HUNGER REPORT BITES BUSH ON BUTT
the 1988 Democratic convention in Atlanta, I gave a podium-pounding speech in
which I characterized George Bush the Elder as "a man who was born on third
and thought he'd hit a triple."
did I know then that the president's namesake son, George W., would prove to be
even more lost in the ether of inherited wealth. I wouldn't expect someone who
prepped both at Houston's tony Kincaid Academy and at Phillips Academy in
Andover, someone who summered at the family's ocean-front mansion at
Kennebunkport, someone whose family money and connections have paved his way
into Yale, into the oil business, into the governor's mansion and, now, into the
money as Republican presidential frontrunner, to have any personal connection to
the world of poverty in our country. Still, I was stunned just before Christmas
to hear just how far removed Gov. Bush is from Planet Earth.
U.S. Department of Agriculture had released a report documenting the persistent
problem of hunger in America, giving a state-by-state listing of food shortages
and hunger problems-a report made all the more poignant by the fact that the
decade of the nineties has been widely and loudly hailed as a period of
unprecedented prosperity for the U.S. In the state listings, Texas was right up
there at the top, ranking Number Two in the percentage of its people
experiencing food shortages, malnutrition, and hunger. The report found that 13
percent of the 20 million people in our state are not getting enough food for
adequate nutrition, and that five percent (roughly a million folks) are getting
so little that they suffer the pain of hunger. This doesn't mean that these
Texans are starving to death, but that families are so hard hit that they're
having to skip meals, water-down cereal, and cut back so severely on nourishment
that they are suffering chronic malnutrition.
reality is no small embarrassment to Bush, who is running for president on the
theme of "compassionate conservatism" and is bragging about his
performance as Texas governor. He claims credit for all the economic good that
has happened in our state during his tenure, so how to explain this bit of
denial that the problem exists. Instead of attacking hunger, he attacked the
report. Speaking to the media, Prince George got that rich boy smirk he can't
seem to get off his face, and said: "I saw the report that children in
Texas are going hungry. Where?" he scoffed. "You'd think the governor
would have heard if there were pockets of hunger in Texas."
you, though! But hungry people don't bring $1,000 checks to the governor's
mansion, so they're easily overlooked by this governor. If he truly gave a damn,
all he would have to do to locate hungry Texans is to visit any of the state's
food pantries, both rural and urban, where there's been nearly a 40 percent
increase in the number of families needing food assistance in the past year.
"Where can I get hold of Mr. Bush?" asked the head of the Community
Food Bank of Victoria. "I'd like him to come visit our food bank to see how
empty our shelves are right now. We're scrounging for food." But the
scoffing governor needn't even take a ride to find reality-there are two
charitable food kitchens within walking distance of the governor's mansion. The
people going to these hunger centers are not druggies and derelicts, as he might
assume, but working families-food banks report that 60 percent of the people
coming in have jobs in the booming economy that Bush brags about-but their pay
is so low they're not able to make rent, pay for transportation and other
essentials, and still afford adequate food.
hey, says "the Bombastic Bushkin" (as his frat pals called him in his
partying days), this federal report is not about hunger, but about me! He
suggested to the media in New Hampshire that USDA had released the hunger data
just to embarrass him: "yeah, I was surprised that all of a sudden a report
floats out of Washington, DC as I am launching my campaign for president."
a self-centered and clueless brat! This is hardly the first time the problem has
been reported-there are at least eight reports in the past four years
documenting Texas hunger, including one by Texas A&M University that opens
with this stark finding: "Conservatively, hundreds of thousands of
people-and one out of every four children-in Texas can be classified as
hungry." But Mr. Compassionate has a sorry history of avoiding this
issue-in 1995, he vetoed a bill that would have created a state food security
council to study hunger in Texas and to help local officials deal with the
problem. Apparently, Bush doesn't want to see, hear, or speak about the ugly
truth of hunger in our state-hurts his image.