Fair warning: I am on the coast of California. Right at this moment, I sit at a kitchen table in Seal, one of the houses of Pigeon Point Lighthouse hostel. Children have been running through the living room singing in French, German, and English. Therefore I might make less sense even than normal.
But I have been thinking about food.
Specifically, I have been pondering the subject of what type of American president would advocate getting rid of the Meals on Wheels program. As an adjunct to that thankless contemplation, I have been reviewing the characters of the handful of people whom I know who admitted to voting for Trump — even bragged about it — and trying to determine if they will be happy about legislation which adversely impacts Meals on Wheels.
If so, I seriously misjudged most of them.
Oh, not Trump. I recognized him for what he was from the start: A rich, self-absorbed con-artist. I recognize the con when I see one, because my father was a bit of a con-artist himself. He’d say, You can’t con an old con-man, you know. I would laugh and say, I know, Pops. We had that conversation in my childhood but also later, when I was in my 30s and went to visit him. Never trust a con-man, Mary, he would remind me. How right.
So: I’ve seen all of the statistics being bandied about the internet. A billion a day to keep Trump’s wife at her separate residence in NYC. Maybe 10 billion. Maybe a million. Similar exorbitant, unthinkable sums for those weekly golf trips that Trump takes. Certainly we have to protect the president. Other presidents have taken golf trips, though not every weekend and not while advocating cutting No Kid Hungry and Meals on Wheels.
Food. Not golf, or a gold-lined living room in Trump Towers. Not a weekly trip from Washington to a swank residence in Florida. Food.
And not just food but a bit of companionship, a regular knock on the door. Meals on Wheels volunteers know the folks on their routes. My best friend manages a Meals on Wheels program at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City. She’s been known to do so much more than deliver food for the people whom she serves. My son did some of his service hours with Katrina and her children at that MOW program. I know first-hand how vital she is to those who receive the meals which she cooks and brings, and who also depend on her for errands, a kind word, and even emergency assistance if they’ve fallen.
Put aside partisan politics. Ask yourself: What kind of person would find it acceptable to spend millions on weekly golf trips while threatening funding which makes possible the provision of weekly lunches for impoverished and often disabled elderly Americans? What kind of person would vote for someone who finds that to be a fair reallocation of tax dollars?
Marshall Rosenberg tells us that negative behavior “is a tragic expression of an unmet need”. I try to empathize with Trump — I really do. I reject the notion that any person is purely evil. But Trump? Close. Close. Meals on Wheels, people. How can this be a partisan issue? Is it just Democrats who see the value of feeding the poor elderly among us? It isn’t as though those octogenerians are falling down on the job. They did their job already.
I had an argument with a Trump supporter last fall about whether there was a hunger problem in America. It’s a myth, he insisted. There is no hunger in America. Besides, if kids or seniors are hungry, the government will feed them. I just stared. I couldn’t believe that anyone could start a sentence with the words, “There is no hunger in America”. Perhaps not in your house, I wanted to say. But I grew up middle class. I once saw my mother use a straw to save milk from the floor after one of us kids shattered the bottle of the only gallon she would have for a week with which to feed the eight of us. And we weren’t even poor, not really; not as I have seen poverty since then, going on home visits as a guardian ad litem.
Seniors in high rises, with bed sores and COPD, creep to the door when they hear their MOW volunteer knock. They gesture to the metal folding table by the worn recliner where they sit, day after day, looking at local news shows or staring out of the window. They clutch their house-coats and their thin cardigan sweaters. Their tired faces crinkle. In trembling voices, they thank the person delivering their food.
Some of them have never flown, much less to another state for a golf weekend. Some of them barely can pay the water bill for their one-room apartments.
Trump’s budget does not directly defund Meals on Wheels. But it does call for the elimination of one program on which some of the nation’s 5,000 Meals on Wheels groups rely, Community development block grants, a $3 billion program intended to give states and cities more flexibility in how they combat poverty.
“The majority of Meals on Wheels programs get most of their federal funding through the Administration for Community Living, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services that serves the elderly and disabled. That agency has a $227 million line-item for ‘home-delivered nutrition services’.
“Those programs are authorized though the Older Americans Act, a law so popular that its renewal passed Congress last year without any recorded opposition. And while Trump didn’t single out that specific program, Health and Human Services will receive a 16% across-the-board cut.”
Sixteen percent. A hefty segment. So that brings me back to what I’m pondering. Who does that? What kind of president thinks it’s preferable to budget the weekly decampment of him and his entourage so he can hobknob with other wealthy folks and play golf in Florida, while slashing a program which feeds poor, elderly Americans? A person who considers his weekly golf trips to be more important than feeding poor, elderly Americans.
What kind of person is that? I cannot decide what unmet need Trump attempts to meet by putting his lavish lifestyle into the national budget while taking community block grants out of it. I can’t decide what kind of person votes for someone who prioritizes spending like that.
I’ll keep pondering. In the meantime, if you’re confused about these issues too, click on over to John Pavlovitz’s blog, and take his theories for a spin. They might resonate with you.
Unless, of course, you voted for Trump. Though come to think of it, if you voted for Trump, you stopped reading long before I got to that link.