Food-Stamp Pillaging: More From Josh Green

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I recently took note of the theft funding of the new Medicaid and pay-for-teachers bill that the president signed this week—a perfectly worthy bill and a very bad way of funding it. Food stamp money should not be cut back—it should only be expanded, so that the one in eight Americans now relying on it can continue to, and so that programs like Wholesome Wave's, headed by Michel Nischan and helped by Gus Schumacher, can extend their benefits to buy double their face value when used for fresh produce (other states, including my home state of Massachusetts, are working on similar programs). And people can use them creatively, as the fired Tacoma restaurant critic Ed Murrieta wrote about, rivetingly, a few months ago.

In his latest weekly column for the Boston Globe, Josh Green takes up the subject and exposes it for the badly thought-out gambit it is:

"We can't stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe,'' Obama said. "That doesn't make sense.''

No, it doesn't. But only by the occluded standards of contemporary Washington could this aid package be considered a victory. What began three months ago as a $50 billion emergency spending bill limped to the president's desk at half that size and was largely paid for -- "offset'' in the clinical terminology of the budget -- by cutting $12 billion from the food stamp program. In other words, a measure designed to help one group struggling in the recession came at the expense of another that is even worse off -- and growing rapidly.

And he fingers who's responsible:

So why cut food stamps as the recovery is suddenly faltering? The short answer is, because Republicans insisted on it. Not food stamps specifically -- that idea came from the White House, although no Republican objected. But Republicans compelled the cuts by insisting that any new spending measures, even on something as seemingly unobjectionable as saving teachers' jobs, be "offset'' in the budget. A grim necessity, they claimed, to prevent the deficit from killing the recovery. But that's a political argument, not an economic one.

"It was a lousy offset,'' said Democratic Representative Jim McGovern of Worcester, the co-chairman of the House Hunger Caucus. "We're robbing Peter to pay Paul.''

I hope Congress finds a way in the next big bill to slip money back in for people who need to eat—and need to eat exactly the fresh food that Michele Obama is telling them to.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.
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