, yeah. Republican dominated.)

          We will just have to disagree on this one.



  3. ansonburlingame

     /  September 4, 2012

    What a crazy statement, “The kids of conservative legislators don’t want for food…”. Is there some “survey says” such? Should I assume that all progressive parents have children that WANT for food? I doubt that also.

    Of course kids need to eat. Not only should they eat but the “right” foods as well and hopefully in the most cost effective manner.

    Now which is cheaper, a kid bringing a sandwich, banana and carton of milk from home, or buying one in the cafeteria?

    The question boils down to who, exactly, is responsible to ensure that kids eat and eat the correct foods. Conservatives will say, unequivocally, parents have that responsibility, not the federal government.

    Progressives say there is nothing that can be done about parents that let kids “starve” and thus it becomes a federal responsibility. How many kids for example come to school hungry whose parents are receiving federal food stamps???

    Do you think government is powerless in such a situation or just too inept to go after the REAL problem, stupid, lazy or whatever parents? For sure giving kids free meals in school does not fix the REAL problem now does it?

    Is not the possible reasons for kids with conservative parents do not
    “want” for food has NOTHING to do with the income of parents but EVERYTHING to do with conservative parents having their priorities straight in how to raise their kids, the whole kid, not just the stomach.



  4. Duane: On this same topic the New York Times did a story entitled “Starving the Future” – I would send u a link but I can’t seem to do that from my Dumbphone. Anyway, I nearly cried when I read in that story that over half of this Country’s children living in poverty come to school too hungry to learn. I know what I feel like when I wake up hungry & with low blood sugar – I can think of little else but eating. The local woman here who realized these same kids have no access to food over the weekends & started the “Friday Backpack Program” where impoverished children get a backpack full of 7 meals. Do you know why this wonderful woman started this backpack program? Because her best friend is a middle school teacher & told her she found dozens of kids “stealing” the mustard & ketchup packets at school on Friday so they would have something to eat over the weekend! How can this be happening to our children in the most prosperous Country in the world! I take extra food to this woman for her program every week because most weeks she struggles to fill all of the backpacks because donations are way down because things are tough all over! But kudos to her for identifying a problem and acting to do something about it. That is what is missing in America today – the civic involvement by concerned citizens. Those who DO CARE just talk about it. And that is just not right! That’s not America as I know and love it!


    • Greyson,

      I wish there wasn’t any need for “civic involvement,” at least in term of supplying the basics of life. In my vision of a just society, folks wouldn’t have to depend on the immediate kindness of others for sustenance. We should do that collectively, as a civilized people running a civilized government.



  5. Treeske

     /  September 4, 2012

    Should be a priority cause of the Pro-Lifers!


  6. ansonburlingame

     /  September 5, 2012

    Greyson makes the usual case from the humanitarian point of view and he is correct with only that perspective…. FEED the hungry.

    But then the parable of “give a man a fish or teach a man to fish” comes into play, a valid point to consider, in my view.

    Consider the parent without the motivation to feed their kids. Assume that parent lacks such motivation due to income. Well we have food stamps to help remedy that situation do we not? But even with ‘free food” such parents, the really unmotivated (I am trying to be polite) ones will not use the “free food” to make a sandwich and send the kid to school with lunch (or even feed them breakfast).

    Now in such a situation what is the REAL problem? I suggest it is NOT lack of income or lack of food to feed kids. It is the adults RESPONSIBLE for feeding and raising kids.

    So jump on the free lunch program in schools and you might make a dent in the “feed the kids” issue BUT what about all the other issues related to “raising” those kids. Free lunches does not even TRY to fix that underlying problem, does it? As well it does little to really “feed the kids” at least on weekends, as well.

    If you progressives REALLY want to solve the problem of feeding AND raisiing kids, there is a solution, in my view. It is called “boarding schools”!!!!

    Take the kids out of the lousy home enviroment and “raise” them in a good one.

    Then go ask yourselves the question whether it is the federal responsibility to “take care of old people” (SS and Medicare) OR take care of the young ones. With SS and Medicare at about $1.5 Trillion per year, federally and school lunch costs we seem to have our priorities mixed up.

    But of course progressives will argue that we MUST DO BOTH, take care of old AND young people, right? Wonder what our deficits might be if we tried that approach?



  7. Very interesting discussion here on the school lunch issue and I find something in all the comments with which to agree, including this by Duane:

    So bleeping what? Nobody is getting rich on food stamps or school lunches. We’re talking about chump change in the scheme of things. And, as I said, it is an investment in the future and the national well-being.

    Fundamentally, I am repelled and disgusted by any parent who does not give their children first priority in the hierarchy of their personal financial obligations. Yet, we all know that in the real world that is not the case, that more often than not other things come first: cigarettes, liquor, cell phones, cable TV, and lunches at MacDonald’s instead of brown-bagging it, just to mention a few. This is reality, and it has always been so. As one example that is stuck in my head, when the draft was initiated in WW I the U.S. Army found that the majority of draftees were unfamiliar with the concept of underwear. Civilization is not a natural path for human beings – it comes with difficulty and only when reason surmounts instinct.

    If one lives in an ideological, Randian world of smug self-reliance it is easy to relegate lesser beings to their own devices but if one aspires to a country in which all people have a reasonably-equal starting chance, then government is the only option I see for doing that. I believe Duane is right that we can afford to do it if we get our priorities right. The Cold War is over and as even AB said in a Globe editorial, our military needs to be redefined and downsized appropriately. If that happens a great amount of wealth can be redirected. We can afford not only school lunches but take-home food for weekends. We can afford a healthcare system that provides preventive and basic care too – in fact a government system would be more than twice as cheap as the one we have, thus freeing up more wealth. We can afford an education system that educates without superstition. We can afford a world-class system of roads, bridges and infrastructure. We can afford energy independence through regulation. All this is possible if we can accept that we are one people and not a collection of warring tribes. But this is a new era, unlike any in the twentieth century. For the first time in modern history there is no significant external threat to national sovereignty and without that kind of external threat we are dissolving into petty partisan bickering.

    The question for this November as I see it then is this: shall we collectively build a foundation for the equality of all, or shall we abandon that goal and let nature take its course? The choice has never been more stark, and the electorate more confused.


    • Excellent stuff, Jim.

      You wrote,

      All this is possible if we can accept that we are one people and not a collection of warring tribes.

      I’m afraid that is a tall order precisely because of what you wrote about there not being a unifying national threat (the so-called war on terror did not prove to be sufficient, did it?). And you especially got it right about the electorate being confused, at least a substantial portion of it. Otherwise Romney would be sitting somewhere around 40% in the polls.


  8. Duane,

    In reading through these comments, I am reminded once again of Garrett Hardin’s classic 1968 essay “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Among other things, he argues that if families were solely dependent on their own resources for survival such that those families which were less respectful of the environment would see their own children starve, then over-breeding would be corrected by nature and there would be no need for the welfare state.

    Dr. Hardin cautions that: “To couple the concept of freedom to breed with the belief that everyone born has an equal right to the commons is to lock the world into a tragic course of action.” Or, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, “Freedom without responsibility is anarchy.” Well, as we all know too well, that ship has already sailed.

    And the winners of the upcoming elections will do nothing much to help and will probably even make things worse. They’re too busy trying to take the civil out of civilization.



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