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A new “ketchup is a vegetable” moment

I don’t know what to make of this comment from David Obey about the Obama administration’s suggestion that funding for Obama’s Race to the Top educational initiatives be taken from food stamp funds:

The secretary of education [Arne Duncan] is whining about the fact he only got 85 percent of the money he wanted .… [W]hen we needed money, we committed the cardinal sin of treating him like any other mere mortal. We were giving them over $10 billion in money to help keep teachers on the job, plus another $5 billion for Pell, so he was getting $15 billion for the programs he says he cares about, and it was costing him $500 million [in reductions to the Race to the Top program]. Now that’s a pretty damn good deal. So as far as I’m concerned, the secretary of education should have been happy as hell. He should have taken that deal and smiled like a Cheshire cat. He’s got more walking around money than every other cabinet secretary put together.

We were told we have to offset every damn dime of [new teacher spending]. Well, it ain’t easy to find offsets, and with all due respect to the administration their first suggestion for offsets was to cut food stamps. Now they were careful not to make an official budget request, because they didn’t want to take the political heat for it, but that was the first trial balloon they sent down here. …Their line of argument was, well, the cost of food relative to what we thought it would be has come down, so people on food stamps are getting a pretty good deal in comparison to what we thought they were going to get. Well isn’t that nice. Some poor bastard is going to get a break for a change.

Hmmm.  I don’t know where the White House is shopping but here in NJ peaches are still retailing for $1.99/lb.  Yep.  It seems that when gas prices spiked a couple of years ago at $4.00/gal, grocery stores raised prices accordingly and now we have a “new normal”.  It’s not nearly as bad as it is in Maui where my older daughter lives where a couple of bags of groceries can easily cost $100 but it’s still pretty bad.  I marvel at the cost of a single dinner.

Around here, the layoffs are thick and furious.  One minute, you’re making enough to pay your mortgage and property taxes, the next, you’re facing foreclosure as soon as the severance bennies run out.  One of the obvious solutions is to not live in NJ.  Or New York, where unemployment benefits peak at something like $450/week.  Now, that might seem generous if you live in Alabama but that money won’t even pay the rent around here for a single month.  Imagine if you have hungry kids?

There’s no shame in accepting food stamps.  Unemployed people paid for them throughout their working careers.  When it’s time to collect, they need to be able to pay the going rate for food in their area.  That’s an insurance policy against malnutrition.  And no Race to the Top scheme is going to work in a state where children are too hungry to think.

And while the House Education and Labor Committees just approved a bill that would help improve our school lunch program, advocates say the measly sums appropriated for it will not be enough unless a convincing case can be made on the House floor during debate:

“From our view [the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act] is really the best child nutrition bill that we’ve ever had. It includes stronger nutrition standards and grants for farm-to-school programs,” says Gordon Jenkins, program manager at Slow Food USA. “The amount of funding however, is very modest at the $.06 addition to the current $2.68, which leaves only about $1 for ingredients. It won’t be enough to make a significant change. That can be modified on the floor if Congress hears it’s important enough.”

For those too young to remember, Ronald Reagan’s administration tried something similar in the early 80’s during another severe recession.  It tried to sut money from the school lunch program and reclassify ketchup as a vegetable.  That didn’t go over too well with the public, even among those who thought there was a cadillac driving welfare queen behind every application for a free lunch.  You do not skimp when it comes to the nutritional needs of children.  That kind of callous indifference will definitely get you pilloried by the public, which may be Obey’s intent.  We can read a lot of political subtext into this little ditty.

In the meantime, food insecurity is a big problem in this Great Recession.  If you have the means, remember that there are a lot of unlucky duckies who still can’t find work and feed their kids.  You can help by donating to Feeding America.

117 Responses

  1. Let them eat…. um, nothing.

    What a clusterf&*k of an administration.

  2. So Arne is the keeper of the WH slush fund? They must have already promised all the funds for past favors. Obey is having none of it and ratting.

    • “So as far as I’m concerned, the secretary of Education should have been happy as hell. He should have taken that deal and smiled like a Cheshire cat. He’s got more walking around money than every other cabinet secretary put together. ” Obey’s choice of words is interesting in that “walking around money” is old fashioned term of political campaigns passing around cash on the street for votes. Is this what Obey is implying?

