Mark Bittman: “I stopped eating on Monday”

NYT’s food columnist Mark Bittman has given up food:

I stopped eating on Monday and joined around 4,000 other people in a fast to call attention to Congressional budget proposals that would make huge cuts in programs for the poor and hungry.

By doing so, I surprised myself; after all, I eat for a living. But the decision was easy after I spoke last week with David Beckmann, a reverend who is this year’s World Food Prize laureate. Our conversation turned, as so many about food do these days, to the poor.

Who are — once again — under attack, this time in the House budget bill, H.R. 1. The budget proposes cuts in the WIC program (which supports women, infants and children), in international food and health aid (18 million people would be immediately cut off from a much-needed food stream, and 4 million would lose access to malaria medicine) and in programs that aid farmers in underdeveloped countries. Food stamps are also being attacked, in the twisted “Welfare Reform 2011” bill. (There are other egregious maneuvers in H.R. 1, but I’m sticking to those related to food.)

These supposedly deficit-reducing cuts — they’d barely make a dent — will quite literally cause more people to starve to death, go to bed hungry or live more miserably than are doing so now. And: The bill would increase defense spending.

Bittman doesn’t say it, of course, but just since Monday we’ve probably dropped enough bombs on Libya to offset these cuts.

We’re spending an average of $55 million a day to bomb Libyans while, as Bittman says, people here are going to bed hungry.

I don’t care where you come down on the question of whether we have a national interest in Libya or not. Until someone explains why that national interest is greater than feeding our own children, or until some decides to start taxing GE and Bank of America to pay for this, the action is illegitimate.

  1. BoxTurtle says:

    Bombmakers need jobs, too. $55M a day seems a small price to pay for keeping them employed.

    Boxturtle (And let’s not forget we get a lot of pundit employment as a side effect)

  2. PeasantParty says:

    The current situation where the soup lines and missions are over taxed and begging for help should tell those in DC something.

    I’d like to see them explain why it is cheaper to feed kids off the dollar menu at fast food joints than it is to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Protein items at the grocer are completely out of site for people in this jobless economy. Like EW said yesterday, this has become a national security issue. It’s not just that poor and middle class are getting poorer, but that we have to rely on non-friendly nations to provide our manufactured goods and even some food. It doesn’t matter if you are right or left in your political views, this is an American issue!

  3. 4jkb4ia says:

    At least on the level of a household, you have to prove that your interest in protecting Libyan civilians is the same as your interest/obligation in feeding American children. If you were to give money to Japan now, it would be understood to be the same moral obligation.

    I wasn’t entirely convinced that Digby was right that domestic issues are being hidden by the war in Libya, because most Americans don’t seem to be paying that much attention to it. But Libya could hide the issues that are really involved in a government shutdown. Because the money for Libya is foremost in people’s minds, some of the Republican pet causes could get through under the radar.

  4. JTMinIA says:

    Manufacturing is no longer done in the States.

    Wars are now fought using drones, not foot-soldiers.

    Really cruddy jobs are done by immigrants, legal or otherwise.

    So why do we need to feed poor people? Enough will survive to mine the coal we need (once we get rid of the ability of the EPA to protect the environment).

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    WIC and similar programs have saved tens of thousands of lives and enabled many to survive, grow and reach their full potential. They have kept many from malnutrition and from suffering once common diseases like rickets and scurvy that disappeared in the industrialized world, but are now coming back, like TB. It seems like it’s time to reread a little Jack London and Upton Sinclair.

  6. onitgoes says:

    I note that my T-GOP sibling was very quick out of the gate to latch onto WIC for an unmarried daughter who got pregnant at a young age. Same sibling is now all totally against funding programs like WIC bc (wait for it) “it encourages the poor to be lazy.”…. and the corrolary is: why should I pay for brown people to have babies when they’re so lazy?? I’m sure my sibling is just parroting out what Glenn Beck taught in his “esteemed University.”

    Twas ever thus: I got MINE, EFF the rest of yas.

    Kudos for Bittman; hope his hunger strike is noticed.

  7. maadcet says:

    A bold step by a sensitive man. He is putting his career on line by pointing out not so bright side of capitalism in a corporate newspaper. I wonder if others(lefties, middle, and wingnuts) in NYT would follow Mark example.

  8. Cynthia Kouril says:

    Bittman is a big “get” for this protest, his participation should raise its profile quite a bit.

    Good for him

  9. eCAHNomics says:

    This makes no sense to me whatsoever. People who are already hungry have got one slightly known person as a figurehead but it won’t get corp media coverage anyhow. If it gets on any radar screen inside the beltway, it will elicit grins of satisfaction. Kucinich or Sanders might write a sternly worded letter.

    • onitgoes says:

      Which charities do you give to annually?

      And how much of a percentage of your annual take home pay do you give to charities annually?

      I personnally donate to three different types of food pantry programs in two different cities, and I donate more than 10% of my annual pay (per the traditional Christian tithing concept). I’m happy to be able to do this, but I *clearly* recognize that it isn’t enough to feed the poor & hungry these days (but we can “afford” yet another %55K per day to bomb Libya). I also volunteer at a food pantry.

      Answers, alamode, or are those questions “too personal” or do they have “too much liberal bias” for you?

      • alamode says:

        A LOT…………Yes you are right..we should not be in Lybia or Iraq..

        perhaps there is a case for Afganistan???This middle east meddling is all about oil

        • onitgoes says:

          Define, please what “A LOT” means.

          and thanks for clarifying that you see that the USA shouldn’t be in Iraq & Libya. Both conflicts are only about BigOIL. If Team USA wasn’t squandering YOUR tax dollars and MINE on senseless quagmires, then there would be more than enough to go around on other good programs.

