Friday, November 17, 2006

How's That Compassionate Conservatism Working Out?

Americans won't be going hungry again, if BushCo LLC can help it. No, we're not talking subsidies on organic foods, more food stamps, or anything like that. We're talking about a classic BushCo move -- reclassification. From Salon's War Room:
As the Washington Post reports this morning, Bush's Agriculture Department has struck the word "hungry" from its annual report on what it's now calling "food security."

The report measures the number of Americans who can't afford to put food on their table during at least some period of the year. The Agriculture Department's Mark Nord says "hungry" is "not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured" in the report. Thus, people formerly described as suffering "food insecurity without hunger" -- meaning that they'll probably get something to eat, somehow -- and "food insecurity with hunger" -- meaning that they'll go without food for stretches of time -- shall henceforth be known as sufferers of "low food security" and "very low food security."

Kinda reminds me of that ketchup pickle the Reagan administration got itself into (here's a reprint of a WaPo story from back in 1981; it's the third story down the page):
Charging that the Agriculture Department "not only has egg on its face, but ketchup, too," Budget Director David A. Stockman said yesterday he had ordered the withdrawal of proposed federal rules that would have listed ketchup and pickle relish as vegetables in school lunches.

He said the controversial guidelines, which also would have allowed the substitution of soybean cakes for hamburger and doughnuts for bread, were the result of a "bureaucratic goof."

All joking aside, hunger is a very important and dire issue for millions of people in this country, as today's WaPo story notes:
The USDA said that 12 percent of Americans -- 35 million people -- could not put food on the table at least part of last year. Eleven million of them reported going hungry at times. Beginning this year, the USDA has determined "very low food security" to be a more scientifically palatable description for that group.

The United States has set a goal of reducing the proportion of food-insecure households to 6 percent or less by 2010, or half the 1995 level, but it is proving difficult. The number of hungriest Americans has risen over the past five years. Last year, the total share of food-insecure households stood at 11 percent.
[...]
That 35 million people in this wealthy nation feel insecure about their next meal can be hard to believe, even in the highest circles. In 1999, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, then running for president, said he thought the annual USDA report -- which consistently finds his home state one of the hungriest in the nation -- was fabricated.

Jim Webb, the newly elected Democratic Senator from Virginia, had an excellent, must-read op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week about the growing economic divide in this country -- here are some of the juiciest bits:
The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.
[...]
In the age of globalization and outsourcing, and with a vast underground labor pool from illegal immigration, the average American worker is seeing a different life and a troubling future. Trickle-down economics didn't happen. Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. At the same time, medical costs have risen 73% in the last six years alone. Half of that increase comes from wage-earners' pockets rather than from insurance, and 47 million Americans have no medical insurance at all.
[...]
The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of "God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag" while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet. But this election cycle showed an electorate that intends to hold government leaders accountable for allowing every American a fair opportunity to succeed.

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