Does Dominion Win or Lose from the New Law?

Virginia's biggest power company could benefit from the freeze in electric rates but it also could take a big hit to earnings from power-plant shutdowns.

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Was Bob McDonnell Convicted with Tainted Testimony?

Was Bob McDonnell Convicted with Tainted Testimony?

Jonnie Williams' trial testimony about a critical meeting with the former governor was contradictory, implausible and sometimes incoherent. But the jury bought it anyway

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Building Connectivity in Suburbia

Building Connectivity in Suburbia

Sunnyvale, Calif., wants to reinvent a 60's-era industrial office park as an innovation district. It's making progress but suburban sprawl is not an easy habit to break.

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The Great U.S. 460 Swamp

The Great U.S. 460 Swamp

VDOT had loads of warning that wetlands could kill the U.S. 460 project but the state charged ahead with a design-build contract that everyone knew could explode.

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Coming up: Car-Lite Burbs

Coming up: Car-Lite Burbs

A California developer is teaming with Daimler AG to bring buses, shuttles and ride sharing to an Orange County community -- with no government subsidies.

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Time For a Fossil Fuel Reality Check

Murray

Murray

By Peter Galuszka

Let’s pause for a moment, catch our breath and realize what is really going on in the world of fossil fuel and climate change.

We’ve heard tons of loosely-based opinion from climate change deniers and drum beaters for the “War on Coal” crowd.

Here are two recent news items:

Coal baron Robert Murray is closing a $1.4 billion deal for Illinois Basin coal. The outspoken, labor-busting  boss who figured prominently in the “War on Coal” campaign during the Mitt Romney presidential run has been picking up reserves in the robust Illinois Basin and in the distressed Appalachians.

His deal for 50 percent of Foresight Energy follows another he did in 2013 worth $3.5 billion to buy five Appalachian mines from Consol.

What does this mean? It shows that coal overall does have a future, especially in the high-sulfur Illinois Basin which has been rediscovered since utilities such as the Tennessee Valley Authority have been forced to use better scrubbing equipment. Illinois Basin can be twenty bucks a ton cheaper than Appalachian product. He also sees some future left in high coast Appalachian coal.

Stop a moment and consider: new environmental regs promote the use of cheaper coal. Now that coal may not be in the Central Appalachian area of southwest Virginia and West Virginia. But the magic of the market is favoring Illinois Basin product which is simply easier and cheaper to mine as is Powder River Basin coal in Wyoming and Montana.

A big problem with some of the commentators on this blog is that they fail to grasp that the U.S. coal industry is a lot bigger than little ole Virginny’s mines that started to play out decades ago. In their world view, their demise is the fault of the bad old federal government, not sharp barons like Murray who is a major contributor to (ahem) the Republican Party. Their brains seem trapped in a geographical warp zone where they cannot imagine things beyond the borders of the Old Dominion.

And while we are on the GOP, let’s consider George Schultz’s oped Sunday in The Washington Post. For those of you who may forget, he was Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, the mystical president some of you love and miss dearly.

Schultz’s message is that human based climate change is here. So, stop denying it, get over it and get on with a carbon tax that worked to protect the ozone layer years ago. Yes, they actually worked that out back in Ronnie’s day and a tax and marker system to reduce fluorocarbons actually worked.

Not to add insult to injury, but consider what Schultz wrote: “For example, we can now produce electricity from the wind and sun at close to the same price we pay for electricity from other sources…”

Hmm. Sounds like a wild-eyed, irresponsible greenie. Someone tell Jim Bacon and Dominion Virginia Power.

A Preview of Virginia’s Looming Energy Crisis

Existing Dominion power lines. Photo credit: Daily Press.

Existing Dominion power lines. Photo credit: Daily Press.

by James A. Bacon

Hampton Roads north of the James River could face brownouts or rolling blackouts within two years if Dominion Virginia Power can’t start building a transmission line across the river on a timely basis, the power company informed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this month. The Daily Press uncovered the letter in a Freedom of Information Act request seeking recent communications about the project.

“We are running perilously close to an unacceptable service reliability risk that is unprecedented in the modern era here in Virginia,” wrote Dominion project manager Wade F. Briggs in the March 6 letter. If the Army Corps doesn’t clear the way for construction of the power line, he said, “We would need to implement load shed plans in North Hampton Roads which would be unacceptable to everyone concerned.” The purpose of the automatic browns and blackouts would be to avoid overloading the transmission grid and setting off uncontrolled, cascading blackouts.

