Money for nothing and the kids are free

June 21, 2023 4:38 am

Grocery cart filled with nutritious fruits and vegetables. (Photo by greggavedon via Flickr/CC BY ND-2.0)

Those who were alive when the Unabomber killed his first victim and the wreck of the Titanic was located, will likely also recall the band Dire Straits’ hit song, “Money for Nothing,” (with the chorus line, “and your chicks for free”).

That lyric came to mind when I read the report of the Gianforte Administration leaving $10 million federal dollars (money for nothing) on the table–$10 million that would have fed hungry children. 

And the reason? There’s an administrative burden associated with accepting the money.  

The Department of Health and Human Services stated that Montana will not participate in the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer(P-EBT) program, which would have provided millions of dollars to feed hungry kids for the 2022-2023 school year or summer.  But then, if consistency matters, that amounts to a total of more than $135 million of money for nothing, since 2021, that will not put food on the tables of Montana’s food insecure children.

If the Gianforte administration is anything, it is the quintessential example of hypocrisy.  How often have we endured the Governor’s (not to mention the legislature’s) platitudes about family values and saving fetuses from abortion; saving our children from reading books about gay people; protecting our children with gender dysphoria from receiving affirming health care recommended by their physicians and desired by their parents; protecting kids from seeing public performances or participating in story hours hosted by people dressed in drag.  Indeed, this administration’s social and moral banalities blather forth, ad nauseum

But when programs that will feed hungry kids become available, poof!  All that concern for live children and all that gushing hyperbole of regard for their welfare, is nowhere to be heard.  Administering these programs just costs too much.

Yet, poor parents, food pantries and family assistance programs are crying for food. They need help in meeting the food needs of the people, the children, they serve.

More to the point, so what if this money for nothing is burdened with some administrative costs?  That’s what we taxpayers pay bureaucrats to do, administer programs.  Good Lord, if the P-EBT program requires a few more bureaucrats, then why not hire them?  Isn’t saving little kids from going to bed hungry or facing their days without enough to eat worth a few extra staff salaries?  

The benefit/cost ratio can hardly be questioned—especially for self-proclaimed, good “Christian” businesspersons.

And, then there is the Family Foundation, the churches, and the pro-life lobbyists that choke the legislative committee rooms during each session.  If you’re waiting to hear their voices of outrage over food-insecure children, sadly, all you’re going to hear is crickets.

Apparently, all that Bible stuff about feeding the hungry is just feel-good, meaningless fluff.  When little children wanted to be with Jesus, it was telling that He didn’t say: “Don’t suffer me with little children: The administrative burden is just too great.”  

Under our Constitution’s Article II, sections 3 and 15, children have the same right to seek safety, health and happiness, that adults have. But, how can a child enjoy any of these rights on an empty stomach?                

Sadly, Montana must truly be in dire straits when it rejects tens of millions of dollars–money, for nothing—except for the costs of administering the program. Every politician, every priest and pastor,  pro-birth organization, and lobbyist for any of them should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and their lack of public outcry.

But, then, at least Montana’s kids are free. Free to go hungry or to scrounge their next meal from a dumpster.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

James C. Nelson
James C. Nelson

James C. Nelson is a retired lawyer and former Montana Supreme Court Justice. He lives in Helena.