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Di Leo: Lessons from a Restaurant Tabletop




By John F. Di Leo - 

If you sit down at a major national restaurant chain nowadays, you might be greeted by a sign, banner, or tabletop tent quoting some questionable statistics, and warning you that there is hunger in America.

They quote a study (out of context) reporting that one in six American children “experiences” hunger at least sometimes. “That’s 13 million children, the population of Illinois” as the tabletop tent at lunch exclaimed to me, constantly, as I ate my lunch.

This brings to mind a flood of questions, among them: Is it true? If so, Why? And What can or should we do about it? 

The Collection of Statistics

Just exactly what questions did they ask when they did this study? This number – 13 million starving children alone – is rather hard to believe.

“Have you ever been hungry?” “Have you ever gone to bed hungry?” “Has there ever been a time when some members of your family ate and others didn’t?” We can just imagine the questions that might elicit a positive answer without really indicating that the subject can’t afford to eat, which is implied in any declaration of hunger reaching the point of a public policy concern.

Well, if you read the “research section” at the source of the project, NoKidHungry.org, you will find that their actual claim isn’t for starvation at all; they declare that “48.8 million Americans—including 13 million children— live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis. As a result, they struggle with hunger at some time during the year.”

Sorry, but that’s inflating the numbers for effect, well beyond the legitimate number of people in poverty-caused starvation. This description casts too wide a net; it’s not hunger, at least not the way the rest of the world sees it. This study is judging the quality of people’s food as well as the quantity. If they don’t believe someone eats a well-balanced enough meal, they’ll count him as hungry to increase the numbers and scare the target audience. (I can just imagine what they’d think of me; there have been weeks when I live on pizza and diet soda, but my scale will tell you I certainly should not be counted among the hungry).

That being said, however – now that we know that their statistic is utterly unhelpful – let’s start from scratch and accept the fact that there likely are people in the USA who are indeed hungry.   Maybe not 13 million kids, but then, certainly at least some, maybe many. How can we identify and solve this problem? What do the creators of the little tabletop tents have in mind for us to do?

The Causes of Hunger

There’s an interesting old saying: The United States is the only country on earth with fat poor people.

When you think of poverty, you naturally envision the emaciated poor of desert countries, subsisting on leaves or rice and nothing else. In America, the poor have government programs to keep them fed.

So yes, there are probably poor Americans starving… but are they the ones really in trouble, or is it others whom the alarmist Left doesn’t want us to think about? Consider the different groups in America: Citizens and green card holders first, then legal aliens second (people on student visas, work visas, tourist visas), then illegal aliens third (the gate crashers themselves, the ones who came legally but illegally overstayed their visas, and their offspring).

Legal aliens are not our responsibility; if they’re not doing well here, they should go back home.

Illegal aliens are also not our responsibility (though this is likely where a good deal of the real American hunger lies); if they’re not doing well here, they should go back home too. In fact, whether they’re hungry or not… if they’re illegal aliens, they should go back home.

The United States government owes nothing to these groups. Not that we don’t wish them well; we should wish everyone well. But it is not a matter for American public policy. If there is starvation in the alien community, whether legal or illegal, they should go home. Their problems are not our problems.

Now the first group: US Citizens and green card holders (because green card holders are people who have applied for citizenship and we have accepted their application; under US law, they are treated the same way as citizens are in most areas, except of course for voting).

Our government, and in a broader sense, our society, does have an obligation to care about our citizens and green card community. Philosophically, it is usually not government’s role (our federal Constitution makes no provision for the US government to become the cornucopia of last resort)… but it is certainly society’s role.   This is why we have charities; to help out people in need.

But here we must break up the group a bit: We have in America

  • The wealthy – a fluid group, but presumably by definition one that has possessions to sell if they’re hungry.
  • The non-working poor – the welfare class, for which we have countless federal, state and local programs to provide the basics and more. To be a poor person in America, with rent, phone, food and utilities provided by government, is to live a life not defined as poor in many other countries.
  • The working poor – the honorable millions who struggle to find a job, any job, hoping that the American Dream will enable them to climb out of poverty by reaching the next rung on the ladder, and the next, and the next, as far as their ability and industry allow.
  • The middle class – a broad and fluid group, ranging from lower to middle to upper, the people who do work for a living but whose wages as employees have been stagnant for 20 years, and whose chances in entrepreneurship have plummeted in recent years as the tax and regulatory climate has marked them for destruction.

These last two are in fact the areas that should concern us, and no bleeding heart liberal wants to showcase their plight.