Northern Hampton Roads, a region stretching from Charles City County to Hampton on the Virginia Peninsula, is served by aging coal-fired power plants that Dominion is phasing out to meet Environmental Protection Agency standards for the release of mercury and other toxic materials. The transmission line would enable Dominion to wheel in electric power from other sources. But it will take 16 to 17 months to build the $155 million line. Dominion has been pleading for delays in implementing the pollution standards. The state Department of Environmental Quality has granted an exemption from the standards through April 2016. A lawsuit filed by opponents to stop the project has been appealed all the way to the state Supreme Court.

The James River power line controversy is significant on its own terms. There are legitimate trade-offs here. There is no denying that the power line would be unsightly, marring pristine vistas of what the first English settlers saw when they sailed to Jamestown four centuries ago. And there is no reason to disbelieve Dominion’s assertion that failure to build the line, which the company has been doing for years, would put the region at risk for economically damaging curtailment of electric power.

But the controversy is also symptomatic of issues facing the entire state — the canary in the coal mine, so to speak, a harbinger of clashes that will become more endemic and more acute over time as  Dominion struggles to meet a steadily increasing demand for electricity in the face of stricter environmental rules and resistance to the infrastructure — power lines and gas lines most notably — required to deliver that electricity and the natural gas that fuels it.

The coal plants on the Peninsula will be retired to meet EPA regulations restricting the emission of toxic pollutants. Another wave of EPA regulations likely will phase out all but one of Virginia’s remaining coal-fired power plants within another decade to meet the goal of reducing carbon emissions. A battle new brews over how Dominion will replace that capacity — with natural gas, nuclear or renewable fuel sources such as solar and wind power.

Here’s the backdrop: The long-range forecast in Dominion’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), updated annually and filed with the State Corporation Commission, indicates that overall  customer demand for energy in its service area will increase by an average annual rate of 1.3% and peak energy (as seen below) will increase at a rate of 1.4%. That growth forecast reflects 17.6% population growth between 2015 and 2029, with commensurate increases of commercial and industrial customers, as well as the increasing use of electric vehicles and hybrid-electric vehicles, which require electric charging. Dominion projects approximately 240,000 such vehicles on the road in its service territory, adding 215 megawatts of additional load and annual energy usage of 853 gigawatt-hours.

peak_load

Not only does Dominion have to replace the coal- and oil-fired plants, it has to bring on new capacity (or buy it on the open market) sufficient to meet the demands of Virginia’s growing population, economy and electric-vehicle fleet. Failure to add generating capacity beyond that already under construction will result in dangerously low reserve requirements — at least 11% is considered desirable — that could lead to blackouts and brownouts in extreme weather conditions.

reserve_margin

How does Dominion propose to meet projected power demand? Continue reading

More Sharks Found in N.C. Sound

Bulls sharks: some of the world's most dangerous

Bulls sharks: some of the world’s most dangerous

By Peter Galuszka

The Pamlico Sound in North Carolina has long been a bellwether of environmental changes. Different temperatures and salinity levels can affect everything from marsh grass to shrimp catches to fish kills.

Now scientists are finding that more potentially deadly sharks are in this shallow, broad estuary that separates the mainland from the Outer Banks. The reason: rising water temperatures.

More bull sharks are being found in the Pamlico Sound, according to Charles Bangley, a doctoral candidate at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.

He found 36 juvenile bull sharks in the sound since 2012. Another study found 113 bull sharks from 1965 to 2011. “It’s possible the Pamlico Sound represents a new nursing area for bull sharks,” he told The Virginian-Pilot.

Why so? Warmer water means that female bull sharks are swimming into the sound through narrow ocean inlets to take advantage of more plentiful food. They tend to have their young in the sound.

That’s not all. Two great white sharks, potential man eaters, have been seen in the Outer Banks area. One 14-feet-long female was pinged by satellite on the far west side of the Pamlico Sound in January.

Shark fatalities are rare events on the tourist-heavy Outer Banks. The last fatality was in Corolla in 2009. About eight years before that, a man was killed in the surf near Avon.

I’ve seen plenty of sharks diving 20 miles off Cape Hatteras which is a good place to find them since the cold Labrador Current and the warm Gulf Stream meet there, bringing in different species.

