SOME SIMPLE SOLUTIONS to complex problems sound right. Sen. Bob Dole has one. It would both help needy people and save the taxpayers money.
The senator has proposed giving more than $1 billion in surplus commodities to food banks, churches, schools and other charitable organizations that are trying to feed the large number of Americans who would otherwise go hungry. Since commodity storage charges are currently costing the government $600,000 a day, disposing of roughly one-fourth of the nation's surplus stocks would be a big budget saving.
The government has already launched cheese giveaways. The new program would provide a better balanced diet by including flour, corn, soybeans, rice, honey, shortening and other dairy products. The program would also solve the problem of many charitable organizations that can't use the food they have because they have run out of money to cover the costs of preparing and distributing it.
Some of the money saved in storage costs would be used to process wheat and other surpluses into foods that could be distributed by charitable organizations. Funds would also be provided to cover transportation and distribution costs. Safeguards against black-marketing and other abuses would be provided. Much good would be done, but the taxpayers would still end up saving money.
Despite support from charitable organizations and the food industry, the plan may bog down for months while Congress debates the merits of more ambitious aid proposals. A push from the president is needed. The administration has already proposed distributing surpluses overseas. Doesn't charity begin at home?
We would much prefer a situation in which no person in America had to line up in the cold for a public handout. But since such is the current necessity, surely it is ridiculous to have people going hungry while surplus food rots in storage bins at enormous cost.