      • I think Obey is implying a whole host of things in this comment. And Obey can do that because he is retiring this year. It doesn’t matter to him what he says because his election won’t be riding on it.

      • I think the administration is playing games on the other end of this, too. Obey also said this wasn’t an official budget request. Same with unemployment. There’s unallocated Stimulus money that could be allocated to UI, but Congressional leadership keeps passing these public extensions to battle the Republicasn every month.

        If Obama wants to deficit spend to stimulate the economy, then he can stop bitching about the national debt and put this stuff in the budget. He only needs 50 votes in the Senate for that.

  3. The Audacity of Dave:

  4. Since Obama loves Reagan so much , it was inevitable he would have his own “ketchup is a vegetable” moment….

  5. Isn’t childhood obesity the First Lady’s project? Is part of the plan to starve children?

    • I’m not sure that childhood obesity will be all that much of a problem going forward. That occurs in the burbs where children aren’t allowed to go outside and play and are carefully chauffured from one expensive activity after another. With the number of layoffs in our area, that’s going to come to a schreeching halt among a lot of people.
      Unemployment in NJ is at 9.8%. And it’s going to get worse.

      • Geography of a Recession (updated 7.15.10)

        • Wonk you always have the best stuff. But this video? OMG.
          Unbelievable. That really shows what is going on. The stranger part is that is only two years? Hmmm….

          Wow. Thanks for finding that one.

          ps: I’m going to blog some scratch recipes, maybe. I did soup over at Uppity’s a few years ago and she has good things up for that.

          Wonk — this is Bastille, redux in the black areas and that covers almost the whole west and east. Unbelievable. I think this is one of the most telling things I’ve seen yet.

        • quite amazing

        • That dark stripe running up the Texas border includes 17 of the 100 poorest counties in the United States–and that’s in good times. (That yellow patch just to the east is deceptive. That’s Kenedy County, aka Sarita Ranch, with a human population of about 125 and several hundred thousand cows.)

          I’m looking at that map and thinking of all those Southern states with Republican Senators, and the Republicans just make less and less sense.

        • That is amazing..thank you for finding this video. It is something for those of us who are “visual” to see the unemployment spread. Our county has been hit bad…If it was not for the new Walmart that opened last year, I can only imagine how bad it would be. (That “happy smile” store saved my family for sure.)

      • It also happens in bad neighborhoods where it’s downright dangerous to go out and play. That’s why obesity and poverty tend to track together. PLus, the fact that a double cheeseburger still goes for $1.20 while peaches are $ a pound.

      • It is also a problem in the inner city where there are “food deserts” no grocery stores,only gas stations. It is also true that starch goes a lot farther to fill an empty stomach money wise than fresh vegtables at very high prices.

    • Yea, that’s Michelle’s Fancy Surprise Salad.

  6. And the Obots have the nerve to despise Bill Clinton for bringing us eight years of peace and prosperity.

    • Hey, have you been to Digby’s blog recently? The commenters there seem to be turning on Obama in droves. It could be she is experiencing an infiltration of Republican operatives but the weird thing is that the Obots aren’t really defending him all that enthusiastically anymore. One or two even seem to be open to the idea that the primaries were rigged.
      Get the popcorn. With extra butta.

      • If they’re gonna go PUMA they have pay the lifetime membership fee and get the tattoo just like the rest of us.

      • Good, because they WERE rigged! Has there been any investigation of the Iowa caucuses, which kicked off the Obama nightmare? I seem to have heard Illinois students were bussed in so they could vote there. I would like to know more about that.

        • Biden the presidential candidate would look out over the crowds at Iowa functions and shout, “Hello, Chicago,” recognizing the ever-present Obama Chicago contingent. The caucusing in Iowa may not be as significant as the fact that the DNC did not allow caucus leaders in other states to verify voters and the busloads of unrecognized caucus intimidators would arrive ready to strong arm for Precious (after the free barbecue).

          Remember all the “rock” rallies? Will the Decemberists offer a free concert in Portland in 2012? Will their be fainting females in the front rows? Can the Greek columns be revived? The idea of having any more years with such a faux “leader” is beyond comprehension. He’s worse than I expected. He isn’t propped up as much as he needs to be to overcome his lack of qualifications.

