Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Paul Campos' Selective Memory Loss

Sorry, Tony, I couldn't not comment.

Paul Campos, lefty Property Law Professor and rapidly becoming a sad cliche of a clueless lefty op-ed writer for the Rocky Mountain News, has a doozy of a column today. It's titled Millions Going Hungry, which would be true about the World at large but is an outright lie about the poor in America. Their worse problem is obesity from too much to eat (although not enough of it 'healthy').

What got Campos' so-called creative juices flowing was an article by Megan McArdle, not a Republican, in the center-left magazine The Atlantic, who dared to oppose liberal dogma and say just that fact in her short and to the point article a few days ago.

After the usual ad hominem attack, here about the 'privileged' and 'clueless' Ms. McArdle's upper West Side origins, Campos gets to the thin support for his position that the poor in America are starving to death slowly. Here we go.

Nearly three in 10 American households live on yearly incomes of less than $25,000. And more than 40 million Americans live in households that must get by
on less than $15,000 per year. Ten million American children live in "food insecure" homes, where finding the means to keep hunger at bay is a constant battle.

Household income is misleading--the preferred figure is for family income (or so says Mike Rosen just now) or even better 'consumption' numbers give a more realistic picture. Reported income, however, is only part of what 30% of America lives on as will be discussed below. 40 million Americans do not 'get by' on less than $15,000 per year, the poor have a near downpour of both public and private welfare-like help, which is part of the source of the obesity problem. Again this will be discussed below. "Food insecurity" is a governmental newspeak term which does not mean actual hunger. It's worrying about what one will eat (or the manner in which one will get it), not whether one will eat. A multi-billionaire worrying if there's any white asparagus available is food insecure. So is the working poor single mom worrying whether to go with hamburger helper or tuna helper. Someone who is debating whether to get food stamps or not can also be counted as food insecure. The term is nearly meaningless in the field of inquiry regarding actual (and daily) hunger, as it has next to nothing to do with it. Indeed, 'food insecurity' is clearly classified as different from hunger and the government makes no pretense (as the Professor does) that it is nearly the same thing or at least a precursor of hunger (through the 'daily battle' to keep it at bay). The Professor then plays his trump card.

Consider a divorced mother of two small children, who works full time but earns only $300 a week. Again, in America today there is nothing at all unusual about such circumstances. What can one say about the money-sheltered ignorance that fails to comprehend that such a woman will sometimes have to choose between going hungry, or fixing the car, or buying her children medicine, or paying the heat bill?
It's easy and natural to use the divorced mother with two children as an example because the leading identifiable group among the poor is recently divorced women with children. The Professor assures us that $300 a week is not at all unusual. Lie. The mean weekly wage up in Boulder, where the Professor works, is not $7.47 per hour but $23.53 per hour. There certainly are people earning just above minimum wage but they are not the usual. But the work the typical divorced mother of two is doing is not the end of income available to her. She would have been awarded both maintenance and child support. Let's say, however, her ex is a deadbeat. Here are the federal programs available to her (just off the top of my head, mind you, not an exhaustive list and I'm not even mentioning the numerous local charities or state programs).
  1. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) which replaced the venerable AFDC

  2. Food Stamps

  3. Section 8 housing vouchers

  4. Medicaid

  5. Earned Income Credit
How did the Professor forget these other forms of income? What could account for his selective memory loss? Sorry, Professor, that was weak, weak support for your hysterical reaction to Ms. McArdle, and so incomplete as to be worthless for the real world. He's not finished, however.

In the end, refusing to recognize that every day millions of Americans go hungry because they can't afford enough to eat is another way of promoting the idea that we need no longer worry much about the problems of the poor.

Millions going hungry every day? Campos, as usual, supplies not a single statistic. Are there any statistics to support his statement? Well, no...I mean, there are statistics, but they don't support what Campos said. Only 4% of American households are classified as having very low food security and of those less than a quarter, that is, less than 1% of American households, report to the U.S. Government that someone there did not eat for a whole day three or more times in a year. So someone in 1,100,000 households missed at least nine meals in a year and somehow survived.

This is different from the consumption figures from the USDA. According to the USDA, nutrition among the poor is about the same as among the middle class. Among the poor, American poor that is, 92% reported that they always had enough food. 6% reported that they sometimes didn't have all they wanted and 1.5% reported they often didn't have all they wanted. (Although they still had enough to live on).

Daily hunger for millions in America, my ever-expanding ass.


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