Chris Graham: Breakfast is overrated, anyway

Column by Chris Graham

Leave it to people who call themselves conservatives to in one breath put school breakfast and lunch programs in the “not government’s responsibility” category and in the next bemoan the transfer responsibility from the public sector to the private the operation of a facility that happens to be in our backyard for what we have to assume are Tip O’Neill reasons.

You remember Tip O’Neill, of course. Mr. “All Politics Is Local.”

What’s burning my buns today: an editorial in the newspaper put out by our friends up the street at the News Virginian that makes this nonsensical stretch. First to what should make sense to self-styled conservatives, in the form of the proposal by Gov. Bob McDonnell to sell the Staunton-based Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents. With a Franklin, Tenn.,-based company that already runs 10 facilities in Virginia among the possible interested suitors, this would seem to be a win-win – in that the service is something that somebody in the private sector already does, and does at least decently well; and transferring the management of the CCCA to the private-sector entity would take the cost of operations off the government’s hands and then also off the backs of hardworking taxpayers.

Except that this is in our backyard, and unfortunately elected officals, and presumably editorial writers, in the conservative set are only rigidly philosophical when it comes to matters not in my backyard, as it were. Which is why we have the paper joining the local Republican delegation in the Virginia General Assembly as being up in arms, or at least pretending to be up in arms, at the McDonnell proposal, which is actually a significant improvement on the proposal from his Democratic predecessor Tim Kaine, who simply wanted to shut the CCCA down outright.

This isn’t the first time our local wannabe conservatives have deviated from their philosophical bent on something in the backyard. I don’t know how many times I heard our local Republican lawmaker set talk about public-private partnerships and user fees as solutions to Virginia’s transportation challenges, except when the matter became a public-private partnership that would involve the assessment of user fees on drivers on Interstate 81 to pay for billions of dollars of improvements to the highway here in our backyard. Good approach, fits the philosophy, but we vote for it, we’re toast at the polls, so they ran from the idea like scalded dogs.

But school breakfasts and lunches, hey, there’s something to get righteous about. Because you know, all that’s going to affect are the, well, 60 percent of elementary-school kids in Waynesboro, to name one place, who qualify for free and reduced lunches. Because the economy here in our we-don’t-need-to-invest-in-our-economy city is hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs and replacing the lost wages with retail jobs that pay about 60 cents on the dollar to the jobs that we used to have driving the local employment sector.

It’s not government’s responsibility to feed children. It’s the parents’.Yes, it’s the parent’s fault that they got laid off from Invista or Mohawk and now run the cash register or stock shelves part-time at the Wal-Mart. By all means demean the people who are at the mercy of economic forces for the amusement of those who have obviously lost any sense of the meaning of the phrase There but for the grace of God go I.

So much for the Finley Peter Dunne notion that a newspaper should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. But I digress.

To hell with kids whose parents don’t make enough money to feed them breakfast. What’s important is keeping state control of a facility so that area legislators who otherwise fall over themselves to reduce the size of government can claim that they did something the next time they come up for re-election.

What a joke.


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