April 9, 2007

Dems: ADM More Important Than Starving African Children

Hatched by Dafydd

The 110th Democratic Congress -- like the 109th Republican Congress before them -- is more concerned with the profits of Archer Daniels Midland than getting food to starving African Children... and even the New York Times has noticed!

The United Nations World Food program supplies food rations to more than half a million impoverished Zambians, 50,000 of them with HIV or full-blown AIDS. But as American-made drugs gradually make Zambians healthier, they also get hungrier; and the food rations are in danger of running out, leading to possible mass starvation.

Hoping to forestall such a dire outcome, the World Food Program made an urgent appeal in February for cash donations so it could buy corn from Zambia’s own bountiful harvest, piled in towering stacks in the warehouses of the capital, Lusaka.

But the law in the United States requires that virtually all its donated food be grown in America and shipped at great expense across oceans, mostly on vessels that fly American flags and employ American crews -- a process that typically takes four to six months.

For a third year, the Bush administration, which has pushed to make foreign aid more efficient, is trying to change the law to allow the United States to use up to a quarter of the budget of its main food aid program to buy food in developing countries during emergencies. The proposal has run into stiff opposition from a potent alliance of agribusiness, shipping and charitable groups with deep financial stakes in the current food aid system.

And the Democrats in Congress seem to be as deeply in thrall to the lobbyists who represent these special interests as were the Republicans in the last Congress. So much for cleaning up the "Republican culture of corruption" to create "the most ethical Congress in history!"

The United States Agency for International Development [USAID] estimated that if Congress adopted the Bush proposal, the United States could annually feed at least a million more people for six months and save 50,000 more lives.

But the Democrats don't want to do it, and they have a glib argument for doing nothing to clean up the corruption inherent in a program that has become almost a foreign-policy "entitlement."

They claim that "decoupling" food aid from domestic agribusiness would quickly cause support for such aid to wane. But if you break it down, what they're really saying is that they, personally, will not vote for food aid unless it's really disguised corporate welfare for Big Food. After all, what difference does "support" (polling) make on Congress' decision to supply food aid -- unless Congress intends to act as a political weathercock?

Representative Tom Lantos, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, warned last year at a food aid conference in Washington that decoupling food aid from American maritime and agribusiness interests was “beyond insane.” [Can somebody please tell me what, exactly, lies "beyond insane?"]

“It is a mistake of gigantic proportions,” he said, “because support for such a program will vanish overnight, overnight.”

But according to the acting deputy director of USAID, James Kunder, the Bush proposal would affect only 0.5% of U.S. agricultural exports, thus could not possibly adversely affect American agriculture.

It would, however, adversely affect the bottom line of four specific companies which get most of the contracts... and it would also affect a huge percentage of congressional campaign contributions from Big Food. Now that the Democrats are the majority party, they're in line for the lion's share of that "food aid."

So they don't want to upset the gruel-cart:

Over the past three years, the same four companies and their subsidiaries -- Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Bunge and the Cal Western Packaging Corporation -- have sold the American government more than half the $2.2. billion in food for Food for Peace, the largest food aid program, and two smaller programs, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Shipping companies were paid $1.3 billion over the same period to move the food aid overseas, the department’s figures show....

Agribusiness and shipping groups vigorously oppose the Bush administration proposal to buy food in developing countries with cash, which they argue is more likely to be stolen. They say that American food is safer and of higher quality and that the government can speed delivery by storing it in warehouses around the world.

And they defend the idea that federal spending should benefit American business and farming interests, as well as the hungry. Without support from such interest groups, food aid budgets from Congress would wither, they say.

Well, there you are; they know the attention-span of their congressional clients.

I apologize if my sense of humor seems to drive out my sense of serious about this serious problem; but I so clearly remember then-Rep., now Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) shrill denunciation of Republicans as fostering a "culture of corruption." She added the following in an Op-Ed directly after the election:

With their votes, the American people asked for change. They cast their ballots in favor of a New Direction.

They called for greater integrity in Washington, and Democrats pledge to make this the most honest, ethical, and open Congress in history.

It's hard to know what she meant by this. Though of course, the next paragraph makes us a bit dubious that when Pelosi says "most honest, ethical, and open Congress," she is not using the normal definitions of those words found in most dictionaries...

The American people called for greater civility in how Congress conducts its work, and Democrats pledge to conduct our work with civility and bipartisanship, and to act in partnership - not partisanship - with the president and Republicans in Congress. [!]

Judging from the Democrats' responsiveness so far -- responsive to the big-money lobbyists, I mean, as the massive mound of pork larded into the supplemental war-funding bill illustrates -- I would have to stick with what I wrote in that earlier post:

So now we know what the Divine Ms. P. means by "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history." She means a Congress where all the pork and beans goes to the good Democrats, rather the evil Republicans. And now that the electorate has thrown the old bums out, problem solved.

Meet the new boss...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 9, 2007, at the time of 5:46 AM

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The following hissed in response by: nk

And let's not forget, also, that "teach a man how to fish" was Reagan. The Democrats' are still firmly entrenched in "give a man a fish". Why should they behave differently towards poor people in Africa than they behave towards poor people in America.

The above hissed in response by: nk [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 9, 2007 7:48 AM

The following hissed in response by: charlotte

Meet the old boss… far, far worse than the old boss.

Piety and platitude spouting people are always the worst. They say (and say and say…) that they’re for love, goodness, integrity and forgiveness, but what they’re really about is setting themselves up as moral betters without not only being better, but being the greater offenders. They project and displace.

The Dems ran a nasty campaign to show how exemplary and virtuous they are compared to the mean baddie Repubs, whom they snub and rebuke and about whom they lie. They offered the electorate a cleaner, more accountable government, but what they’ve given is petty, self-serving and extensive corruption. They offered an olive branch to Bush who was willing to accept it, only to slap his face with it.

Many of us watching can only shake our heads in disbelief that the Repub pols are either not willing or smart enough to call the Dems on this effectively (they need Dafydd!). Republicans have a problem with the media, true, but if they could only get on the same team without being so foolishly divisive, they could select some key issues and targets of hypocrisy and corruption and go after them phalanx-style. For not only the sake of government and policy, but so that the rest of us can see real justice and accountability after the demoralizing sham of the Fitzgerald investigation and now the endless Dem Congressionals to come.

Dem politicians haven’t been about feeding the children for a long time- only their egos, constituent backers, personal bank accounts and party coffers. Repubs do many of the bad things, too, but at least they’re normally willing to identify real needs and address them (somewhat) effectively.

The above hissed in response by: charlotte [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 9, 2007 8:27 AM

The following hissed in response by: charlotte

LOL- that would either be "Meet the new boss, far, far worse than the old boss" (comment above) or a Freudian improvement on the meaning that there never really is a new one.

The above hissed in response by: charlotte [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 9, 2007 8:52 AM

The following hissed in response by: Troll

With their votes, the American people asked for change.

What did she mean by these statement

Change: That the new congress was going to steal dollar bills and then throw the Dem approved plebs some change.

The above hissed in response by: Troll [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 9, 2007 11:26 AM

The following hissed in response by: Steelhand

Of course, it must be pointed out, that my fellow Republicans did nothing to address this situation, either. We have no room for a high moral tone.

This would be a win-win for the third world. Instead, we have more pontificating by American corporations about good deeds more about lining their pockets than saving lives. In Washington support may indeed dry up. But the rest of the country wants to care for the neediest among us.

The above hissed in response by: Steelhand [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 10, 2007 4:40 AM

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