“No one is going to starve in Arkansas.”
Uber-conservative commentator Bill Kristol may as well have said, “Let them eat cake!”, when he was claiming that there will be little harm to Americans from our current dysfunctional government shutdown. In a discussion about what federal programs are going to be shuttered as a result of our lawmakers being unable to place nicely together, he remarked on MSNBC:
“[I]t’s not going to be the end of the world honestly even if you’re on nutritional assistance from the federal government. The state of Arkansas can help out, localities can help out, churches can help out, I believe that no one is going to starve in Arkansas because of the shutdown.”
To riff on a Bill Clinton-ism, it all depends on what your definition of the word ‘starve’ is.
Critics like Kristol are in equal parts uncaring and uninterested in understanding why such an overly simplistic view of food programs miss the mark. The last time a funding debate occurred on school lunch aid, one conservative Facebook commenter couldn’t understand why families didn’t just pack their kids a lunch — a healthy lunch! — instead of relying on Uncle Sam! The inability or unwillingness to see that there are people in America who don’t have the money to buy or have access to healthy food, or don’t have a food bank or a church with a food program to rely on is stunning, especially in light of how widespread information is about hunger and poverty.
But there are many other families who have food — for now — who also fall into Kristol’s ‘let them eat cake’ view of the world. The right-wing critics of the Obama administration who are clear fans of this shutdown (unless you’re talking about WWII vets who want to gain access to closed Washington, D.C. monuments), seem downright gleeful about sending so-called bureaucrats packing in the name of faux-fiscal responsibility. Given the time Kristol has spent in and around Washington, D.C. , he must know people, and possibly even have neighbors, who will suffer when their paychecks stop coming, like:
— Local contractors in D.C. area whose projects are on hold because of the shutdown. They can’t get on site to do the jobs they were hired to do.
— The moms who have just returned to work from maternity leave and are now furloughed, but still have to pay the day care costs they have to commit to paying months in advance.
— How about the families who work for the government — not just lawyers and accountants, but the secretaries, and janitors who need each check to make sure they keep their homes and that, yes, they can put food on the tables.
— The parents at local school bus stops who poll the other families and find out that in a D.C. suburban neighborhood, about half of her neighborhood is impacted by the shutdown.
— The families with longstanding plans for a dream vacation to raft the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, but who have to forfeit a variety of vacation costs as a result of the shutdown?
Kristol and his ilk are having a good chuckle on cable news as they mock those who need certain government programs the most, and have warped views about whether an elementary school student missing a lunch here or there constitutes “starving.” Or whether one or two skipped paychecks (that may or may not come after the shutdown is over) will mean losing your house. Or whether you’ve spent years saving for that one big family trip, only to have it disappear because all those federal parks, where you were planning on staying, are now closed.
But if you’re the kid in Arkansas, or anywhere else, who doesn’t get breakfast at home because it’s the end of the month and the food in the pantry has run out, that lunch is all that’s getting you through the day — maybe it’s your only meal of the day. For the lawmakers in the districts of those hungry kids? I hope they aren’t counting on those parents’ votes in 2014.
Joanne Bamberger is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Broad Side. She was formerly known around these internet parts as PunditMom, but now she is trying to be herself. She is the author of Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (an Amazon.com bestseller and now available in E-book form!). She was recently awarded the Campaigns & Elections Magazine/CampaignTech 2013 Advocacy Innovator Award for her research and writing on the power and influence of women online. Joanne is a “recovering lawyer,” but she is still well-versed in her litigator skills and courtroom practices.