    • @Myiq: There you go again, clinging bitterly to peace and prosperity. Shame on you! 😛

  7. FDL is also pissed.

  8. This is a hoot!

  9. I still like this from the holidays:

  10. $11.25 an hour would seem generous in Alabama?

    • I’m guessing that it could go farther than in NY. It’s not generous by any standards but I suspect you could scrape by on it in Alabama. You absolutely couldn’t in NY. Housing is ridiculous in this area. That would barely cover the rent on a one bedroom apt.

      • it would undoubtedly go farther than in NY. but living in Alabama, I wonder why everyone uses it as an example of cheap living. we’re one of two states that charge full sales tax on groceries – 9 or 10% depending on where you live. utilities are outrageous – I pay about 4X what I paid in the DC area for water and sewer alone. there is virtually no public transportation so if you want to go anywhere you have to own and maintain a car.
        I was laid off in January and am currently working a temp job for $10 an hour, or $400 a week. and I am scraping by. I miss doing fun things like travel or theater, but I have a roof over my head.
        I guess I just always wonder why Alabama’s the go-to example for cheapness or stupidity or whatever. ok, maybe we deserve it for the stupidity…sigh…

        • Plus, NY has at least two remarkably disperate economies. NYC is a totally different world from Upstate or Central or Western NY.

        • Right. You have a roof over your head. My point exactly. My friends who were recently laid off in NY will NOT have a roof over their heads when their severance benefits expire and they have nothing buy unemployment. And taxes in NY are very high as is the cost of just about everything. Outside of big cities, there is no public transportation. If you live in the burbs and have to commute, trains are not cheap.
          On I

          • do people really think there are no homeless people in states like Alabama? that’s amazing.

          • Of course not. But it’s going to be q much quicker fall into homelessness for some previously solid families in ny.

          • Homelessness in NY – I wonder what the condition of the Bowery is today. When I was little, my parents drove my grandparents to see my grandfather’s sister in a nursing home in lower Manhattan. They didn’t think the nursing home was a very “wholesome” environment for a child, so instead we took a ride while my grandparents visited – through the Bowery – and there were literally hundreds of homeless derelicts laying all over the streets. I think we probably saw about 1000 of them on each ride. And this was an alternative to the nursing home? What were they thinking?

          • close to 1000.

          • Yes kiki, apparently there ARE people who believe there are no homeless people in Alabama. I’ll bet they think peaches are less than a $1.99 a pound in Georgia, too. But since, NO ONE holds mortgages on their shantys and rusted out trailers here, we don’t have to worry about having a roof over our heads. I can’t speak for Alabama, but in Georgia the max unemployment check is $330. a week (8.25/hour) – before taxes. YEE HAW!!

            We’ve been living the high life down here for so long! But, let’s not forget those folks in New Yawk City. Those folks are suffering right now. Some of them even have severance pay that ‘s gonna run out soon before their unemployment kicks in. Poor things. Bless their little pea-picking hearts. At least we’re getting rid of alot of our teachers. I’ve heard they and their families weren’t “solid”, so I guess they’ve got to go. Damn shame, tho’.

        • “I guess I just always wonder why Alabama’s the go-to example”

          Alphabetical order?

  11. It’s interesting the “Welfare Queen behind ever Cadillac” meme is exactly what’s being pumped right now–the unemployed are milking the system. Though there’s no mention of the corporate raiders, the bankers and billionaires sitting on their cash assets, boo-hooing about high taxes and the unfairness of it all.

    How people buy into this nonsense is beyond me. We’ve been turned into a country of zombies.

    Funny about the “ketchup is a vegetable” line. I had actually forgotten that. Made my father’s day. He slathered everything in ketchup!

    I heard a distressing stat on Greta’s show, The school lunch programs feed approx 19+ million kids during the school year. During the summer, there are nearly 17 million American kids that go hungry. Here, in this country, while the bankers whine about a FinReg Bill that has their craven hearts in mind.

    We have definitely lost our way!

    • That’s rough. I had completely forgotten about what those kids do in the summer. What *do* they do?

