Tag Archives: Meals on Wheels

Meals On Wheels: Canary in the GOP Coal Mine

The entire “skinny budget,” which somehow manages to keep lots of fat on the Pentagon budget, offered up by the current administration is a mass of mischaracterizations packed into a myriad of outright lies.  The assault on programs like Meals on Wheels is a handle providing a way to understand the totality of the right wing Individualism of the GOP. It’s there, blatantly set forth without excuse, and as emblematic of the Culture of Selfishness as can be imagined.

Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth. Psalms 71:9

“Trump’s proposed budget completely eliminates the Community Development Block Grant, which provides $3 billion every year for, according to The Washington Post, “targeted projects related to affordable housing, community development and homelessness programs.” Among those is the Meals on Wheels program, which provides meals—and vital human contact—for older, impoverished Americans, many of whom are largely home-bound. According to MOW, one in six American seniors struggles with hunger, and the organization claims it saves the nation about $34 billion a year in medical expenses by decreasing the rate of falls for seniors. The program gets the vast majority of its funding from non-government sources, but the proposal still seems unnecessarily harsh.” [Esquire]

And the rationale for all this would be what, please?

“After a reporter brought up the Meals on Wheels controversy, Mulvaney at first tried to subtly evade the question. But then, as is the wont of this administration, he fell head over glutes explaining that while Meals on Wheels “sounds great,” the administration couldn’t keep wasting money on programs like it that “don’t work.” As in, feeding the elderly apparently isn’t showing strong enough empirical benefits to merit continued federal spending by this White House, which is now deeply wedded to evidence-based policymaking.” [Slate]

There are a couple of things to unpack herein. First, empirical benefits are hard to compile without first establishing a matrix of goals.  Benefits are precisely why the program “sounds good,” the goal is to feed people, and people are being fed in their own homes. In fact some 2.4 million elderly persons are participating in the program at a total cost of $1.4 billion. 500,000 of these are veterans of our Armed Forces. A study in New York City reports that the average age of a participant was 80, meaning the person was likely born around 1937, and if the person is a veteran he or she likely saw service during the Cold War into the Vietnam Era. How goals are framed makes a difference.

If the goal is to provide 2.4 million elderly people one meal per day with a minimum of 625 calories, then we can say it’s working.  If our goal is to be that no elderly Americans go a day without a sustenance level meal for a relatively inactive person, then, no the program has too many people on waiting lists to say it’s an unqualified success.

“The need is growing rapidly, and federal funding has not kept pace. The network is already serving 23 million fewer meals now than in 2005, and waiting lists are mounting in every state. At a time when increased funding is needed, we fear that the millions of seniors who rely on us every day for a nutritious meal, safety check and visit from a volunteer will be left behind.”[MOWAm]

At this point it needs to be said that Federal funding is combined with charitable and individual donations to keep the program literally on its wheels.  Further, the only logical way to pronounce the services a failure is to absurdly assert that because seniors get hungry the next day the program isn’t meeting its goals. However, it’s crucial to take a look at the second feature of GOP rationalization for pure selfishness.

Ultra-right wing conservatives are fond of explaining that services like Meals on Wheels could be better done by local charitable institutions, ignoring the fact that as mentioned above the Federal funding is not the primary source, and IN FACT is supplementary to local charitable funding sources. Catholic leadership, for example, is wary of the implications of the administration’s budget priorities, and Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada is providing some 2,000 daily meals to those on its list. Reducing funding for this single program by one third would have a profound, and profoundly negative, impact on its services.   There are times when the intersection of governance and religious institutions illustrates the point that while private donations are the core, when the need overruns the capacity then it’s time for a little help from friends around the country.  This Cult of Selfishness only works in the ethereal world of ideological fantasies, it doesn’t deliver a meal, even one of a minimum of 625 calories, to a single individual anywhere.

What makes the skinny budget so alarmingly obnoxious is that curtailing funding for Meals on Wheels is merely illustrative of a budget building process based on what the rich want to pay, rather than on what our society needs to be a truly great nation. It is a budget process to Make American Mean Again.

