There has been a bit of a blow about Representative Cynthia Davis of the 19th District here in Missouri and her comments about a summer food program for low-income children.
Click here to read her remarks in full.
The catch phrase many are jumping on is, "Hunger can be a postive motivator." She actually wrote that line to emphasize that children who are at least 16 years old can get jobs during the summer to pay for food instead of getting it from this program. In fact, she helpfully points out that "If you work for McDonald's, they will pay you for free during your break." She is not talking about little kids, but teenagers.
So in context that line is a little less blatantly cold-hearted as it first appears. It is still pretty ignorant of conditions in the world. As if a bunch of 16 year olds not applying to work at McDonald's is the source of all poverty in our nation.
There's nothing really that shocking in her commentary, to tell you the truth. It is a pretty good summary of a conservative perspective on a social program. She doesn't like it. She thinks it represents the government trying to do too much. She thinks individuals should take more responsibility and rely on government less.
It's pretty standard fare, as far as that particular viewpoint is concerned. And it happens to be a viewpoint with which I disagree.
For example, she writes a couple of things that I have some pointed issues with. First, she writes, "I represent many fine families in District 19 and I am proud of all of them for doing what is best for their children." I wonder. There are no children that have to be taken into foster care in the 19th district? No neglect? No abuse? She really knows that all of them are doing what is best for their children? I'm sure it's not quite that simple. I mean, I think I know what she's trying to say there, but it is a statement with multiple interpretations. Like this one: she doesn't represent all the families in the district, only a percentage of them, only the "fine" ones who are taking care of the kids. As for the other families... I wonder who is representing them.
Later she writes, "Laid off parents could adapt by preparing more home cooked meals rather than going out to eat." Again, were it only that simple a solution. In her world, not going out to eat for meals and cooking at home instead works great, I'm sure. She writes a lot about the delicious strawberries that her family has. Wonderful. But not all that realistic. Poverty is insidius, and simply eschewing restaurant food in favor of grocery store food is not the answer.
Actually she confesses, "While I have not seen this as a problem in my district, it is entirely possible that this program is designed to address problems that exist in other parts of Missouri." So apparently Missouri District 19, which includes O'Fallon, St. Peters, and St. Charles, is immune from hunger issues. Again, that would be wonderful, but I am skeptical as to how realistic it is. And anyway, how selfish is it to not support something because it doesn't affect anyone you live close to, albeit you confess it might affect others? It would be a little like saying, "I know racism is an issue, but I only know white people so I'm not going to do anything about it."
So the bottom line of this deal is that Representative Davis's opinions are not scandalous or extreme. I think that they are a rather mainstream, party-line set of opinions for conservatives. I happen to disagree with her position, but many do not. (Although it seems to really, really irk Olbermann, which is a real kick in the pants.)
I've decided that I'm not going to waste much energy worrying about Rep. Davis, because I need all the energy I can muster to provide foster care for two kids whose mom was having a really hard time feeding them appropriately at the time they were taken into care.