      • According to Rush they should dumpster dive.

        • Let them eat Rush.

          And I mean that literally, rather than in a sexual way. 😈

      • Go hungry or rely on the kindness of strangers. Greta had Catherine McFee on. McFee has taken her public platform and current celebrity status and backed a number of programs trying to expand services to these kids.

        But the numbers are really disturbing. I was shocked, too. Even Greta said she had no idea.

      • Just this week I shopped and donated to my local foodbank, things like canned goods, noodles, rice, peanut butter, jam and jelly, pudding and fruit cups.

        • Our store here – Raley’s – has a program where you can ad an amount you specify to your grocery order. Then they provide the food. Most people donate around the holiday’s but you can do it anytime. I just think of it as tithing, and do it every time we shop.

      • They go hungry…and try to survive the violence in their neighborhoods.

    • Be sure and check out how organizations use donations.


      My hubby has committed us twice to ‘feel good’ donation events for a wife of his co-worker before I could check the stats. Since my mom passed from breast cancer and the funding was to the American Cancer Society he thought this time it was legitimate.

      The event gave only 9% to the American Cancer Society and used the other 91% to run the cancer walk.

      Needless to say he informed the coworker this was the last time because it didn’t meet our standards.

    • I volunteer at a non-profit that provides direct assistance to people in need. every year we run a mother’s day fundraiser to collect food and money for families with kids who usually are fed at school. this year has been so sad because need is up and donations are way down. after the fundraiser kinda fizzled out, compared to previous years, we ran a big push for peanut butter, jelly and bread and got a better response. not the best diet but it’s food.

    • Peggy Sue–people buy into that nonsense because the Malefactors Of Great Wealth (an older term for the bonus classes) OWN the major media and can hire the very best professional liars. (I’m guessing you knew that already, though, and so your question was rhetorical.)

      Thank Haruhi that Goebbels did not have the modern US media at his disposal. If he’d had THAT brainwashing machine, he might have taken the world for his Fuehrer without firing a shot.

  12. And the NBPP couldn’t be bothered with trying to feed the community because they browbeat voters for Obama…job done.

    Too bad none of them paid attention to how he treated his constituents. They would’ve realized the extent of their importance was until the funding was passed in their name….for the benefit of other rich dudes.

    • This is how community organizing gets a bad name. Supporting candidates is one thing, working for them is another.

      • True….very true.

        And I have seen so many of these people who seek adoration for their ‘good works’ actually be the ones with the sleaziest intentions.

  13. What’s wrong with this picture? Obama and family on their 7th vacation while HRC heads to Afghanistan. Who’s president again?

    Obamas continue busy Maine holiday


    Clinton on key Afghan mission as US war fears grow

    WASHINGTON – As concerns grow about the war in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is heading to South Asia on a mission aimed at refining the goals of the nearly 9-year-old conflict.


  14. Nice one RD.

    It’s so clear how utterly short-sighted these fools are.
    Here is a story from out here on that subject.


    It’s tragic right now for so many RD & Co. Not just here. The whole country. Monstrous. Those vids up the other day I saw here re the KKK? All I could think was god. How has this happened? How?

    But the reality must be that there are no jobs in the area where that is happening. I have written many times about Maslow — but here you guys. Look at the pyramid and you can see for yourselves.

    Our country is below the first rung right now.

    3rd World.

    Sends hugs to all and wishes RD some fab peaches. Calif isn’t like back east that way, yet.

    If people get hungry enough? Believe me, it will be Bastile day redux. So frightening.

    I hope the next admin gets it, in ways this bogus one can’t. I really do. Do you know what Hillary’s focus would have been on? I think I do. It takes a village. And a fed village. Or else? Chaos like we are seeing.

    • Maslow…I completely agree. Of all the people we studied in psychology he was one of my favorites.

      Stunning about the food stamp math. Really legislators need to live on these programs for a few months to see how this really works.

      Someone I know used to say that they will never solve poverty because they have to scare the middle class into working for the rich.

      • I’ve never been on food stamps, but the way things are going for me, it could happen. But, I’ve been in supermarkets where either the people in line or the cashier really shames these people. Cashiers, pointing out loudly that food stamps don’t cover that, etc. It always made me so ashamed that another human being could be so cruel.

