Remember when Pat Buchanan wrote that African-Americans should be grateful to white America, you know, because of food stamps, Section-8 housing and Christian salvation? Whenever someone like Buchanan begins a sentence with the premise that Underprivileged Group-X should be thankful to the power elite, they need to be thwacked in the face with a very large fish.
This time it was Tucker Carlson who said that poor people should be grateful for the abundance of food they can eat because poor people used to be malnourished and starving.
On Fox News Channel yesterday, Tucker Carlson was chatting with host Harris Faulkner about the high rate of obesity among the jobless. The rest of us know exactly why this is so, but Tucker flailed and parsed and flailed some more in an attempt to find an upside to being poor or out-of-work or both. After all, America is awesome for the poors.
Too bad nobody at FNC had a very large fish handy.
Tucker began by blaming this on the Obamas: the president's economic policies colliding with the First Lady's efforts on health and fitness. Regarding the economy, it's always difficult to pinpoint one person who gets the credit or the blame for the economy, depending on where it is, but since Tucker is ostensibly blaming the president for unemployment, then logically the president should also get credit for reducing unemployment from 10 percent in 2009 to 6.3 percent as of last month. The president should also get credit for adding 2,500,000 jobs; he should get credit for ending the recession and creating 10 consecutive quarters of economic growth; and credit for shepherding the Dow from around 6,000 to a record high of roughly 16,000.
“All of us should be happy about one thing, and it’s that for the first time in human history you have a country whose poor people are fat. So this does show this sort of amazing abundance,” Tucker said.
Faulkner was noticeably alarmed by Tucker's analysis, exclaiming, “What?”
“For the last however many millennia, poor people starved to death. And this is a country that’s so rich, whose agriculture sector is so vibrant and at the cutting edge technologically, that our food is so cheap, poor people are fat! I mean, I don’t know. We shouldn’t take that for granted.”
Faulkner was right. What?! Yes, we should absolutely be thrilled that poor people, while they're not starving to death like they did in the past, are struggling with heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, infertility and Type II diabetes instead. This is an excellent turn of events in American history, isn't it. Poor people are almost as malnourished today as they were years ago, just in a different way.
The reason why poor people are overweight isn't because an abundance of food necessarily, it's that the cheapest food is the most fattening, the most calorie-packed and the least healthy food available. See, Tucker, poor people don't have a lot of money, so it's easier to afford a two-cheeseburgers meal from McDonald's for $4.69 than it is to stop by the co-op for locally-grown organic meats and veggies. What's so difficult to understand here?
Seriously, if you're flat broke and you've wrangled $5 in change from under your couch cushions, are you going to buy a head of organic kale or a two-cheeseburger meal, complete with fries and a drink? I'm sure Tucker would say something like, "Well, at least you have a couch! That's the American dream! Poors in the olden times didn't have couches or even cars to drive to McDonald's."
An obesity researcher at the University of Washington, Dr. Adam Drewnowski, discovered the obvious reality that a dollar can buy significantly more calories of junk food than of healthy food:
To do this, he took a hypothetical dollar to the grocery store. His goal was to purchase as many calories as possible per dollar. What he found is that he could buy well over 1,000 calories of cookies or potato chips. But his dollar would only buy 250 calories of carrots. He could buy almost 900 calories of soda... but only 170 calories of orange juice.
And there it is: the root cause of obesity among low-income or unemployed Americans.
The sad thing is, there's not a lot that can be done about it. First of all, anytime a Democrat tries to legislate junk food, they're mocked relentlessly by Tucker's colleagues on the right. But if they do nothing, they're also responsible for an obesity epidemic. There's really no way to legislate against the affordability of junk food. However, steps can be taken to reduce the price of healthy foods so that the playing field is a little more level. Congress could start by reducing subsidies to Big Ag and especially the major corn growers (easier said than done, given the Iowa Caucuses), while diverting those subsidies to small, local, independent farmers while augmenting the visibility and availability of those foods.
Oh, and how about this solution: fewer poor people through better, higher paying jobs, raising the minimum wage and re-establishing a robust path to the middle class.
In the meantime, let's not be stupid and make it seem as if poor people, on top of being poor, should be glad that America's food system is giving the gift of a slow death.