Comments Off on Meals On Wheels: Canary in the GOP Coal Mine

Filed under health, Politics, privatization, public health, Republicans

The Little Woman Speaks

Woman's ListIt’s really tempting to say “Please Proceed” every time a Republican politician speaks “to women.”  The latest wrinkle seems to be an effort to convince women that the GOP is just All For ‘Em, except when they have normal sexual drives and want to enjoy the intimacy of marriage without the possibility of having more children than the family finances can afford.   Unfortunately, the latest Republican adventure into the distaff side comes with a side of over-baked insinuation that masculinity is defined by the number of progeny a man can create.   The days ought to be  long gone when the boys in the backroom would marvel at the virility of a man who announced he fathered ___ number of children.

We had one of those characters in the hamlet once upon a time.  His prideful pronouncements were greeted politely, but in his absence there was more conversation about how the store-owner had to extend him credit every month, his employer had to provide more advances than with any other employee, and his neighbors were often called upon to literally put clothing on his children’s backs.   If the GOP would truly like to address issues of interest to women, then they’d be better served by speaking to the issues of importance to women and not to those burdened by irrational definitions of masculinity.  For example:

Paycheck Fairness Act – Filibustered by Senate Republicans in 2010 and 2012. [Roll call 115]  The House version (H.R. 377) was introduced on January 23, 2013 and sent to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, no action has been taken on the bill since.  The Senate version (S.84) was also introduced on January 23, 2013. It was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Violence Against Women Act – Renewal died in the House in 2012, eventually renewed in 2013 in spite of 138 “no” votes by Republicans in the House of Representatives and 22 “no” votes cast by Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

Legislation to mandate pre-abortion ultrasound examinations  – (2011) legislators in 13 states have introduced 22 bills seeking to mandate that a woman obtain an ultrasound procedure before having an abortion. Bills in seven states (AL, IN, KY, MT, OH, RI and TX) are very similar to a law enacted last year in Oklahoma that requires a woman to undergo an ultrasound procedure, view the image and receive a verbal description of the fetus

Revision of sex education laws to require school districts provide abstinence-only sex education, while allowing a discussion of contraception only with prior approval from state authorities – MS

Limit abortion coverage in all private health care insurance plans – (2011) Legislators in 11 states (AL, IN, KS, MI, NE, OK, OR, SC, TX, UT and WV) have introduced 18 measures that would restrict abortion coverage under all private health insurance plans. So far this year, one measure has been adopted by a legislative chamber in South Carolina and one has been enacted in Utah.

Require state health departments to develop new and restrictive regulations of women’s clinics – UT, VA

Place gestational limits on legal abortions – NE, KS, introduced in AL, AR, FL, GA, ID, IN, IA, KY, MD, MS, NJ, NM, OK, OR, SC.  The “20 week limit” was a popular idea in 35 measures patterned after the restrictive Nebraska bill.

Re-introduce child labor into the American workforce – Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said that Congressional laws banning child labor are forbidden by the US Constitution despite the fact that the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court in 1941 (United States v. Darby Lumber). (A similar movement is underway in Missouri where State Sen. Jane Cunningham (R) has introduced a bill [S.B. 222] to minimize child labor laws) The governor of Maine has recently expressed his interest in rolling back that state’s child labor laws.

Cuts to SNAP (food stamp) benefits. Without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014.

Cuts to Headstart funding – “about 57,000 children will be denied a place in Head Start and Early Head Start as fallout from sequestration. [link]

Cuts to funding for Meals on Wheels for the elderly – Federal funding for Meals on Wheels and related nutrition services accounted for 0.02% of the U.S. budget last year. This year, the programs will have to do with roughly $38.7 million less because of the so-called sequester, which requires uniform cuts across programs regardless of cost-effectiveness. (Sequester)  New estimates about the automatic budget cuts were released Monday by the federal government. The cuts have slashed over $400 million from the federal program’s $8 billion budget.” (Sequester) [CNN]

For more on  anti-woman legislation see Guttmacher.Org and Politicususa. See also, CBPP. On the Paycheck Fairness Act, see Berkeley DP, Huffington Post.

2 Comments

Filed under Politics, Republicans, women, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights