Thursday, November 30, 2006

Kaul: You're not hungry, just insecure


Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on the eve of his nomination for president in 1932, said: "I see one-third of a nation ill-fed, ill-housed and ill-clad." Ever since, American presidents have promised to end hunger. None of them has.

Not John Kennedy with his plans cut short, not Lyndon Johnson who used them to build his own Great Society, not Ronald Reagan with his "a rising tide raises all boats" philosophy, not Bill Clinton, who felt everybody's pain. Until now. George W. Bush, who didn't even promise to end hunger, has done it anyway. And in time for the holidays.

In fact, mere days before Thanksgiving, Mr. Bush's Department of Agriculture issued its annual report on food availability and, lo and behold, no one was listed as "hungry." Take that, FDR!

It seems that the USDA had done away with the "hungry" category in its 2006 report because the word is an imprecise, non-scientific term. Instead, those who can't afford to put food on the table are now said to have "very low food security." This year, that group was even bigger than last year---35 million, or 12 percent of the population. But no hunger.

Good for our side. Now if President Bush would only get to work on the ill-housed and ill-clad issues we could get on about the business of carving a place for him on Mt. Rushmore.

But if you're surprised that 35 million Americans have very low food security and that 11 million reported going (you should pardon the expression) hungry at times, you shouldn't be.

I know that we're the greatest country in the world---just ask us---but there are certain minor areas in which we lag behind much of the industrialized world. I'm talking matters almost too trivial to mention: life expectancy, nutrition, housing, health services, education, employment.

The United Nations each year publishes a "human development" index, ranking countries according to the ability to provide their citizens a chance at a long and prosperous life.

It turns out that Norway, land of the steeply progressive income tax, is the place most likely to help you live long and well. Capitalistic America is no better than eighth, coming in behind Iceland, Australia, Ireland, Sweden, Canada and Japan. To which I can only say in rebuttal: "Our rich people are richer than your rich people and we don't make them pay taxes either. Ha, ha."

If that doesn't make the Norwegians and the rest of those socialists emerald green with envy, nothing will.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, President Bush and the Democrats have already started making good on the promise to be bi-partisan.

Mr. Bush's fired off the first gesture by nominating a man who does not believe in the United Nations (John Bolton) to be our U.N. ambassador and a man who doesn't believe in contraception (Eric Keroack) to oversee federally funded planned parenthood programs. The appointments are in keeping with Bush's philosophy of putting incompetents (former FEMA head Michael Brown) and outright saboteurs (former Secretary of Energy and auto industry shill Spencer Abraham) at the controls of government to demonstrate that government doesn't work.

The Democrats---who like government and think we should have more of it---haven't contrived their bi-partisan answer yet; they've been too busy fighting among themselves. Nancy Pelosi's first move on becoming the presumptive Speaker of the House was to try to strong-arm Abscam scandal-tainted John Murtha of Pennsylvania, into the No. 2 House position.

Rep. Stenny Hoyer of Maryland, however, had his own ambitions for the job. In addition, he had the votes so he won, thus making Ms. Pelosi not merely the first woman ever to lead the House, but the first to enter office carrying her head underneath her arm. But never fear. She's hoping to salvage her reputation for leadership by naming Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Hastings, you might remember, was the federal judge impeached on a bribery charge. Tell me again why we voted the Democrats into office. I keep forgetting.

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