What can you say about a politician who benefits from a government program as a child and then goes on to oppose the very program he benefited from?
In the case of Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona, now running for the US Senate, it was being able to get a lunch at school.
In an Esquire magazine article, Flake’s older brother Scott discussed their hardscrabble childhood on a cattle ranch:
“It didn’t feel like we were poor, but we always qualified for free school lunch and those kinds of things. I guess it was just a function of having so many kids. They made enough money raising cattle to raise big families very efficiently, carefully. But they didn’t have enough money to send anybody off to college. If you wanted to go to college, it was encouraged and good luck to you, but you had to figure out how to do it.”
Well done to Jeff Flake for achieving a successful political career. But he seems not to have developed much sympathy for other kids in similar circumstances.
Flake has regularly been one of a few hard-line conservatives to vote against child nutrition and school lunch programs in Congress. In 2004, Flake and just 4 other members of Congress voted against reauthorizing funding for child nutrition programs. He has also steadfastly opposed even recognizing the importance of school lunch programs over the years, voting against Congressional resolutions celebrating the School Breakfast Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which provides food assistance in daycare for low-income families. Most recently, he refused to express support for “the goals and ideals of the National School Lunch Program.” Each time, he was joined by around 10 other members in opposing the overwhelmingly popular programs.
If Flake’s family had done without government help to feed their children, and he had gone on to vote as he does in Congress, I would still think he was a jerk. But I could respect his consistency in a rough sort of way.
There are around 48.8 million people currently living in food insecure households like the Flake family. 20 million children take advantage of free and reduced lunches every day.