And, many years ago, when I was working one college summer as a newspaper reporter in Beaufort County, a gill net fisherman came up with a 10-foot dusky shark in the brackish waters of the Pamlico River where sharks are almost never found. Unusually warm and dry weather that summer meant that less fresh water was flowing into the sound from the Pamlico River and the shark had been swimming into the saltier areas.

The weird thing about bull sharks is that their birthing areas are usually in Florida, scientists believe.

Is this more evidence of (dare I say it) climate change? Could be. A few years ago there was news revealing that breeding populations of alligators had moved farther north. They had been in East Lake, N.C. near Nags Head but now were up near the Virginia border.

I’ll let you know when they reach the Potomac.

Community Policing and Human Settlement Patterns

Former Police Chief Rodney Monroe implemented community policing in Richmond is credited with bringing down the city's sky-high crime rate. Can his approach be replicated in suburban Henrico and Chesterfield?

Former Police Chief Rodney Monroe, who implemented community policing in Richmond, is widely credited with bringing down the city’s sky-high crime rate. Can his approach be replicated in suburban Henrico and Chesterfield?

by James A. Bacon

Community policing is key to the war on crime, agreed top law enforcement officials yesterday at a public forum hosted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Community policing gets police out of their cars so they can patrol neighborhoods on foot, interact with residents and build trust. “I do think the relationship piece … is the critical piece,” said Henrico County Police Chief Doug Middleton.

The reversion from police-by-patrol-car to community policing is credited with much of the downturn in crime in recent years, along with adoption of the “broken windows” theory of crime fighting, which advocates going after smaller crimes, and the use of statistical tools to predict areas where crimes are more likely to occur. In the city of New Haven, Conn., community policing has coincided with a 30% decline in serious crime since 2012, according to a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal today.

Community policing is back in the spotlight since a U.S. Justice Department probe into law enforcement practices in Ferguson, Missouri, where the police killing of a young black man triggered rampant protests. The suburban locality’s community-policing efforts “have dwindled to almost nothing in recent years,” the report said. Police had lost “the little familiarity it had with some African-American neighborhoods.”

This passage in the WSJ article has particular resonance in the Richmond region:

Walking the beat isn’t feasible in spread-out, rural or suburban areas. It is more labor-intensive than assigning officers to police cars that can zip from neighborhood to neighborhood, and officers on foot can’t always respond as quickly to crimes. Budget cuts also have made it harder for some police departments to justify the cost of walking the beat.

Community policing is a fine strategy for the City of Richmond, where urban neighborhoods are reasonably compact. But it’s more problematic in Henrico and Chesterfield County where an increasing number of poor people are living. For two or more decades now, poverty has been leaking across municipal boundaries into old suburban neighborhoods of ’50s- and ’60s-era ranch houses in low-density, cul-de-sac subdivisions that do not lend themselves to walking, biking or community policing.

Cul-de-sac subdivisions worked fine for mostly law-abiding, middle-class people who, if they engaged in criminal activity, it was more likely to be check kiting or embezzling than drug dealing or shoot-outs. As those neighborhoods are increasingly occupied by poor residents experiencing social breakdown and a higher proclivity for crime, Henrico and Chesterfield county police face a real challenge in implementing community policing. While everyone agrees in theory that building strong ties to the community is critical, the experience of Ferguson and other suburban jurisdictions shows that it may be difficult. Let us hope that Richmond-area police are up to the challenge.

Film Rips Climate Change Deniers

merchants-of-doubt-posterBy Peter Galuszka

A just-released documentary “Merchants of Doubt” seems tailor-made for the readers of Bacons Rebellion.

The film by Robert Kenner explores the profession of doubting climate change in which the energy industry quietly hires “scientists” to debunk the idea that carbon dioxide emissions are creating global warming that could have catastrophic consequences.

The strategy of confronting scientific evidence that is damaging to a particular industry has been around since at least the 1960s when the chemical industry tried to dismiss the idea that the insecticide DDT widely used to control mosquitoes could be deadly to wildlife for decades.

Big Tobacco took the concept to entirely new levels when scientific studies in the 1960s linked tobacco smoking to addictive nicotine, cancer and other bad things. Cigarette makers hauled out their own supposedly independent but payrolled “scientists” to raise doubt about the claims before congressional committees and to the general public.

