While there has been no shortage of outrageously moronic ideas put forth by Donald Trump and his administration of marauding miscreants over the past thirteen months, this past week has been a doozy―a banner week that has provided yet another glimpse into the deeply flawed man that Vladimir Putin found to be perfect to serve as America’s president.
Renewing his vow to dispense with the arts and humanities in a country that perhaps has never needed them more than now, Trump has proposed that funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) be withdrawn. He has also recommended the same fate for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting―the parent organization of the Pubic Broadcasting System and National Public Radio―two media outlets that provide programming that he can’t begin to comprehend, let alone appreciate: science and discovery, culture, music, biography, history, commentary, “Sesame Street.”
In the meantime he’s clearly indicated that the needs of the National Rifle Association and the supporting role it plays to aid the manufacturers of armaments sell their goods (remember: the NRA is a gun lobby, not a Second Amendment advocate) mean more to the future of this country than do its children. After all, school children do not have the resources to donate countless millions of dollars to the campaigns of those who, by all rights, are the ones who should be the most terrified of Second Amendment rights.
In life-or-death struggles for freedom, it is important to note that political revolutions are never waged against those not in power.
In 2014 the Republican Party published a Mission Statement in an attempt to explain itself to voters. It was short, to-the-point, and a fairly honest assessment of a moderately conservative political philosophy that died with the presidential aspirations of Nelson A. Rockefeller, who today would be vilified by most Democrats as being too liberal. Today, that 2014 statement of purpose stands as nothing more than a complete falsehood created in an effort to convince Tea Party twits that they had standing in the mainstream political arena.
It reads: “The Republican Party believes that America works best, and America prospers, when individuals and families can maintain their independence from government.”
Clearly it is that hand’s-off approach to governance that has the GOP so deeply entrenched in its efforts to make sure that it decides who we can love and/or marry; to defy State’s rights in concerted efforts to push a centralized social and economic agenda; to look to overturn Supreme Court decisions and stack the courts with right-leaning conservatives who see as folly voter’s rights legislation, among other issues; to make sure that unwanted children are brought safely into a world that guarantees them no future; to deny social programs aimed at actually helping people; to underwrite private and parochial schools in defiance of the First Amendment; and, to lay claim to the notion that the monies working people have contributed to Social Security and Medicare over their lifetimes to provide a secure retirement are the government’s to use to offset anticipated debt increases created by giving tax breaks to the very wealthiest.
I know I’m missing a few things in this litany.
Oh, yeah. Trump finally admitted he’s against domestic violence (all abusers make this claim), thinks the mentally ill are in need of the very care he’s denied them, and, in a moment of great empathy, believes that that same group of disturbed individuals should not be deprived free and easy access to semi-automatic weapons.
In the meantime, Trump wants to greatly increase military funding while ignoring the needs of its veterans, twenty-two of whom each day find suicide to be the most reasonable alternative to living in a world gone mad.
Furthermore, Trump wants to have a great big parade with tanks and soldiers and fighter jets and rockets and flags and banners and bands and drill teams and Mylar balloons to put on display the weaponry and firepower we have to protect American business interests (mostly oil) around the globe.
I can only suppose that he’ll play soldier-dress-up should that day ever come and wear an ill-fitting khaki safari jacket with epaulets, festooning gold braids and brass buttons. It will be adorned with order medals and campaign ribbons, and his snow-white commissar cap will announce “America First” in red braid.
BUT BACK TO THE GOP Mission. To accurately reflect its current stance, the GOP statement should be amended to read that the party “believes that America works best and prospers when big business is allowed to operate without regulation or government oversight.”
Trump and his minions are so eager to ensure that individuals and families live under the thumb of an oppressive government that they’ve now turned their collective attentions to the kitchen tables of the underprivileged―a class of American citizenry broadly defined as “not needing an income-tax write-off for personal aircraft.”
The Trump Administration has proposed a food-delivery program that would replace about half of food-stamp benefits for some 16 million low-income households with boxes of shelf-stable products like peanut butter, pasta, cereal grains, powdered milk, ultra-processed cheese-like foodstuffs, canned meats, fruits and vegetables. Oh, yum.
“[This] is a bold, innovative approach to providing nutritious food to people who need assistance feeding themselves and their families,” is how USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue views the proposal.
I’ve got a couple of problems with that. Number One, canned and processed foods are not particularly nutritious, unless your primary dietary need is salt; and, Number Two, I don’t believe that people should be told what to eat. But then again, I’m a liberal.
“[The government] is saying, ‘we don’t trust you to make the right decisions for your family,'” says Craig Gundersen, a professor in agricultural strategy at the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It’s demeaning and patronizing.”
In a stupendously lame effort to project a Grant Wood-type image of happy white farmers in straw hats and faded bib overalls gingerly hoeing weeds between rows of lush spinach as they sing chorus after chorus of “Don’t Fence Me In,” the Administration is calling these proposed packages “America’s Harvest Boxes.” Isn’t that precious?
While nutritionists and dietitians across America will no doubt have a field day with the potential health risks such diets might pose, economists (who have field days with every issue) are arguing the pros and cons of the costs and/or savings.
Meanwhile, flag-waving rednecks, who comprise a significant part of the new Republican base, are stupidly pleased that poor folks will no longer be able to regularly dine on lobster, steak and caviar. (One of these days we must talk about education.)
America’s Harvest Boxes will be packed with goodies produced on American soil, with the exception of petroleum-based processed cheeses that have nothing to do with soil. This might help the American farmers offset at least some of the Administration’s proposed $58 billion cuts in farm subsidies, although I seriously doubt it.
And because America’s underprivileged will have their dietary choices decided by dreary bureaucrats, there will be little need for them to bother with shopping for things like locally grown fresh produce, baked goods, dairy products or other foods that don’t meet the standards of a centralized government and don’t ship well. That should please the American grocery industry and its producers, suppliers and distributors. What industry wouldn’t jump at the chance to lose 16 million families as customers?
Maybe we should have a parade.
It seems appropriate here to make mention of Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe’s A Square Meal, a 2016 book (Harper) that provides a culinary history of the Great Depression. It’s a fascinating study that includes a handful of odd menus and recipes devised by TERA (Temporary Emergency Relief Administration) and other government agencies that seems germane to this discussion. Sparing you the sordid details of liver loaf, prune pudding and chop suey with Milkorno, I’ve adapted this recipe only slightly to use ingredients that might be found in an American Harvest Box.
Creamed Spaghetti with Carrots
1-1/2 cups broken spaghetti
3 Tbs. margarine
3 Tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
3 cups powdered milk
1, 14.5-oz. can sliced carrots, drained
Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain. Melt margarine, add flour, salt and pepper and blend thoroughly. Add milk and stir until thick and smooth. Cook for five minutes longer. Put one-half of the spaghetti in a baking dish, cover with 1/2 of the carrots, then add 1/2 of the sauce. Repeat using the remaining ingredients. Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately. Gag reflexively. Dispose of properly.
Photography by Courtney A. Liska