In a “report” for NJ.com, Hunger in N.J.: Counties hit hardest by food insecurity, Jessica Mazzola wrote:
It takes less than an hour to drive from some of the most affluent areas of Hunterdon County to the poorest neighborhoods of Newark. The short car trip will paint a startling picture of the highs and lows of hunger in New Jersey.
According to the recently released 2016 Feeding America "Map the Meal Gap" report, the highest concentration of "food insecurity" in the state is in Essex County. The study identifies the number of food insecure residents in every county across the country, as compared to the population of the county, to determine a "food insecurity rate."
At 18.6 percent of the population, Essex has the highest rate of any county in New Jersey. Hunterdon reported the lowest rate in the state, 6.4 percent. Overall, more than 1 million residents in New Jersey, or about 11.8 percent of the state's population, are "food insecure," the term the USDA uses to indicate people who lack access to enough food to live healthy lives.
The rest of the article highlights the plight of the “food insecure” and the “pervasiveness of hunger” in America, which includes people who make too much money to qualify for federal food programs. My focus here is not to debate the validity of these surveys or conclusions about hunger (now labeled the much more vague “food insecurity”) in America. My point is to challenge the egalitarian frame of reference.
I left these comments:
Another day, another “gap.”
What do “some of the most affluent areas of Hunterdon County” have to do with the fact that some people in Newark have struggles with their food budgets? More precisely, what relevance is the fact that 8 million New Jerseyans have achieved a measure of economic success as to not have food struggles? Why talk of a so-called “gap” between the 8 million and the 1 million who have the problem of food insecurity, as if human economics is a zero-sum game where the gain of some comes at the expense of the loss of others?
This is more than just a propaganda piece for another redistributionist government handout program. As soon as I read the first sentence—“It takes less than an hour to drive from some of the most affluent areas of Hunterdon County to the poorest neighborhoods of Newark”—a red flag went up in my mind. A literal Red flag. What’s at work here is the exploitation of the alleged and often very real struggles faced by some people to push the Left’s hateful anti-economic inequality crusade. The anti-inequality crusade is essentially a socialist, i.e., communist, agenda. Yes, that communism; the great equalizer of economic outcomes, and thus the great destroyer of upward mobility, ability, excellence, achievement, good parenting, virtue, prosperity—and, above all, the destroyer of the hope of ever working up from poverty, as that can never be allowed for fear of someone becoming “unequal.”
Economic inequality is the sign of a just society where people are politically free to lift themselves, through learning, work, and trade, as high as their ability, ambition, values, and personal circumstances will carry them. Gaps, in other words, are irrelevant. Economic inequality has nothing to do with some people’s economic struggles. Poverty is the default state of the human condition. That some people—and in substantially free market capitalist countries that means the vast majority—manage to work their way up from poverty is not the cause of the small minority who don’t or won’t.
Studies and articles depicting some group’s relative economic struggles should focus on the barriers that prevent those people from lifting themselves further. If you want to use it to call for voluntary charity for someone you know who fits the bill, fine. But it is shameful to sneak in a sinister political agenda. We should celebrate achievement on all levels, not demand a utopian equality that runs counter to human nature.
I got some pushback from other correspondents in the comments section of the article. I’ll have more to say on this in my March 17, 2017 post.
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