In a show of solidarity, Newark Mayor Cory Booker parades the Food Stamp Diet.
If someone writing for Black Agenda Radio says that Newark (NJ) Mayor Cory Booker is “worse” than Barack Obama, in part because Booker has “railed against wealth distribution” and “is ideologically committed to the privatization of public education and to government that serves the rich,” then Booker is probably not the total disaster we have come to expect of big-city Democrat mayors. Some Republicans were no doubt positively disposed toward Booker during the presidential campaign when the mayor criticized an Obama campaign ad that was demonizing Bain Capital.
A writer for the Care2 social action network that emphasizes “a healthy sustainable lifestyle and support(s) socially responsible causes” calls Booker a “superhero” for living in a housing project for eight years and cutting his own salary twice. (He also gets extra points from Care2 for being a vegetarian.)
But what is bringing out this week’s plaudits for Booker from commentators throughout the liberal intelligentsia is his announcement, following a November conversation with a conservative on Twitter, that he is going to live on a food budget of $30, the equivalent of being on a food stamps program, for the next week.
Other politicians have participated in the “food stamp challenge,” and I have no doubt that many of them are well-intended, as Booker’s move may be. But I, for one, am unwilling and unable to judge a policy based on claimed good intentions of its supporters rather than on actual outcomes and compliance with modest philosophical and legal guidelines, such as our Constitution.
What makes Booker’s “challenge” appear as a radical leftist publicity stunt, or at least motivated by much more radically leftist views than are often attributed to him, versus simply trying to better understand the plight of the poor is Booker’s own language describing his goals:
…to raise awareness and understanding of food insecurity; reduce the stigma of SNAP participation; elevate innovative local and national food justice initiatives and food policy; and, amplify compassion for individuals and communities in need of assistance.
Just what is “food insecurity”? This gauzy terminology can mean anything to anyone, but it probably implies for government involvement in food what “affordable housing” meant to the taxpayer disasters caused by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Whenever a liberal talks about “insecurity,” it is thinly-disguised code for “something government should provide.”
Looked at independently, there are few things the free market does better than provide and distribute food, with an abundance of stores offering great choice, high quality, and low prices — although prices would be still lower in the absence of government policy to bribe farmers and burn 40 percent of our national corn crop to make ethanol, truly the most insane large government program in my memory. But I digress…
So to the extent that there is “food insecurity,” that can’t mean anything more than that there is poverty. But just as increasing the size, scope, and cost of welfare programs inevitably increases dependency on welfare, increasing government distribution of food will, like conditioning lab animals to respond to particular stimuli, cause recipients of the “free” food to become ever less self-reliant, ever more wards of the state, and — getting to the left’s true purpose here — characterized by ever more fealty to the Democratic Party, Giver of Government Cheese.
Nothing begets poverty like the federal government telling people that they are poor, are destined to be poor, that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and that “we’re here to help.” Furthermore, Census Bureau measurements of poverty are designed to substantially overstate the prevalence of poverty in America. (More on this below.)
Next, Booker wants to “reduce the stigma” of being on food stamps. We’ve heard that a lot in recent years, with obvious manifestations in such things as changing the name of the program from food stamps to the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” or SNAP. (Who would want to deny someone “nutrition”?) A telling quote from a New York Times article on the declining stigma of food stamps: “Although the program is growing at a record rate, the federal official who oversees it would like it to grow even faster.”
It used to be, in the early days of the American welfare state, that going on the dole was a last resort, to be used after exhausting other avenues from self-reliance to family support to mutual aid societies to private charity. Taking government money was something that people would keep private out of a slight sense of shame.
Although he was not speaking of welfare, a quote from Thomas Jefferson is nevertheless apropos: “Dependance (sic) begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.” Americans used to know this to be true; it was almost a congenital trait of Americans — even if not born here — who knew that American Exceptionalism, that reaching individual and national success and self-sufficiency requires a desire to do so, and that individual success was an antibody, though not a foolproof one, to a metastasizing government.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online