        • After Katrina, they gave us all like $500 worth of food stamps for each of three months per person. The university screwed up my pay for like 3 or 4 months because the paperwork was at the university somewhere and there was no one on campus to find it and they wouldn’t pay me without it even though I was teaching on line–as were we all at the time. So, the entire area was a food stamps for like 3 months. I was thrilled to have that and my red cross money and my debit card from the Feds. I doubt any one that lived down here at the time turned them down or didn’t use them. I decided that I’d paid since I was 15 for this stuff by working, it was a horrible ordeal and i wasn’t about to be pigheaded and turn down the offer of help from other people who wanted to do something.

      • Karma–your old acquaintance probably spoke the truth. 😡

    • The comments on that LA times story are sicking.

    • One of the probs out here is that some have abused the system. Really. I don’t think this would have mattered because the middle class paid for it? Truly. There have been many free rides. But? Now the middle class isn’t. The whole middle is no longer contributing to all the things they always did? Like the United Way and so forth. Because they have been laid off for the most part? Seriously. Those jobs are elsewhere? Overseas. What RD always writes about when it comes to her field.

      The middle class is like what RD is talking about in this article. Stores they used to shop in are going under. People are homeless in the streets and crime is on the rise like you cannot believe.

      I think we are going to see migrations? To other states, I do.
      Where I live is like where RD lives. Elsewhere? It’s unbelievable to me that houses cost only in the 300,000’s. Shocking. Seriously.
      Here? There is nothing like that. That price is 25 years ago.
      The cities here along the coast look like the wasteland. Very sad if you could see. So sad.

      • To What other states?

        I mean, I’m in Seattle and the empty storefronts are reproducing. Rent is ridiculously high, and people all over are looking for roommates. You can’t tell too much, but things are getting bad.

        But where do you GO? Back home to the midwest? To try to find a job in software in Indiana?

      • The states that aren’t so overextended population wise. I have thought for some time that a greening of liberal attitudes nationwide might when the coasts start to move inland and southeast. I think that might be happening in the Carolinas right now, with the security and military jobs there.

        We just have to wire up. MO already has it. Saint Louis has some of the greatest old brick homes waiting for renovation at $10-15 thou. If ten people go together and move into one of those depressed neighborhoods it will change.

        • I know, roofingbird — those are the sorts of things I was looking at. Fantastic architecture. Unbelievable. These are the migrations I think will happen. Like that. But, that map above? OMG. That said it all.

  15. There is a little beauty for sale here on my lake in MO. Three bedrooms,two baths, beautiful wood floors, vaulted great room with fireplace and windows looking at the woods,lake view. $110K. 30 minutes from St. Louis.

    • montowesse, send me the moving expenses, and hold that job you’ve got for me. Then I’ll start packing, I guess you’ll be paying the mortgage, too.

  16. By the way, if anyone does have to go on Foodstamps, like I did in the late seventies,

    just ignore folks, go in and buy a steak or two as part of your budgeted groceries. They are good protein with some good fat that will slice into stir fry, casserole or warm salad, for an expanded healthy meal. Put the bones in the freezer and when you have enough start soup stock.

    A far better choice than Velveeta,

    • I am totally going to write some scratch recipes, RB. Easy and healthful we are talkng 70’s basics, gf.

      I don’t think people know how? Seriously. Out here the actual “food” part of the large markets is really tiny. Everything has been done for them? I think this is part of the obesity prob too right now. Those mixes? Few do scratch, I think.

  17. This donburi recipe is for chicken, but you can see how it would be satisfying with a couple of steak slices on top.


    The protein comes mostly from the egg, but meat flavor is still there with 1/4 lb meat, and 4-5 eggs for four people. If one steak is 8oz, or 1/2 lb, that’s two meals.

    • Thanks for the link to the chicken & egg over rice. This is so much the way I cook……Every week, I buy turkey breast, and bake it. I freeze the bones (with a little meat, until I have a good amount for stock), and then freeze the stock. Every week I cook rice, it keeps good in fridge.

