October 22, 2007

Bush's compassion?

Two stories from C&L that point to serious disconnect between the supposed morality of this President and his policies. First, just a note on how Bush's economy is effecting people not connected to Haliburton:
"The calculus of living paycheck to paycheck in America is getting harder. What used to last four days might last half that long now. Pay the gas bill, but skip breakfast. Eat less for lunch so the kids can have a healthy dinner.

Across the nation, Americans are increasingly unable to stretch their dollars to the next payday as they juggle higher rent, food and energy bills. It's starting to affect middle-income working families as well as the poor, and has reached the point of affecting day-to-day calculations of merchants like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 7-Eleven Inc. and Family Dollar Stores Inc.

Food pantries, which distribute foodstuffs to the needy, are reporting severe shortages and reduced government funding at the very time that they are seeing a surge of new people seeking their help."
The ripple effects are also scary. People are cutting fruits and vegetables out of their diet because of the expense, which means that nutrition suffers. And how does the President feel about this? Hoover-esque:
"An unidentified low-income senior explained to the president that, in his last two budgets, he has tried to eliminate the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), terminating food assistance to 420,000 low-income seniors in an average month. Bush joked about not knowing anything about the program, or the budget cuts, before asking, “Why did you ask that question?”

The senior stuck to the point: “With a half-a-million seniors who rely on this food, and the food stamp benefit for seniors who live in poverty, it comes nowhere near this benefit that they receive — how do we make sure that our seniors have the food that they need?”

BUSH: Well, where do you get most of your food from in the food bank? Private donations, right?

Q Well, we’re fortunate, yes.

BUSH: Yes. That’s the way it ought to be. Food banks ought to be supported through the generosity of individuals."
And there is more:
Q The supplemental commodity food program — there’s nothing to replace it with. Food stamps aren’t going to work and we’re talking about folks who live in poverty –

BUSH: Right.

Q They already made all the mistakes which they can’t fix –

BUSH: Yes, look, if somebody is poor, we want to help them. And the fundamental question is what’s the proper balance between federal help and private help. And when it comes to food banks, look, I don’t know the program. Maybe I shouldn’t make this admission, maybe I should try to bull my way through. I don’t know the program; I’m sorry. I’ll be glad to look into it. But just from a philosophical perspective, one of the wonderful things about the country is when there’s a need, the average citizen steps up and helps fill the need through private charity. And your program, I suspect, really functions well because the food bank is a dear cause for people. People say, how can I love my neighbor? Well, one way to love your neighbor is the food bank.

And the truth of the matter is I suspect that if seniors are suffering here in Lancaster County and you put out the call, people are going to help.
This is Bush's answer. If local food banks can't help, then the elderly poor are on their own. As this blogger put it:
This is what the White House used to call the “ownership society.” If you’re a low-income senior who needs food, you “own” your poverty, and it’ll be up to others who “own” food to give you a hand. If they don’t? You’ll “own” your hunger, which no one can take away from you.

I’m being flippant — and given the subject matter, perhaps I shouldn’t be — but I found Bush’s response quite striking. Here was an elderly person who can’t work, but wants to eat to survive. The president not only failed to justify his budget priorities, he also admitted that he doesn’t see any reason for the government to worry about whether seniors living in poverty get food or not — that should be up to the kindness of strangers.

This from the man who made “compassionate conservatism” a basis for his campaign.

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