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conservatism, Health Care

Via Kevin Drum — L.J. Williamson writes in the Los Angeles Times says the local school districts have to make a choice:

The Los Angeles Unified School District receives about $2.85 a child a day from the state and federal governments to provide breakfast and lunch to students. Of that amount, according to the nonprofit group California Food Policy Advocates, or CFPA, about $2 must be spent on milk, supplies, salaries and benefits, leaving about 85 cents for the food on your child’s Styrofoam tray. Given this paltry budget, it seems astounding that our children are fed at all, yet L.A. Unified’s food service manages to serve nearly half a million meals each school day, and it does so within or exceeding U.S. Agriculture Department nutrition guidelines.

If this feat seems miraculous — and I defy anyone else to make an even moderately healthy meal for that amount — try doing it with even less.

That’s the kind of loaves-and-fishes territory that the food service might soon find itself in if the school board passes an initiative today expanding healthcare for cafeteria workers.

Part-time food service employees are seeking the same health benefits — including coverage for their families — that their full-time counterparts enjoy. Extending these benefits to cafeteria staff who currently work only three hours a day would cost an estimated $40 million a year, according to school board calculations.

Nowhere in the private sector do three-hour-a-day employees expect to be eligible for full family benefits; nowhere but in the surreal world of L.A. Unified would anyone have the nerve to ask for them.

Williamson concludes that the school districts should just say no to the cafeteria workers. But as Kevin, Ezra, and Melissa gently suggest, perhaps Williamson is not seeing the bigger picture.

Here we are, the Richest Nation in the World, and children in a major city are being fed a breakfast and lunch for $2.85 a day (what do those children eat, I wonder? Stuff rejected by the dog food factory?), and the cafeteria workers don’t have health benefits. And all this motherbleeper concludes is that the cafeteria workers have some nerve.

Exactly what is wrong with us?

Notice, Ezra says, “that every single time a group of individuals seeks health coverage, they’re forced into direct warfare with their immediate colleagues, place of employment, etc. So in this case, cafeteria workers who need coverage are set in opposition to children who need food.” The notion that we ought to be doing better than this for both the children and the cafeteria workers doesn’t even flicker through Williamson’s head.

To paraphrase the Ronald Reagan quote in the last post, someday we will tell our children and our children’s children what it once was like when America wasn’t a third-world shithole.

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7 Comments

6 Comments

  1. A Canadian Reader  •  Aug 28, 2007 @3:31 pm

    Unbelievable.

  2. biggerbox  •  Aug 28, 2007 @4:00 pm

    I think we need a new version of the lyric from Yip Harburg:

    Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
    Once I built a railroad; now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
    Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
    Once I built a tower, now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

    Once this nation had the power to achieve the ancient dream of actually touching the moon. Now we have to worry about lunch ladies wanting health care, because it might diminish the pittance we’re allowed to allocate to feed schoolchildren, which we have to do because we’re incapable of running an economy where their parents can have living wages? Third-world, indeed.

  3. We Are The 801  •  Aug 28, 2007 @4:14 pm

    How much longer will it take before Americans really see just how backwards we really have become? On so many issues the US is so far behind it isn’t even funny. Of course, many Americans will never even have an awareness of the disparity since we are so insular.

    I can’t wait to move back to New Zealand PERMANENTLY.

  4. erinyes  •  Aug 28, 2007 @6:03 pm

    “I can’t wait to move back to New Zealand PERMANENTLY”

    Got any room for me on that trip?

  5. Pat  •  Aug 28, 2007 @9:50 pm

    Notice, Ezra says, “that every single time a group of individuals seeks health coverage, they’re forced into direct warfare with their immediate colleagues, place of employment, etc. So in this case, cafeteria workers who need coverage are set in opposition to children who need food.” The notion that we ought to be doing better than this for both the children and the cafeteria workers doesn’t even flicker through Williamson’s head.

    So who is pitting one against the other and controlling the purse strings anyway? How could we be so docile as to let them distract us like that with some two-bit shell game.

    We must be mice.

  6. DN  •  Aug 30, 2007 @2:09 am

    When I worked in the developing world, the very first thing we did when hiring the people preparing our food was to send them–on our dime–for a full medical check-up. You really didn’t want the people handling your food to have TB. Or hepatitis. Or intestinal parasites.

    Frankly, I’d want the person serving Sloppy Joes to my child–whether full- or part-time–to be able to have that cough or that fever or that diarrhea checked out immediately.

    Now that I’m home, I continue to be amazed at our national inability to grasp the connection between germ theory and health policy. If we’re surrounded by people without access to good health care, our health will be negatively affected, something that is abundantly clear living in the developing world, but is equally true here.

    That basic truth of public health implies that there are corporate responsibilities, which immediately collides with the conservative tenet that we’re all only responsible for ourselves. Which wins?

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