Let's do some math, m'kay?
Here is a table of the household income and expenses mapped out by Red Queen in her post, How about you economists do some fucking math instead. I've adjusted a few numbers to make the splits work more evenly, but it's within a couple dollars of her estimates. I use a simplified balance ledger style to show how the money amounts rise and fall through the month:
|Groceries - 15 Days||$0||$15.25/|
|Utilities - Phone, water,|
|Household - TP, clothes,|
medicine, lightbulbs, gas
|Groceries - 15 Days||$0||$21.50/|
I assume all extra cash goes to food, and that non-food household expenses besides utilities average $75/month. That works out ot $36.75 per person, per month for groceries, which is misleading because that it does not take account of cash flow problems. Maybe one month they don't have much household expenses and they have a whopping $40 per person per month. That windfall breaks out to:
For comparison, I spend @ $240/month per person:
I'm only spending $10 more per week than Russ. I have six times the buying power compared to an individual in a poverty level family of four. What does that get me? I've totaled up a day's worth of food so you can see how the money is divvied up:
- Cereal - $0.50
- Milk - $0.22
- Sugar - $0.03
- Total: $0.75
Not too bad. If I had really gone for the belt tightening, I could have had oatmeal for @ 20 cents a serving, but then I would have to factor in the time and gas to cook it.
Lunch (Yes, I really, honestly eat this every day for lunch):
- Bell Pepper - $1.00
- Carrots - $0.15
- Celery - $0.34
- Cauliflower - $0.36
- Snow Peas - $0.44
- Radishes - $0.20
- Hard boiled egg - $0.12
- Total - $2.61
This is looking good and virtuous! Except that my virtually all vegetable lunch just cost nearly two days worth of meals in Red Queen's budget.
Dinner - Cost out a pot of home made vegetarian chili and divide by four servings:
- Pinto beans, 1 cup, dry (no cans for me!) - $0.30
- A bell pepper - $1.00 (I used it so it wouldn't go bad)
- An onion - $0.17
- A 1/4 package small tomatoes - $0.75
- Small can of tomato sauce, off brand - $0.63
- Half head of garlic - $0.13
- Entire tub of Trader Joe Salsa - $2.99 (Purchased for a party, frugally used to avoid waste)
- A few chipotles - $0.41
- Oil to brown the vegetables - $0.23
- Total - $6.61 or $1.65 for four servings
Let's round out that meal with $0.10 of cooked rice and $0.30 for half a sour dough mini baguette from Costco for a grand meal total of $2.05. My meals for the day came to $5.41, lower than average because my weekend dinners tend to be more elaborate and because I haven't factored in my two cups of coffee and one can of Diet Coke that I also consume each day, nor the $0.10 worth of pretzels that's my mid afternoon snack. (Yes, I buy pretzels in bulk and take a serving to work in a ziplock bag.) My consumption for one day was more than half of the weekly food budget in a poverty level household, and I was eating what would be considered frugal, cost-conscious meals.
My ovo-vegetarian, gluten free, ultra healthy meal cost the most, delivered a lot of nutrients and a decent amount of calories (@300), but I have to consume nearly 1 lb of raw vegatables in a single sitting. I end up eating my lunch over several hours, which I can do since I work at a desk and don't get hassled by a supervisor.
I'm sure I could reduce the cost of what I ate even more if I really, really tried, but cutting down more on that menu takes time and effort. I could get cheaper salsa, cook oatmeal instead of eating cold cereal, go without the bell peppers (2/5 of my food budget for the day, right there) and eat more carrots and celery.
But we're talking nickles and dimes at this point and not addressing the high cost of housing, child care, and transportation that is putting the food budget into a bind. Groceries are minor compared to these intractable costs. They end up being bargaining chips because a lot of food is cheap and a few days of going hungry is not precisely starving. You can gorge at a later meal, or scarf down somebody's leftover birthday cake in the break room.
I showed you a healthy, inexpensive day's meal plan that is still far too expensive for a poor household to manage. The food cannot be viewed in isolation from the other demonds on the budget, as well as the less obvious demands on time and the way in which low-paying work does not support the leisurely eating habits that go with consuming lots of roughage.
Obesity is endemic throughout American society. I work with a lot of fat people, myself included, and we're a pretty well-paid bunch. What we are seeing is the transformation of instances of obesity into pathology when the individual is from a socio-economic class we disdain. Hence the arrogance of Ezra Klein presuming to tell Red Queen that if she is fat (or, rather, that she *is* fat because of her socio-ecnomic markers) it is because she has a psychological problem related to her poor self-image/esteem/deep rooted desire for sweets/ etc. rather than saying that the food industry and low-wage employment creates a situation where people have only a little money to spend on a wide range of poor quality but easily obtained and easily consumed foods.
Pathologizing a condition like obesity privatizes it, making it a condition of personal rectitude that is my own weak-willed fault, and obscures the social structures that make this condition so prevalent, particularly among the poor.
Let's get the big ticket items like health care and child care figured out before worrying about the breadth of anyone's ass