July 23, 2001
comments powered by Disqus
The front page of today's New York Times carries an appropriately skeptical dispatch on ethanol, referring to "persistent doubts about its economic and environmental benefits" and quoting an expert who describes it as "a program to help farmers at the expense of another sector of the economy." The article even refers to Archer Daniels Midland Company as "a major campaign contributor to both parties" -- an improvement over the June 12 New York Times ethanol report, which, as Smartertimes noted at the time, identified ADM only as "a major Republican contributor."
Alas, the New York Times's welcome skepticism about subsidy-seeking farmers doesn't carry over into the fawning "Public Lives" profile in today's paper of George McGovern. The Times reports that Mr. McGovern "lobbies for his favorite cause, cutting world hunger." And that he is "asking Congress to send more surplus food overseas in global school-lunch programs." The article mentions that the legislation has the support of Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, and that it is named after Mr. McGovern and former Senator Bob Dole.
There's not even a hint of recognition in the Public Lives profile that what Mr. McGovern, Mr. Dole and Mr. Daschle are up to here is not so much about "cutting world hunger" but about helping farmers -- in the memorable phrase of the ethanol article -- at the expense of another sector of the economy. Mr. McGovern and Mr. Daschle are both from the farm state of South Dakota, and Mr. Dole is from Kansas.
Mr. McGovern, in particular, is just not credible on the hunger-reduction issue. If he was such an implacable foe of hunger, why did he spend his political career advocating a soft line against the Soviet Union, which was one of the foremost creators of famine in human history? And why has he been such a fierce critic of Israel? In 1993, the Middle East Policy Council, an anti-Israel outfit of which Mr. McGovern was president, called on the U.S Government "not only to withhold planned disbursements of loan guarantees to Israel but also to reduce or suspend its regular military and economic assistance and to impose trade sanctions," as Michael Curtis pointed out in the June 1998 issue of Middle East Quarterly. With its dry-farming techniques and kibbutz-developed irrigation technology, Israel has done far more to fight hunger than Mr. McGovern could ever hope to accomplish.
The Times leaves unchallenged this notion of sending "more surplus food overseas." The reason the food is "surplus" is that the American government is paying farmers to produce more of it than there is a market demand for. And while shipping it overseas may help in crisis relief, the money may well be better spent in the long term by teaching the people of hungry countries about new techniques in sustainable agriculture so that they can grow their own food. Or the money could be spent on overthrowing the unfree regimes that are contributing to the starvation of their own people, the way the Soviet Union did back when Mr. McGovern was undermining America's efforts to confront it.
'Positive': A "news analysis" on the front page of today's New York Times reports on President Bush's dealings with Russia. One paragraph in the piece says, "On the positive side, Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin have agreed to begin high-level talks on antimissile systems and offensive nuclear arms. The United States has temporarily put aside its talk of withdrawing from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, a move that would create a political uproar in Europe, while Russia is playing down its threat to respond by putting multiple warheads on its missiles as a way to build up its offensive striking power." This ventures beyond "analysis" into partisan opinion. What is "positive" about putting aside, even temporarily, talk of withdrawing from an outmoded treaty that is preventing America from testing and deploying a missile defense? There are lots of people who would report that as "on the negative side."
Head Start Cuts: An editorial in today's New York Times runs under the headline "Unhealthy Cuts for Head Start." It criticizes President Bush for a "shortsighted" effort to make the "cuts" referred to in the headline -- a reduction in the "funding per child." But as the editorial itself acknowledges, Mr. Bush "is proposing a modest increase in overall financing" for Head Start, and projects "enrollment increases." In other words, Mr. Bush wants to spend more money on Head Start than President Clinton did, and he wants to include more children in the program. The Times response to that is to criticize Mr. Bush for "unhealthy cuts." It's just silly to look at this on a per-child basis, because Head Start isn't a universally guaranteed entitlement. It's as if the federal housing program consisted of giving one poor person a 32-room mansion on 320 acres, and President Bush proposed reforming it to spend more money and give 36 persons each a studio apartment on 10 acres. The Times response, by the logic of today's editorial, would be to condemn the president for "unhealthy cuts" in funding per poor-person.
Note: Smartertimes.com is in Massachusetts today and is operating off the New England edition of the New York Times.
Subscribe to the Mailing List
© 2017 FutureOfCapitalism LLC