Childhood hunger is a nice, safe issue. No politician can be against hungry children, and we are told that the U.S. faces a child hunger problem of massive proportions. Advocacy groups repeat over and over that 16.2 million children (one in five) “struggle with hunger in the United States.” Television appeals show dispirited children going to bed hungry.
Childhood hunger and nutrition are one of the constants of political discourse. While the Super Committee stalemates, Congress debates whether pizzas should be counted as a vegetable in school lunch programs. The Occupy Wall Street crowd deplores childhood hunger as “violence against children.” Liberals complain that Rush Limbaugh jokes about childhood poverty. Sinister pizza, cola, and salt lobbyists block valiant efforts to make school lunches healthier.
Statistics that become part of our folklore should raise suspicion. When we dig into them, they are usually wrong. I cite as examples Bill Clinton’s “100,000 new cops on the street” or the “miserly pay of teachers.”
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