New Orleans If Marie Antionette on the eve of the French Revolution really said, “let them eat cake,” she was one up on fifteen Republican governors who have now rephrased that expression for lower income children this summer, saying “let them eat nothing.” In fact, one of the motivations for the Biden administration’s new program, which was included in the budget with bipartisan Congressional support, was to keep the kids from having to eat cake and other stomach filling, cheap high-processed foods by providing supplementary funds to allow more health food choices.
The summer food supplement payments in this new initiative were designed to help bridge those months when school feeding programs shutdown until the fall. The sums involved per child were hardly princely, forty bucks per child per month for a grand total of $120 for the summer. That’s not mad money, that’s hardly any money at all. Furthermore, the federal government was footing 100% of the bill and half of whatever administrative costs were involved.
There was one catch, though. States had to opt into the program January 1st, 2024. Fifteen states, perhaps not surprisingly, all with Republican governors, opted out, leaving somewhere between eight and ten million children hungry this summer. The governor of Iowa, amazingly, claimed she rejected the program because she didn’t want to support childhood obesity, which is exactly what this program is trying to prevent. I assume she’s still lashing out because she went with DeSantis hard in the Iowa primaries, damaging her future on the far right. Florida claimed it already has a program that is working, which must be a mystery to lower income children in the state. If DeSantis ever gets off the campaign trail, maybe they can ask him about that? Texas and Vermont claim they can’t get their act together fast enough. Sounds lame, but at least they didn’t say this is just “welfare” like the governor of Nebraska.
Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina broke the solid south in signing up for the program, while from Texas to Georgia, including obviously Louisiana, now with a Republican governor, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina all opted out, despite being among the poorest states in the country. Frankly, I’m almost surprised that Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders wasn’t part of this anti-poor pack? Maybe she didn’t get the memo?
The general Republican and conservative attack on the poor shows up as well in the threats to the WIC, Women Infant Children, program for pregnant and postpartum women and new born children, which has always been “fully funded,” even if technically is not an entitlement program. The conservative caucus in Congress wants to cut this support to help balance their giveaways to the rich on the backs on poor mothers and children, I suppose.
When it comes to lower income families and children, insults from conservatives are common, but it’s a mystery why the right has now moved from insults to injury. There’s just no excuse for this. This summer, children in these states should line up at these governor’s mansions at mealtimes to give them a good look at the impact of their bad politics on good policy. Turnabout would be fair play.