The tobacco industry snowballed their phony science into yet another sphere. There had been complaints that people were being killed when they fell asleep on furniture while holding smoldering cigarettes.

The cigarette makers could have put in fire retardants in the smokes but they thought it would be too costly. So, they set up a scenario where furniture makers would load up sofas and chairs with fire retardants, which, unfortunately, proved carcinogenic or otherwise harmful. Then, of course, the chemical industry found its own “scientists” to claim the flame retardants they put in furniture were safe.

According to review so the film which I haven’t seen (it was just released March 6), Big Energy is using the very same tactics with help from the Koch Brothers and their network of paid think tanks (such as the “Heartland Institute”) to debunk the link between carbon and climate change. You may see some of those ideas popping up on this blog from time to time.

Kenner has won awards for such documentaries as “Food, Inc.” His latest film is based on a 2011 book with the same title by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. According to a review in The Washington Post, “What’s disheartening about “Merchants of Death” is that the strategy still works so effectively in a hyper-partisan, intellectually lazy, spin-addicted 24-7 news cycle.”

Can anyone guess which news channel fits the bill?

They Keep Getting Worse in the Republican Party in Virginia

Recently, newly elected Congressman David Bratt held a meeting with supporters in Richmond.  According to press reports, Bratt continued to emphasize the issue of immigration that led to his surprise primary victory over Eric Cantor.  His only other qualification is that he is a PhD economist.  In fact, Mr. Bratt’s hatred of “the other” recently compelled him to refuse to fund the government department whose task it is to fight “real” terrorist group, i.e. ISIS.

Bratt’s fervent hostility to immigrants brings into question his qualification as an economist.  In the 1980’s,  Japan was considered the “miracle economic engine” of the world.  For over two decades now, growth has stagnated and shows no sign of recovering its former vigor.  Many economists who have examined the end of the post-war economic miracle site Japan’s program that virtually eliminates immigration as a retardant to achieving its economic potential.

America’s economic history is full of industries started by immigrants from the Sarnoffs who started NBC to Andy Grove whose family left Hungary during the revolution of 1956 who started Intel.

Unfortunately, the history of immigration in the United States has a dark side. The 19th century saw much anti-Irish, anti-Italian, and anti-Catholic politics that birthed the No-Nothing Party that is an early ancestor of today’s G.O.P. Congress also passed a Chinese Exclusion Act in the early 20th Century and in a prelude to World War II refused to hike quotas that would have provided a haven to some European Jews.  The tragic fate of the S.S. St Louis demonstrates where a hatred of “the other” that Bratt embraces might lead.

Rumor has it that this Bratt is planning another rally at a rural location to be determined later.  Attendees are responsible for bringing their own sheets and hoods, and Dave might provide the fiery cross and an ample supply of matches.

– Les Schreiber

The Next Book I’ve Got to Read…

Our KidsRobert Putnam, the Harvard sociologist who wrote “Bowling Alone” and popularized the concept of “social capital,” has written another book that will surely shape the public conversation: “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.” To quote from Bradford Wilcox’s review in the Wall Street Journal:

For the well-educated, the phrase “our kids” may well bring to mind conditions of relative affluence, in which children grow up in a family with two married and attentive (even overattentive) parents; attend high-performing schools; and feel themselves embedded in a network of friends and mentors ready to help them navigate life’s challenges. By contrast, “their kids” — the kids of poor and working class parents — face a world in which social capital is in short supply. As Mr. Putman shows powerfully and poignantly– combining reporting with empirical analysis — the disparity results in too many children in nonaffluent circumstances feeling alone, emotionally stunted and unable to summon the will to climb today’s economic ladder into the middle or upper class. …

We learn that the percentage of children living in single-parent homes has been falling in college-educated circles since the mid-1990s even as it has been rising in homes headed by parents with a high-school diploma or less. Mr. Putnam reports that, by the time they start kindergarten, children from professional families hear 19 million more words than children from working-class families. Even the religious gap between the rich and the poor — traditionally rather narrow — is widening. These days, Mr. Putnam laments, “poor families are generally less involved in religious communities than affluent families,” which is unfortunate, he notes, given that churchgoing is associated with better performance in school, less drinking and drug use, and less delinquency. The class divide in institutional access translate into dramatically different chances that children will flourish later in life.

