To some people it's a problem -- to most people it isn't. Food allotments for poor families are being cut all over this country, and expectant mothers and small children face serious cutoffs and malnutrition.
Nobody wants babies to starve and women to go hungry, but in a country as poor as the United States, what other choices do we have?
Totie Button, a rich government consultant to the poor, told me, "We're facing a crisis. When we promised to provide nutritional subsidies to one-third of all the babies in the United States, we had no idea what the bill would be. We can't give away food willy-nilly to anyone who asks for it while so many savings and loan institutions are starving to death. That would be fiscal suicide."
"How did the poor women and children get into so much trouble?"
"It was just a question of the federal government wrongly estimating what food prices would be this year. There's been a cost increase in orange juice, cereal and infant formula. All the money that Congress voted for the program has been used up."
"Why doesn't Congress vote more money?"
"Because nutrition for the poor is not an issue that attracts votes. Someone has to tell poor people what Mother Hubbard said when she went to the cupboard and found it bare: 'So much for tough love.' "
He continued: "There are solutions to the problem, but mothers are going to have to take the bit between their teeth. They must explain to their children that the reason they are only getting half a glass of milk a day is because of Gramm-Rudman. They will have to appeal to a child's love of country when the infant formula runs out. Needy people can't just keep consuming food while the deficit is where it is at the moment. There are a lot of things Washington has to spend money on -- and food for the poor is at the bottom of the barrel."
"Impoverished people don't talk enough about food to their children," I said.
"I don't want you to think that I am unsympathetic about this, but every mother in the country has to choose between feeding her young or watching another Stealth bomber roll off the assembly line."
"If I was a mother, I'd want the Stealth bomber," I told him.
"Due to the unforeseen food price hikes, we've had to cut a lot of folks out of the program. In one way, it's a good thing, because if a child has never had a nutritious meal he won't miss it. I didn't drink orange juice when I was a kid, and I'm no worse off for it. By removing pregnant women and nursing mothers from the rolls, we can give the money to those who are clinically suffering from malnutrition."
"I'm glad that we have this crisis, as it will send a message to all those mothers who are trying to get a free lunch. There are lots of welfare women who can afford to pay for their own dairy products but who would rather play golf instead."
Button said, "The story of those of us who are fighting to keep the food budget in perspective has been ignored by the media. Just because we are involved in the cutbacks doesn't mean we are responsible for the rise in the price of cream cheese. Maybe when the cost of food goes down, we can address ourselves to poor people's stomachs. Until then our women and children owe it to their country to tighten their belts and say to themselves, 'Missing one or two meals isn't going to kill me.' "