          IMO there is NO case for Afganistan and never was. Bush *never* intended to “catch” the son of his family’s best friends, the bin Ladens. WHY are we fighting now in Afganistan? there is no reason; it’s not in any way making the USA “safer” from terrorism; and we’re never gonna catch Osama bin Laden… NOTE: we don’t even hear from Osama anymore.

          Thank you for responding, but I would appreciate clarification on what you consider – a percentage of your pay – as a “LOT” donated to charity.

    • RoyalOak says:

      It is a function of the state to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves if this is the sort of state that the people want. Obviously, the people want it or we would not have Social Security or WIC or all the other programs we have (and want to have available) to help the less fortunate.

      • onitgoes says:

        I duly note that when confronted with real facts, alamode is unsurprisingly absent from commenting back. Same happened yesterday when I asked alamode specific questions. Then s/he “complained” about how much “Liberal Bias” there was on this blog!! Like: ya think so? Why come post here at probably one of the most leftie of leftwing blogs, if you don’t *like* “liberal bias.”

        Useless to “engage” with a sock puppet like that, but some days I want to prove the point of how completely empty these rightwing talking points are. Empty, facile, bloviating, useless “comments” picked up from RushGlenn signifying: bupkiss.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Suit yourself; I think that gives the trolls, real or HBGary virtual, too much power. As with protecting bankster fraud, it means we’ll have more of them.

      Not having enough to eat because you have no choice is precisely what Bittman’s voluntary hunger strike is meant to fight against. Gandhi worked miracles with it.

      “Charity” isn’t the means we use to fight fires, police streets or care for the sick, at least in civilized countries. It’s not an adequate response to help the hungry and homeless fend for themselves. “Are the workhouses not open, does the Poor Law not function?” and all that.

      Besides, “government” simply refers to the people acting collectively rather than individually to meet a common need. There’s nothing magical or nefarious in that, except to the wealthy and Scroogeish who want no obligations or prying eyes into how they make or inherit their wealth. They want the government to meet only their needs.

  10. KarenM says:

    I facebooked this story!

    I hope Michelle Obama hears about this story! Soon, she’ll be worried about people starving themselves, rather than about obesity.

  11. 4jkb4ia says:

    ECahn may be out of here, but I can testify that Bittman got a column on the printed Op-ed page to make this point, and he was very moving. Almost makes up for not having Bob Herbert anymore.

  12. nycterrierist says:

    Good on Bittman. Great use of his bully pulpit.
    And yes, as someone else mentioned,
    we’ll need more of this now that Herbert has
    left the op-ed page.

  13. Synoia says:

    Until someone explains why that national interest is greater than feeding our own children

    We are feeding our children. Those children of the MIC.

    or until some decides to start taxing GE and Bank of America to pay for this, the action is illegitimate.

    They are paying taxes. Somewhere, and not very much.

    FWIW I worked for BofA in the early ’80s, and they didn’t pay taxes then either. For me the most malignant job environment ever.

  14. lakeeffectsnow says:

    this guy should just go ahead and eat. sheesh

    i am also on a hunger strike – but not of my choosing. i am out of money and have been for a while and thus cannot buy any food ( and do not qualify for any assistance as an able bodied male doncha know ).

    this guy ain’t doing me no favors.

    dude, just eat.

  15. CalGeorge says:

    Good to hear. Bittman is as close to radical as the N.Y. Times is going to get. I wonder how long he’s going to last there.

    How long will the N.Y. Times put up with stuff like this?:

    I can put around 200 million male chicks a year through grinders (graphic video here), castrate — mostly without anesthetic — 65 million calves and piglets a year, breed sick animals (don’t forget: more than half a billion eggs were recalled last summer, from just two Iowa farms) who in turn breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria, allow those sick animals to die without individual veterinary care, imprison animals in cages so small they cannot turn around, skin live animals, or kill animals en masse to stem disease outbreaks.

    All of this is legal, because we will eat them.

    We have “justifiable purposes”: pleasure (or, at this point, habit, because eating is hardly a pleasure if you do it in your car, or in 10 minutes), convenience — there are few things more filling per dollar than a cheeseburger — and of course corporate profits. We should be treating animals better and raising fewer of them; this would naturally reduce our consumption. All in all, a better situation for us, the animals, the world. Arguing for the freedom to eat as much meat as you want is equivalent to arguing for treating farm animals as if they could not feel pain.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    From the Bittman OpEd:

    This isn’t about skepticism…it’s about ironies and outrages. In 2010, corporate profits grew at their fastest rate since 1950, and we set records in the number of Americans on food stamps. The richest 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all American households combined, the effective tax rate on the nation’s richest people has fallen by about half in the last 20 years, and General Electric paid zero dollars in U.S. taxes on profits of more than $14 billion. Meanwhile, roughly 45 million Americans spend a third of their posttax income on food — and still run out monthly — and one in four kids goes to bed hungry at least some of the time.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      And then there’s this:

      [W]e need to gather and insist that our collective resources be used for our collective welfare, not for the wealthiest thousand or even million Americans but for a vast majority of us in the United States and, indeed, for citizens of the world who have difficulty making ends meet. Or feeding their kids.

  17. lettherebelight2011 says:

    When are you folks going to stop the “its about the OIL” argument? Frankly, it makes everything you say after seem like the rantings of a left-wing conspiracy nut. Bittman makes a decent point and is going make me do a little research on the proposed WIC cuts (though I assume its related to the infant formula issue). As for the international aid, chop it . . . the international community is quick to criticize and even quicker to take US money.

  18. barne says:

    Where do these leaders come from who don’t seem to care, at all, about the suffering of others? Were they born this way? Do we make them in childhood when we cruelly reject them for various reasons? We better figure this out.