Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 3, 2010

THE HEALTHY, HUNGER-FREE KIDS ACT.... With the job crisis failing to improve and the debate over tax policy going poorly, is there any good news coming out of the political world? Well, I was glad to see the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act pass both chambers of Congress.

The Democrat-led House voted Thursday to send President Obama a bill that would enable more poor children to receive free meals at school, raise the nutritional quality of cafeteria fare and reduce the junk food and sugary beverages sold in school vending machines. [...]

The bill, a priority for the president and first lady Michelle Obama, would boost spending on child nutrition $4.5 billion over 10 years and raise federal reimbursements for school lunches more than the inflation rate for the first time since 1973. It also would require for the first time that free drinking water be available where meals are served.

The bill accelerates the budding healthful-food movement in public education - think whole wheat pizza with low-fat cheese and low-sodium sauce - but leaves unanswered key questions about whether schools can afford to give tens of millions of students better meals.

The funding mechanism for this relatively inexpensive bill was far from ideal. Meals for low-income children, unlike tax cuts for millionaires, apparently have to be paid for, and sponsors were forced to take money from the food-stamp program in order to offset the costs of the child nutrition bill. Proponents hope to fix this down the road.

But in the meantime, this legislation should make a real difference in the lives of a lot of children.

When the Senate approved the bill over the summer, it was considered such a no-brainer that it passed by unanimous consent -- not one Senate Republican objected. But in the House, GOP lawmakers, after initially trying to kill the legislation, ultimately voted against it -- of the 157 Republicans who voted yesterday, 153 opposed the measure.

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), for example, declared, " 'Stop growing government,' people are telling us. 'Stop spending money we do not have.' It's a simple request and a sensible one. Yet it continues to be ignored."

First, if Kline thinks the American electorate is demanding opposition to measures related to childhood nutrition, he should probably get out of his right-wing bubble. Second, he made it sound as if this bill would add to the deficit, but it will not.

And third, just so folks get a sense of what's to come, keep in mind that Kline will be the chairman of the House committee that oversees education policy next year.

It's going to be a long two years.

Steve Benen 10:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (14)

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Comments

Kline need not worry about healthful school lunches: the hard-right base prefers homeschooling anyway.

Posted by: zeitgeist on December 3, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

So this is paid for by cuts to food stamps? Too bad spending to help hungry people isn't free, like tax cuts for millionaires and endless land wars in Asia.

Posted by: Tom Allen on December 3, 2010 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

"So this is paid for by cuts to food stamps?"

Yes and some with consciences voted against it for that reason. No one was forced to take money from food stamps--it was a deliberate choice and results in window dressing. Another "victory" by "compromise."

Posted by: impartial on December 3, 2010 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I've been hearing a lot about the failed Food Safety Bill and how it would have put out of business small local food growers (farmers' markets) and organic farms.

Is that true? I've also heard there is a companion bill that would require getting a doctor's prescription for vitamin supplements.

If any of this is true, it's obvious that it's not about "food safety," but about increasing the profits of Big Agriculture and Big Pharma.

Posted by: Speed on December 3, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Every time I read something like this I just want to crawl under the bed and hide there. I honestly do not understand our priorities--basic nutrition for kids is where we want to cut government spending? Really?

When Reagan--yes, Saint Ron--tried to change the school lunch rules to count pickle relish and tomato ketchup as vegetables, there was outrage. Not so much now. I guess poor school kids should find their nutrition in the same place they did in John Boner's good old days, by poking through garbage cans.

I'm surprised the GOP didn't use this as an excuse to go after teachers' unions and ACORN.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on December 3, 2010 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

How much taken from the Food Stamp Program? If parents/ adults end up having serious sustenance compromised so that kids (many belonging to these parents, I'd imagine) can get whole wheat pizza and low-fat cheese seems a bit over the top.

Posted by: whole wheat pizza? Please on December 3, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

....sponsors were forced to take money from the food-stamp program in order to offset the costs of the child nutrition bill.

Great. So now poor kids will be hungry at home instead of at school.

Posted by: Oh my on December 3, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

I'm just surprised that no Republican had the rhetorical balls to claim that hunger is an incentive to become a productive member of society. You know, give a kid a meal and you teach him to depend on Big Brother for his food. Give him a gun and drop him off in the woods, you teach him to survive and achieve.

Sorry. I shouldn't give Steve King or Michele Bachmann any ideas.

Posted by: jvwalt on December 3, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Why do Republicans hate our children?

Seriously, why the h*ll can't Dems hammer them w/this? It's a hanging change-up, *begging* to be hit into the stands. But no, just like waiting until *after* the mid-terms to vote on extending taxes for 98% of Americans, the Dems will probably watch this cookie sail right past them.

As I've said, national politics today is a battle between gormless + soulless. Pick a side.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on December 3, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

The American Democracy is a thing of the past. We are no longer a country of, for, and by the people; rather, we are a country that has been sold out to the highest bidder, where we Americans are simply consumer bots, not humans, and business and corporate interest rule this plutocracy.

When one understands that the main function of the right wing is to dismantle all vestiges of government and turn the running of the country over to private interests whose only motivation is profit, then things such as this are completely understandable.

America
RIP-

Posted by: citizen_pain on December 3, 2010 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Kline will be the chairman of the House committee that oversees education policy next year
~~~
You've got to be kidding. Does Klein NOT KNOW that hungry kids don't learn very well? And his no vote was A VOTE FOR HUNGRY KIDS.

There's also the problem of kids not getting enough to eat over the weekend. The backpacks program in some locations, where kids take a backpack full of food home each weekend, helps, but there are a lot more kids to be reached. This program is funded by private donation, not tax dollars. We have a program running out of our church; our middle school kids pack the backpacks every Wednesday evening during their program time, and they are delivered by volunteers to the schools on Thursdays (and empty backpacks from the prior weekend are picked up). We also have a food bank running out of our church, funded by members. Let's just say that we are hard pressed to keep food in the pantry. Most of the "clients" are mothers and their small children.

Posted by: Hannah on December 3, 2010 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK
The funding mechanism for this relatively inexpensive bill was far from ideal. Meals for low-income children, unlike tax cuts for millionaires, apparently have to be paid for, and sponsors were forced to take money from the food-stamp program in order to offset the costs of the child nutrition bill.

"Far from ideal" doesn't begin to describe it.

It is taking food out of the mouths of poor families with children year round in order to fund a bill that feeds some poor children in school as well as doing other things that aren't focussed on the poor specifically. So, essentially, its a transfer of services from the neediest children to the less needy, and, despite the name "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act", can reasonably expected to make poor children less healthy, and more hungry.


Posted by: cmdicely on December 3, 2010 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Our new corporate overlords' kids are perfectly well-fed, so they don't give a rat's a$$ about anyone else's.

Appropriate use of dollar signs above, no?
-Z

Posted by: Zorro on December 3, 2010 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Republican position: "We need to let our kids starve now, so they won't have to pay a little more in interest in the distant future."

Posted by: zandru on December 3, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK
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