Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston ended the year advocating that children who can’t afford to eat and receive free or reduced lunches from their schools should do something to “earn” that food, like sweep the cafeteria floors. “[T]hink what we would gain as a society in getting people — getting the myth out of their head that there is such a thing as a free lunch,” argued the Republican Congressman.
It turns out that there is such a thing as a free lunch, though. At least, there is when you are a politician with a massive expense account.
According to Talking Points Memo, Rep. Kingston has enjoyed many free meals over the last few years, including the nearly $4,200 expensed to his congressional office for meals, the $4,200 that outside groups spent on meals for him, and the $145,000 of his total campaign expenses that were spent on meals.
The Congressman would likely state that there is no hypocrisy involved, as (I’m sure) every expensed meal was a part of a legitimate working event, meaning that he “earned” his reimbursed, and hence free, meal. In essence, though, that is exactly what school children do as well. Just as a business meal can only be reimbursed when the expense in question occurred because the person expensing the meal accrued the expense while working, a student requires a lunch because he or she is at a school, which is that student’s job. A student shouldn’t be forced to do extra work to “earn” that meal because he or she has already earned it — by doing the job of being a student.
Rep. Kingston, however, has been a longstanding opponent of children eating in general — at least, if those children are poor. In 2011, as head of the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee, he led the charge to cut $650 million from the budget for SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) food programs, which would have forced those programs to turn away as many as 350,000 participants for the year. The callousness of the assault on the poor caused National Women’s Law Center to accuse him of starving children as a means to combat childhood obesity. “[Rep. Kingston and Rep. Paul Ryan] have a simpler diet plan for young children: stop eating,” wrote the group in 2011.
Maybe Rep. Kingston has a reason for blocking poor children from eating, though. After all, he’s actively involved in blocking any bills that can ensure the safety of the food on our plates, too. Rep. Kingston has been just as adamant about trying to cut funding for the FDA and blocking any implementation of regulation that would ensure the safety of our food supply. In 2011 he called funds for increasing food inspection a tactic to get Democrat votes for reelection and argued that food was safe enough as it was. “While it’s a great re-election tool to terrify people into thinking that the food they’re eating is unsafe and unsanitary, and if not for the wonderful nanny-state politicians we’d be getting sick after every meal, the system we have is doing a darn good job,” said Rep. Kingston.
So, shorter Jack Kingston: There is no free lunch, at least, not if you are poor, and especially not if you are a child. However, if he had his way, that would be for your own good because every bite you took would be a dangerous wager with your own health.
Photo credit: Thinkstock