      You’re right, you only need 3 ozs. protein per meal (abt the size of deck of cards) to get the biggest bang for your $1.00

      Using turkey, rice and eggs, I can make several healty dishes. Another one is fried rice. Hot and cold meals. I generally chop up ham, green onions, and frozen peas. Put them in containers and freeze them. When I want fried rice, it’s ready to go. The good thing is soy sauce now comes with less sodium. I don’t live near a Chinese Market, so I can’t get alot of items to need to cook from the bento recipes.

      The mormons have great recipes that can help stretch one’s budget too.

  18. I was thinking the Ketchup as a vegetable meme when I read the comments by Obey earlier. I don’t think people are really getting how deep the issues are at the moment. Some areas in NE Ohio had a 25 percent poverty rate before the “crisis”.
    I have run into some people who have the welfare queen mentality because they can name one person who they feel are taking advantage of the situation. I work in health care which has been fairly insulated from the economic mess. However, if they were paying any attention they will realize that the health care economy is soon to go under as well. Then when they loose their jobs, or their friends loose their jobs, maybe they will finally get it.

    I am all for industry/jobs moving back to the mid-west. At least we still have water. In the last 30 years jobs have moved to areas least suited for expansive population growth primarily because of the lack of sufficient water.

  19. Since we are having this discussion about where to live, don’t forget to do some basic investigation on the health of the place. There are correlations to be found with poverty and hazardous corporate waste and manufacturing. I was just reading about some urban farming concerns in OH, (I think Dayton? ) where some folks were recommending soil testing prior to installing a garden.

  20. If I thought cutting food stamp benefits would take the money where it is needed then it would be OK with me.

    Here’s how you cut it.

    Eliminate food stamp purchases of: potato chips;coke;pepsi;candy;cake;pie;breakfast food with high fructose corn syrup; chewing gum; well you get the idea.

    I watch people using food stamps to fill their cart with incredible junk because the govt would never dare to forbid the purchase of those items that come from corporations that pour money into their coffers.

    • Before they eliminate poor people’s mac and cheese, maybe they could eliminate the wars that they still can’t explain us why we’re there and how we’re going to get out.

      • amen

      • Word. Besides being more expensive, healthy food tends to be more labor intensive to prepare and requires more specialized equiptment like knives and pots and well, even working refrigerators and stoves, which not everyone has. It’s not that easy to plan and execute healthy meals on a limited budget especially when you’re wandering around without much more energy than it takes to rip open a package.

      • Know who’s food obsessed, though? Ezra. He’s always tweeting Amanda hesser for tips. Jake Tapper tweets her sometimes too, and Jacob Weisman. Maybe they worship O for VIP access to Michelle’s garden. 😉

  21. Hell. With all the trillions we’ve spent on these wars, we could have created whole grocery stores for food stamp recipients only, chock full of nothing but healthy food. But instead of recognizing it might save money in the long run, some idiot would come along and claim they were selling their “government issued” fresh veggies for drugs. Wonder if the guvmint would allow dark chocolate now that it’s been determined to be healthy? Probably not. The poor aren’t allowed chocolate. We wouldn’t want them to become obese and end up sick in our emergency rooms. Can you imagine how much that would cost??!!

  22. FEC fines Biden’s 2008 campaign — Lol — if only he could be fined for every time he got outside of the cone of silence 😉

    NY Mag:

    The Federal Election Commission has fined Vice-President Joe Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign $219,000 for raising over-the-limit contributions and failing to pay the full rate for a joy ride between New Hampshire and Iowa on a jet owned by a New York hedge fund. Biden’s press secretary, Elizabeth Alexander, said Biden will pay the full amount and that “the errors were relatively minor,” claiming the excess contribution money was less than one percent of the total raised by the campaign. Biden was also officially charged with “sloppy record-keeping.” [NYT, Politico]

  23. FEC fines Biden’s 2008 campaign — Lol — if only he could be fined for every time he got outside of the cone of silence

    Still funny!!


  24. Here’s a place where you can get food at prices cheaper than supermarket prices.


    The food is good (I’ve had it.) There are no income guidelines, so it doesn’t matter how much money you make. You can buy online and pay by credit card or order in person at the host site. I think it’s nationwide. The bad news is you have to pick it up at a church. You don’t have to be a member of the church and there is no evangelizing.

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