Republican School Lunch Debate and Poll
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"My friends," Rush Limbaugh declared, "for the last three weeks we have been barraged with the most heart-rending stories of cruel Republicans taking food from the mouths or children, with drastic decreases in school food lunch budgets. Throughout the past two weeks I have gone to the greatest of lengths to explain, to show with actual figures, that the Republicans plan to increase the spending in this program by 4.5 percent."
"What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is not politics as usual, not liberal journalism as usual," Limbaugh warned. "What we have is a total rejection of responsibility, a total brainwashing equaled only by the worst days of Stalin, of Pravda, of Tass. This is nothing more than a provable conspiracy between the left and the press to spread disinformation about a Republican plan."
The school lunch incident is classic Limbaugh: outraged, self- righteous, hyperbolic--and wrong. The Republican plan in question is the child nutrition block grant legislation approved by the House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee. The legislation combines five separate nutrition programs--including the school lunch program--into one grant going to states. The dollar amount of the 1996 grant will be 2.5 percent more than the five programs cost in fiscal year 1995; since inflation is expected to run at 3.5 percent, this is a cut in the real purchasing power of the child nutrition programs--even without expected increases in school enrollments.
So where does Limbaugh's 4.5 percent hike come from? The Republicans at the Economic and Educational Committee calculated that if states transferred money from four of the child nutrition programs, then they would be able to raise the amount going to the school lunch program. Three programs--the child care food program, the summer food program and the school milk program--would each have to be slashed by 34 percent, a draconian cut that few states are likely to impose. The fourth program that would have to be reduced provides bulk food for school lunches, so a cut in this program would mean that children have less food to eat. Nothing in the legislation mandates or even suggests that states should divide the block grant along these peculiar lines. The 4.5 percent increase is just a Republican fiction, apparently designed for just the purpose Limbaugh put it to: bashing Democrats and media for (accurately) reporting that Republicans were taking money away from school lunches.