Hungering for a Better Way

Faithful readers of C?WC? might have noticed here a certain…obsession, a monofocus, if you will, for the last few months. Hell, I can’t fool you; it’s been much longer than that. Why, we’re rapidly approaching the one-year anniversary of Heads Up Day, and the New Crisis really isn’t so new any more is it? From now on, the New Crisis will have a new name, something with a more military bent; I’m thinking…Operation Enduring Crisis (OEC).

Given all that, it’s time to return to some of my roots here at the Crisis: Get out and report on events happening in the real world, get outside my self-absorbed, pathetic little existence of self-pity and loneliness (thank god, I’ve finally realized there might actually be one or two other people out there who have gone through/are experiencing a painful divorce; I am not so special).

Or if I’m still too paralyzed to get off my ass and venture outside, I can do something else I used to do so often here: spout off on current events about which I have little or no useful knowledge (Hey! Just like the gang over at Fox Noose – ”We string ‘em up, you pull the lever”).

So in the midst of North African/Middle East turmoil and melting nuclear reactor cores and lingering high unemployment, I want to talk about something near and dear to my heart: food. I’ve written here at C?WC? about my preferences, my love of cooking, my interest in food security, while railing against a food system that poisons the earth and the life forms on it. What caught my eye yesterday was the effort of the Tea Baggers and their Republican cohorts to cut spending relating to food. You know, because that deficit is so high, and god knows we can’t raise taxes even as we fight 2.5 wars, and deficits were fine in the good ol’ days of W, but now, well, they and our president are an abomination to the Lord.

It was Mark Bittman’s op-piece that stirred me to action (we’ll see how long the link is live, given the new online policies of the Times…).  He talked about how he and some others are fasting to draw attention to the cold-hearted Republican efforts to make cuts at the expense of the poor, particularly regarding food. Me, I’m not so noble; I had my leftover falafels and peanut sauce for lunch; sorry.  I guess I just don’t see how a scattered fast among some liberal types is going to have any effect; the physical presence of tens of thousands of protesters in Madison didn’t derail the Tea Party efforts there, right? No, I think it’s time for pitchforks, really large, sharp pitchforks, and clubs and gas-soaked torches and maybe some small mortars, to try to drive this political monster back into its cave. But I fear even that won’t be enough.

Here are some of Bittman’s stats: About 45 million Americans spend 1/3 of their take-home pay on food – and still don’t have enough food to get through the month. I saw that myself yesterday, at the local food pantry. End of the month comes, and so do  more of our clients, hoping the fairly meager allotment we give will help them get by a few more days. Another look at the local angle: For Connecticut in 2009, poor and working-poor residents would have needed to have spent $200 million more than they did to meet all their food needs. (See Map the Meal Gap for a national breakdown.)  And again from Bittman: 25 percent of American kids go to bed hungry at least some of the time. And for some, the subsidized school lunches they get are their main meals – a scary thought. Would you want your kid’s nutrition coming from daily fixes of mystery meat and surplus cheese?

From what I’ve read, not every economist agrees that now, while we still battle the ravages of recession, is the time to be worrying about the deficit. Especially when lawmakers refuse to touch the big-ticket items and the GOP takes the knife to anything that suggests a liberal agenda (you know, like feeding the needy). Bittman makes a great point: A budget is a moral document. We might talk of economics as a science, with its own laws (even if our system is also somewhat guided by that mystical invisible hand), but ultimately, as a nation, we make economic decisions at least in part based on what we think is right and wrong. And for the Tea Baggers and their fellow travelers, only one thing is right: their ideology that most government action is wrong. Unless, of course, it is government action they like for themselves.

The great Republican budget-cutting "brain" trust

Then there is a whole other piece to this, in which the cutters seem to think it’s ok that the 400 richest Americans have more wealth than half of all American households combined, or that the tax rate on the rich has fallen by 50% over the last 20 years (both Bittman’s facts).  On one website I saw, a pro-cutter, perhaps a Tea-Bagger type, supported the food cuts: “People, we are broke.”

Are we? Or is the way we tax broke; the way we spend on defense perhaps a part of the problem; our belief, in some quarters, that the free market is some God-given force we are obliged to obey a hindrance to doing what is truly right, morally, in a country that so easily, self-righteously, claims that this same deity has blessed us in all we do?

(Man, it has been so long since I got my liberal dudgeon up. The ol’ bleeding heart is thumping from that workout…)

When billionaire brothers fund lawmakers to do their union-busting bidding; when middle and working class people deny their own interests in the name of fighting “evil,” “socialist” presidents; when too many kids lack reliable access to nutritious food and representatives and senators say, “Oh, well, gotta cut somewhere,” I step back and ask myself, “I share a planet with these people?” The Buddhism I’ve turned to during OEC teaches me we are all alike: we all suffer, we all want to be happy. That knowledge is supposed to drive our compassion for each other. But that does not help me understand the motivation of so many of the people running this country. Or turning a blind eye to a system that increasingly seems to say, it’s ok to dump on the poor and those in the middle class struggling to stay there – as long as we keep that free market free and taxes low!

You know, if I didn’t have OEC  to take my mind off of all that, I might really go nuts.

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~ by mburgan on March 31, 2011.

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