Mike the Mad Biologist

Hunger and the Ethical Failure of Our Elites

Last week, I showed pictures of what a food stamp budget actually buys. By way of Susie Madrak, we come across this article describing hunger in Philadelphia:

Sherita Parks went shopping in a corner store in Frankford the other day with her too-thin daughter, Joe-anna, 2….

“I only wanted to spend a dollar today, so this is a lot,” Parks said. “But she’ll eat a slice of cheese for a meal.”

On the walk home, Joe-anna, who weighs 20 pounds but should be 26 or more, dawdled on the dirty sidewalks of Torresdale Avenue until Parks pulled her into the tidy, small house owned by Joe-anna’s father, Parks’ boyfriend.

Parks regarded her daughter with anxiety. “She doesn’t have enough food, and it affects her brain. She can only say ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy.’ She can’t even tell me when she’s hungry,” said Parks, an unemployed nurse’s aide and former part-time model who devours Patricia Cornwell mysteries.

“There’s just not enough food in the house, and now she has developmental delay….

Joe-anna has failure to thrive, meaning she has low weight for her age, caused in part by not getting enough food. Drexel University’s Grow Clinic tries to treat the condition, which is underdiagnosed and still being studied by doctors. The clinic, at St. Christopher’s, was founded by Chilton.

“Failure to thrive has impacted Joe-anna’s language development,” said Hans Kersten, the quiet, lanky pediatrician who heads the clinic. “And food insecurity is an important factor in her failure to thrive. We feel she’s not getting enough calories.”

It’s likely that Joe-anna will require extensive educational intervention–which will be far more expensive than providing adequate nutrition. It’s one thing to kick cans down the road, it’s another to kick children.

Meanwhile, Brad DeLong and Kevin Drum point us towards a complaint by Greg Mankiw, who bleats that a slight increase in taxes would discourage him from writing more often for The New York Times (which leads me to wonder if there is a tax structure that could encourage Thomas Friedman and David Brooks to write less).

A more civilized time will look back on this and wonder how, in the midst of plenty–and the U.S. is a wealthy nation–we could be so barbarous and cruel. That those in elite positions will not feed desperate children, while at the same time, they fret over a minor tax increase represents a total ethical and moral failure of our elites:

But Henderson’s outburst does represent a complete abandonment of personal responsibility by the elite (and he is elite, both in terms of educational status and income). It demonstrates a galling lack of concern for others and society as a whole that borders on the narcissistic. It also demonstrates that our ‘elite’ institutions not only fail to inculcate ethics, but that they seem to equip their graduates with the mental flexibility to override personal responsibility.

If you live in Boston, these people help the hungry. If you live elsewhere, here’s a list of organizations that can help.

I challenge you to be better than Todd Henderson and Greg Mankiw.

Comments

  1. #1 Mikko
    October 11, 2010

    Elites in name only. Shameful to say the least.

  2. #2 regis
    October 11, 2010

    If you really think a more civilized time is coming (anytime soon at least), you’re much more optimistic than I. I don’t envision a more civilized time until well after the effects of climate change and a shortage of fresh water have manifested themselves. Several hundred years perhaps? Makes me somewhat glad I won’t be around for more than a few more decades.

  3. #3 D. C. Sessions
    October 11, 2010

    Elites in name only.

    You’ve bought into the right-wing redefinition of “elite” as someone who has acquired expertise. That’s not the original meaning, and I dare say that MtMB is using that one: someone born to a position of great privilege.

    Needless to say, the right wing finds inherited power and privilege to be the proper order of the world.

  4. #4 film izle
    October 11, 2010

    Joe-anna has failure to thrive, meaning she has low weight for her age, caused in part by not getting enough food. Drexel University’s Grow Clinic tries to treat the condition, which is underdiagnosed and still being studied by doctors. The clinic, at St. Christopher’s, was founded by Chilton.

    “Failure to thrive has impacted Joe-anna’s language development,” said Hans Kersten, the quiet, lanky pediatrician who heads the clinic. “And food insecurity is an important factor in her failure to thrive. We feel she’s not getting enough calories.”

  5. #5 eNeMeE
    October 11, 2010

    Cleanup on aisle 5! Annoying C&P spam spill!

  6. #6 JasonTD
    October 12, 2010

    That those in elite positions will not feed desperate children, while at the same time, they fret over a minor tax increase represents a total ethical and moral failure of our elites

    At a time when federal government spending has jumped by leaps and bounds, it is incorrect to point to taxes as if it was the only option to increase funding for food aid for the poor.

    Remember this pledge from our President?

    We will go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line – eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way.

    If he and Congress had actually followed through with that, no doubt untold billions of dollars could be found for other priorities.

  7. #7 FrauTech
    October 13, 2010

    If he and Congress had actually followed through with that, no doubt untold billions of dollars could be found for other priorities.

    Oh puhleeeze. Then YOU go through the budget line by line. You decide what we should cut and where that money should go. This is the same bs politicians from both sides of the isle peddle; that there’s MORE money out there, we just have to FIND it. Sorry to say that two wars, the lowest income taxes in a long time, and an economic downturn do not make for extra money just lying around. But this is a citizen’s government, you are welcome to do your own investigations. I’m sure if you find some “useless” program we can eliminate they will gladly take the money. Problem is the moeny the government spends feeds the hungry, gives children healthcare, picks up our trash, paves our streets, punishes crime, prosecutes criminals, puts out fires, etc etc etc. Sometimes I really wish all these low tax loonies could get exiled to an island somewhere where there’s a government but no taxes and see exactly what and where paying no taxes gets them.

  8. #8 FrauTech
    October 13, 2010

    For irony…when I clicked the link to the Philadelphia story a pop-up ad with Jillian Michaels (fitness/diet “expert”) came up.

  9. #9 JasonTD
    October 15, 2010

    FrauTech,

    How about ending subsidies for corn-based ethanol? If you want to talk about improving the hunger situation in the U.S. and around the world, that would be a two-fer: less tax money feeding corporate agriculture and more for feeding people, and lower food prices. (I found an interesting discussion about itright here on scienceblogs.

    No doubt there are all sorts of subsidies, mostly in the form of favorable tax treatment, for all sorts of industries that are more than profitable enough to not need them (such as the domestic oil industry).

    As for military spending, it isn’t just wars that cost extra money. How about cargo planes the military doesn’t want? (Note that link was taken right from this blog.)

    There is plenty of waste that could be eliminated if only the political will existed for it.

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