There aren’t many beliefs that liberals and conservatives share, but one of them is the belief that America should be a place where every child has an opportunity to better his or her life. What divides us is how best to achieve that objective. What Putnam’s book apparently does — and I’ll report back when I read it — is emphasize how cultural traits reinforce the impact of economic disparities. Affluent families don’t just have more money, they have more intact family structures, they provide a cognitively richer environment and they have stronger support networks. In a word, they have greater social capital.

That insight illuminates the debate over the nature of inequality in the United States but hardly settles what to do about it. Conservatives still can argue that we need to focus on creating intact family structures. Liberals still can argue that we need to double down on spending for pre-K education. But as I have argued repeatedly on this blog, we need to understand the nature of poverty before we can hope to fashion “solutions” to it. I’m hopeful that “Our Kids” will clarify the challenges we face.

– JAB 

Roanoke Gets Serious about Competing for Young Professionals

roanokeby James A. Bacon

Roanokers know they have a challenge stemming the drain of educated young people, just like every other small metropolitan area in the United States. At least they’re asking the right questions: What does it take to recruit and retain young professionals? The Roanoke Regional Chamber is hosting an event later this month, Xperience 2015, to communicate to young professionals that the Roanoke and New River valley regions “can be hip and happening places to live, work and find career mentors,” in the words of Duncan Adams writing in the Roanoke Times. Or put another way: “Roanoke doesn’t suck.”

The starting point for any conversation is to recognize that the economic realities of the Knowledge Economy are stacked against smaller metropolitan regions. Big metros offer young professionals two very important things that small metros don’t: larger mating pools and larger job markets. Educated young people who have options of where to live will tend to gravitate to larger metros that provide a wider choice of mates and careers.

But some do choose to live in places in Roanoke. The trick is to figure out what kind of people they are and what made them decide to settle there.

As the urban heart of Southwest Virginia, Roanoke does have some “cool” stuff, Adams observes: craft breweries, downtown lofts, greenways and quick access to outdoor recreational amenities. So, it’s not as if young professionals are moving to a cultural wasteland. I would add, from my own personal experience as a young professional who lived in Roanoke four years during the early 1980s, the city enjoys exceptional natural beauty and has a small but vibrant downtown, not to mention a lower cost of living than larger metros. I loved the city and was sad to leave for better career opportunities elsewhere.

The challenge isn’t reaching the young professionals who live in Roanoke already. They know what the region offers. If they see career opportunities, many if not most will stay. The challenge is persuading young people from outside the region, not drawn by ties of family and friends, to give it a chance.

I’m still waiting for a community like Roanoke to conduct a market segmentation analysis of young college graduates. If I would have to hazard a guess, I would say 90% of college grads would have no interest whatsoever in moving to a place like Roanoke. But maybe 10% would. What characteristics do they have? Do they have a strong preference for outdoor activities like hiking, spelunking and canoeing? Do they hail from smaller towns? Are they more likely to be religious? Do they tend to be more culturally or politically conservative? Identify those characteristics and then devise targeted marketing campaigns to people with those traits. In the age of social media, that may not be so hard to do.

Western Virginia has a remarkable number of colleges and universities, from Virginia Tech and James Madison to Washington & Lee, VMI, Bridgewater, Hollins, Eastern Mennonite, Roanoke College and Mary Baldwin — just to name institutions within a two-hour drive from Roanoke. I would conjecture that students who choose to attend such institutions are more likely to appreciate the assets that Western Virginia has to offer and would be more likely than graduates of other institutions to consider settling down in the region. Perhaps there is some way for Roanoke to tap into the steady stream of college graduates.

Small metros like Roanoke face an uphill climb. The task is not hopeless. But they have to take the next step of identifying the niche market where they can compete in the talent recruitment marketplace. And then they need to organize their communities around creating and supporting the assets those niche college grads are looking for.

Economic Un-Development

Closed for business. Photo credit: Times-Dispatch.

Closed for business. Photo credit: Times-Dispatch.

I was planning to blog today about the sad fate of Tarek Hezam, a New Yorker who moved to the Richmond region and opened a convenience store in the Oak Grove neighborhood of the city in 2013. After neighbors complained that the store became a magnet for trash and crime, the City of Richmond revoked his certificate of zoning compliance, suddenly discovering that, oh, so sorry, they’d overlooked the fact that commercial zoning for the site had expired back in 1975. Between rent, startup costs and lawyer fees, Hezam is out $160,000.