  • The entrepreneur who must put every penny of his savings into the rent and supplies for his kiosk or storefront despite an economy in which his target market can no longer afford to buy his product.
  • The person who got an entry level job on an assembly line or customer service center as a teen, but never progressed to the next rung because of the flight of such businesses from our over-taxed, over-regulated land to faraway countries across the Pacific. So they struggle on at their entry level job, applying for better jobs that simply don’t exist in their cities or even states, at least, not in the numbers of applicants.
  • The middle class worker who had made it, who had been on his way already, making it to middle management or better, until recession after recession closed off business after business, forcing him to regress, from engineer or buyer or product manager down to customer service or store cashier. The jobs intended for entry level people are, too often, the hard landing of competent employees whose jobs have evaporated in recent years.

These are the real challenges of our current economy. Consider a coal mining town; it had a restaurant, a shopping mall, a hotel, gas stations, laundry, all to support the booming coal mine; when Democratic Party policy targeted the mines for destruction, all these support industries were in their crosshairs as well. No Democrat politician ever said “Elect me and we’ll close down your restaurants, your hotels, your gas stations and malls,” but when they promised “Elect me, and we’ll shut down those dirty coal mines!” that WAS the unavoidable corollary. A promise to ruin one industry is also a promise to ruin many more.

These may not be the kind of “poor” we think of when considering hunger… they aren’t the people on street corners begging with a cardboard sign. But the struggling working folks are the ones who have to count every penny at the store, because they don’t get a check or a SNAP card in the mail to meet their needs.

They would probably argue that if people can’t make their SNAP cards feed their families, they should analyze their purchasing habits; try being a struggling entrepreneur or a low level employee who’s taking twenty years to accomplish what ought to have been five years of career progress – they know how to stretch every dollar at the discount grocery store.

So What Should We Do?

We acknowledge that there is hunger, but what are the cures?

Should government be more generous in its welfare programs? Under the Obama administration, food aid recipients climbed to an unprecedented figure: over 46 million Americans get food stamps today. Can we expand that? The government is bankrupt as it is, and making more and more people dependent on government is no path to prosperity.

Rather, we must concentrate on fixing our broken economy.

  • The dying mining towns are dying because government policy marked them for death; as the Trump administration has reversed those Obama-era decrees, these critical energy producers can come back.
  • The cities are dying because government policy – an unaffordable welfare state, a massive bureaucracy, horrific avoidable crime, and the flight of industry – has rendered them unlivable. To save Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and the other struggling cities of America, we must fix policy errors at every level. The federal government must allow real crime control again, the illegal aliens who flood our welfare rolls and populate the drug gangs must be ejected, and the tax and regulatory overreach must be trimmed from state capitols to Washington DC.
  • Fix the economy, you fix most of the nation’s problems. A 50% cut in the maximum income tax bracket is critical; we have the highest tax burden in the developed world for the businesses we desperately need to employ our citizenry. We must invite employers back and enable them to succeed; only then can their employees climb out of the very real struggles of hunger and cold and homelessness.

But there is another question worth asking, before we close:

Why the cards and banners at all?

Why do restaurants participate in a program that raises awareness of a vague problem, gives false impressions as to who the real sufferers are, and distorts statistics to create vague compassion?

Here we must turn to political philosophy, and the world of political agitators: you can’t rile up people unless they believe there’s a problem that only you can solve. Create the problem and you build support for the problem-solvers.

The Left in America is dependent on dependence.

In order to get people to vote for the American Left, they must convince the public that this is not the greatest nation in the world, that in fact this country suffers from terrible, widespread troubles, from homelessness and hunger, from sadness and danger.

By tugging on a nation’s heartstrings, they can turn that compassion into votes for the party of dependence, against the party of resilience and rugged individualism on which our nation was founded.

The Left hopes for only one thing: that the public doesn’t think too hard about these problems and discover the truth: that the problems the Left wants to solve are of their own creation; that the jobless are jobless because of leftist policy, that the criminal gangs flourish because the Left invited them in, that the factories closed and the businesses struggle because the Left marked them for destruction.

If you care about the issues the Left raises, it is clear there is only one solution: to free America from the grip of the Left once and for all.

Copyright 2017 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland based trade compliance manager, writer and actor. A former county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, his columns are regularly found in Illinois Review.


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  1. i no longer eat at national restaurant chains because I’m picky about the quality and tastiness of my food, and therefore i purchase fresh, high quality ingredients that I cook into delicious, nutritious, healthy and relatively inexpensive meals, but if i WERE to sit down at a table at a national restaurant chain and was confronted with such propaganda, when the server arrived I would get up and leave, telling them that I had lost my appetite thinking about all of those starving children. i would encourage others to do the same.