Real life 101

I’ve always thought that senators and members of congress should have a required orientation when they are voted in. You know, take a month or two to live like the people they will represent. For many areas, that would mean living on minimum wage for a while, serving in the military for a week or two, and/or job hunting while raising a few kids.

Well, now someone’s gone and done it—or something close to it. It’s not the freshest news, but in case you haven’t read about it, Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski (a Dem) went for a week on what he could buy with the average ration of food stamps. If you’re registered with the NY Times, check it out.

And Connecticut state Sen. Jonathan Harris (another Dem, from West Hartford), went a full three weeks.

Neither of them went as far as Morgan Spurlock, of “Supersize Me” fame, on his show “30 Days. “ I recall that he went a month on food stamps (or maybe it was minimum wage) early in its run. That must have been a trip… although perhaps not as much for him and his vegan girlfriend, who might’ve been used to avoiding fast food (which can really add up, even though each item seems very cheap) and eating inexpensive vegetarian staples. Has anyone out there seen that show?

So back to the pols, what did these suited Barbara Ehrenreich wannabes learn? For one thing, they had a similar reaction to George W. Bush when he realized that working is really hard. Yeah, it’s hard to eat on $3 a day. They missed their comforts and conveniences, like microbrews and snacks and take-out, and their health suffered.

What does it mean? Hard to say. For those opposed to government handouts, it shows that even with the heavily bureaucratic effort of food stamps, we’re still not making much of a dent in hunger. For those bleeding hearts looking at the health of the poor, it shows that a) it’s hard to eat well when the cheapest food is processed and of crappy quality, like corn syrupy peanut butter and b) maybe it’s not the fault of the poor for eating badly and getting obese and sick. Inferior quality food is easily accessible and cheap, while even those who are educated about food choices (which we can figure Kulongoski and Harris are), cannot eat well that way.

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