But Bart Hinkle at the Times-Dispatch beat me to to the commentary — and he did a fine job of it, so I’ll just quote liberally from his column.

The city administration talks a good game about economic development, Hinkle writes, and it’s more than happy to work with the big boys on grandiose projects like the Shockoe Bottom ballpark, the Redskins training camp and the Stone Brewery development. But what does it say to small entrepreneurs who aren’t rich and politically connected? “Drop dead.”

Malcontents are worried about trash in the streets. But who is responsible for that? “Five bucks says Hezam doesn’t spend his spare time throwing garbage around the neighborhood,” writes Hinkle. “Nor, for another five bucks, do people drive in from North Side or Westover Hills to toss their empty chip bags and soda cups on the ground. If litter is a problem, then the solution is to tackle littering head-on.”

Some in the community also complained that Hezam was peddling the usual junk food fare found in inner-city convenience stores. Rosa Jones, president of the Oak Grove Civic Association, suggested he should bring a shoe shop “or something we can use.” As Hinkle observes, “Jones hasn’t sunk tens of thousands of her own dollars into the project. Until she does, she has no business telling the person who has invested his own money what to do with it. If she really wants a shoe shop in the neighborhood, then she’s welcome to open one herself — if the city will let her, that is.”

There is a crying need for jobs and investments in inner-city Richmond, but city officials have shut down one small entrepreneur who would create both at no expense or risk to the taxpayer. What kind of signal does that send to others, Hinkle wonders.

Hezam offered to change his retail format to a takeout restaurant serving fried chicken and fish but no alcohol. The planning commission shot him down. He plans to sue the city for relief. “If a judge in their right mind tells me I don’t have a claim,” he said, “then I shouldn’t be in Virginia.

– JAB

Are We Reducing Food Insecurity or Aggravating It?

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Richmond schools Superintendent Dana T. Bedden, and US Rep. Bobby Scott work in the lunch line at Woodville Elementary on March 9, 2015. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch.

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Richmond schools Superintendent Dana T. Bedden, and US Rep. Bobby Scott work in the lunch line at Woodville Elementary on March 9, 2015. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch.

by James A. Bacon

The federal government has awarded Virginia an $8.8 million grant, to support a program in the City of Richmond and seven localities in Southwest Virginia to fight child hunger. Elaborates the Times-Dispatch:

The children will receive a third meal before leaving school every day, and they will also participate in an off-hours program aimed at making sure they get healthy good when they’re not in school.

In Richmond, where 80% of school children qualify for free or reduced lunch, the program will aid some of the poorest students, stated Superintendent Dana T. Bedden.

Let us grant that child hunger is a real phenomenon and a serious one. No one wants children to go hungry, not even mean, heartless conservatives like myself. But I’ve got a lot of questions, starting with, what the hell is going on?

As I’ve noted before, the United States dispenses billions of dollars of food stamps every month. Every family who needs food stamps gets them. The families of the poor, hungry children targeted by this program get food stamps. Now, I can buy the argument that food stamps are a minimal form of food support and that it’s darn hard to feed a family on food stamps alone. But let’s say you have a mother and three children, who receive benefits based on a family of four who collectively consume 84 meals a week. Now let’s say three of those children are getting free lunches and breakfasts at schools (30 meals a week). Are we saying that the food stamps are such a pittance, and that the free food provided by churches and food pantries are so inadequate, that the mother can’t feed herself and her children for the other 51 meals a week?

This just doesn’t add up. Something is going on that the care giving class does not appreciate or understand.

Are the benefits of food stamps stretched thin, perhaps, because female heads of household are living with boyfriends contribute little to the family pot yet must be fed?

Do poor parents change their behavior based on the rational expectation that, if they don’t feed their children, they know the state or philanthropic organizations will step in?

Is the problem not poverty, per se, but the fact that mothers are strung out on drugs or otherwise so consumed with their own disordered lives that they can’t get it together to prepare meals for their children?

I don’t know the answer. All I know is that the more food we dispense, the worse food insecurity seems to get. And the only solution that anyone can think of is to shovel more money and more free food at the poor. I worry that we are enabling the very behavior that causes child hunger in the first place.