I have expressed before my skepticism about dark tales of “hunger in America.” For one thing, the federal food stamps program works just fine. I think it’s enough to keep anything resembling hunger away. I have challenged others on my blog and on my radio program (KSCO 1080 Santa Cruz, Sundays 11Am to 1 PM) to explain to me why my impression is wrong. No one volunteered. I made an explicit exception for one subset of the old who may be so isolated that they have no one to enroll them and to arrange for food delivery. Such older people may indeed go hungry.
For another thing, food is cheap in America. Or rather, traditional food not certified “organic” and not “fair trade” and not “free range” and not “local” is cheap. In pricey central California, whole chicken usually sells for under sixty cents a pound. That’s a lot of protein. Green vegetables are expensive in the winter but then, our ancestors did without them and they were fine. Carrots and celery are always cheap. A small stem of celery a day will keep scurvy away, or one half of the oranges that I buy in large quantities in November for fifty cents a pound.
Now a small digression: I don’t dispute your right to buy expensive organic, local, fair trade, free-range anything. I believe with the utmost firmness that your money is your money. You can do anything you want with it including blow it on the above-mentioned largely illusory comforts. Yet, that you or your neighbor cannot afford such luxuries does not make you “hungry.” It does not even make you “food insecure,” in the new maddeningly imprecise liberal phraseology. After all, I come from a tradition where wine is considered food, accompanying the two main meals of the day as a matter of course. When I can only afford $6 wine and I don’t want to buy it because it tastes bad, am I “food insecure”?
The third reason I am ever skeptical, and growing more skeptical, about hunger in America is the horrendous mistakes apologists keep making. If you just listen a little to the usual liberal suspects, you find that they destroy their own credibility within seconds. Below, an example.
National Public Radio (the tax-eating outfit that fired its only black journalist recently) was not going to let Thanksgiving Day pass without mentioning “hunger in America.” NPR hates ordinary people to enjoy themselves. It blurs its collective vision of an unfair, abusive, cruel society drifting fast toward eco-catastrophe. So a female reporter did gave a quick account in the middle of the afternoon on food insecurity. The report focused on a food bank in Florida, I think. The food bank allegedly reported that not only was there a rise in the number of help seekers but that their social quality had changed, moved upward. This was a good move, strategically: If you keep reporting that the numbers of the hungry keep increasing, at some point, listeners will wonder why they are not hungry themselves. There is an absolute ceiling to the numbers that can go hungry; it’s the total population of the US. But that’s not all. Many people have rough numerical common sense. They know that if the number of albinos multiplies fast, at some point, they should bump into an albino or two. Same thing with the hungry.
So, the NPR reporter dramatized the idea that hunger is creeping up into the middle-class by stating that even a “tenured” university professor had sought the help of the food bank. NPR reporters generally lack general culture. That makes their matter-of-fact intellectual condescension all the more infuriating. Anyway, the NPR reporter must have thought that tenure is an exalted academic rank, like “Eagle Scout,” or “Marshall of the Armies.” If even the highest ranking academics go hungry, we must be on the edge of he abyss, the air-head liberal reporterete’s reasoning must have been.
Here is the truth: Tenure is the competitive but nevertheless normal step in academic careers. To be tenured means that it’s difficult to fire you, almost impossible unless there is a pressing university-level economic reason. Firing a tenured professor is so difficult that few universities ever try.
Now, on to pay scales. Some university professors, including tenured ones, are comparatively poorly paid, earning no more than elementary school teachers (for many fewer hours). Yet, the poorest paid tenured professor (probably of English) in the poorest university in America, does not need food aid. That is, unlike he has twenty children. And if has twenty children, he is probably a polygamist, and there is a real story! It would have been a pleasant interlude on Thanksgiving Day to hear a well-turned out tale about a polygamous professor of English. How I would have enjoyed such a story!
So, anyway, the NPR reporterete lied. Of course, I believe that if you have a good cause, you don’t need to lie to promote it. That’s what I say about global warming and about Cuba as a workers’ paradise. That’s what I say about hunger in America: I don’t think so.
NPR: You are just trying to ruin my day, as usual.