Friday, April 1, 2011

Chanticleer, the Fox, and House Budget Bill 1

In his “Writer’s Almanac” for today, Garrison Keillor reports on possible origins of April Fool’s Day. He said that the earliest recorded association between April 1st and foolishness is in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. He points out that this may be a misinterpretation rather than Chaucer’s intention, but in any case the story of Chanticleer, a vain rooster being tricked by a fox in “The Nuns’ Priest’s Tale” is believed by many to be the way the date became associated with harmless trickery.

Some of the trickery going on today is not harmless. I was reminded of the foolishness going on in the U.S. House of Representatives by none less than Mark Bittman, the New York Times food columnist. He’s been urging Americans to change the way we eat for decades and published Food Matters which explored the crucial connections among food, health and the environment.

Bittman has been fasting in protest for what I think he rightly sees as an attack on the poor in House Budget Bill 1:
“The budget proposes cuts in the WIC program (which supports women, infants and children), in international food and health aid (18 million people would be immediately cut off from a much-needed food stream, and 4 million would lose access to malaria medicine) and in programs that aid farmers in underdeveloped countries. Food stamps are also being attacked, in the twisted “Welfare Reform 2011” bill. (There are other egregious maneuvers in H.R. 1, but I’m sticking to those related to food.)

These supposedly deficit-reducing cuts — they’d barely make a dent — will quite literally cause more people to starve to death, go to bed hungry or live more miserably than are doing so now. And: The bill would increase defense spending.”
Supporters of these cuts say that everybody has to bear the burden of reducing the deficit. What Beckmann, on his fast, sees is quite different. He sees trickery and outrage on a grand scale:
“In 2010, corporate profits grew at their fastest rate since 1950, and we set records in the number of Americans on food stamps. The richest 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all American households combined, the effective tax rate on the nation’s richest people has fallen by about half in the last 20 years, and General Electric paid zero dollars in U.S. taxes on profits of more than $14 billion. Meanwhile, roughly 45 million Americans spend a third of their post tax income on food — and still run out monthly — and one in four kids goes to bed hungry at least some of the time.”
Perhaps his mental faculties sharpened by the not eating, food columnist Beckmann concludes,
“This is a moral issue; the budget is a moral document. We can take care of the deficit and rebuild our infrastructure and strengthen our safety net by reducing military spending and eliminating corporate subsidies and tax loopholes for the rich. Or we can sink further into debt and amoral individualism by demonizing and starving the poor. Which side are you on?”
Good question for this April Fool’s Day! Many of us are like the vain and unwary Chanticleer. The question is, will we wake up before the trickery does more damage?

If you are angry enough about what amounts to war on the poor, you can let your Representative know what you think. (Click here to locate your Representative. Look in the top left corner.) Let them know that when they come up for re-election in 2012, you will remember how they voted.

- Milo

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