Log In

Daily Kos

Stossel: No need for Government Programs Cuz No One Starved to Death in Great Depression (Updatex2)
(Photograph of non-starving woman and children during the Great Depression, courtesy of blsciblogs.baruch.cuny.edu) and Dorothea Lange, documentary photographer employed by the Federal Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration from 1935 - 1939)

John Stossel has said some pretty ridiculous crap over the years, but this might take the prize for the most insensitive, moronic thing that has ever come out of his piehole:

Fox Business host John Stossel on Thursday declared that government programs should be cut based on the false assertion that “no one” died of starvation in the Great Depression before the modern “welfare state.” [...]

“And when people are needy you want them [to get] help,” Stossel agreed. “But think about the [Great] Depression. That was before there was any welfare state at all. How many people starved? No one.”

“Right, good point,” Doocy agreed.

Really John?  No one starved to death during the Great Depression? That's not how a lot of people remember those years.

In the Pennsylvania coal fields, three or four families crowded together in one-room shacks and lived on wild weeds. In Arkansas, families were found inhabiting caves. In Oakland, California, whole families lived in sewer pipes.

President Herbert Hoover declared, "Nobody is actually starving. The hoboes are better fed than they have ever been." But in New York City in 1931, there were 20 known cases of starvation; in 1934, there were 110 deaths caused by hunger. There were so many accounts of people starving in New York that the West African nation of Cameroon sent $3.77 in relief.

We will never know how many people died as a result of starvation or illness related to malnutrition during the years of the Great Depression because there were no official Federal Government statistics for that era.  [Deleted reference to Russian researcher] However, there is enough anecdotal evidence that people did starve during the Great Depression, and that contrary to what Mr. Stossel asserts now, and President Hoover asserted then, people did in fact die from lack of adequate food intake, otherwise known as death by starvation.  We certainly have a photographic record of people who look very thin and malnourished as evidence that starvation was a reality for many people during the Depression:

Migrant family in California circa 1936

We also know that food riots broke out in many states.  Well fed people, or even adequately fed people do not riot over food.  Hungry, starving people on the other hand do:

Feb. 1931

"Food riots" begin to break out in parts of the U.S. In Minneapolis, several hundred men and women smashed the windows of a grocery market and made off with fruit, canned goods, bacon, and ham. One of the store's owners pulled out a gun to stop the looters, but was leapt upon and had his arm broken. The "riot" was brought under control by 100 policemen. Seven people were arrested.

And another food riot incident, this time in Oklahoma:

From the New York Times, January 31, 1931.

Food Rioters Raid Oklahoma City Store; 500 Dispersed by the Police With Tear Gas

OKLAHOMA CITY. Jan. 20 (AP)-A crowd of men and women, shouting that they were hungry and jobless, raided a grocery store near the City Hall today. Twenty-six of the men were arrested. Scores loitered near the city jail following the arrests, but kept well out of range of fire hoses made ready for use in case of another disturbance.

      The police tonight broke up a second meeting of about one hundred unemployed men and arrested Francis Owens, alleged head of the "Oklahoma City Unemployed Council," who was accused of instigating the raid.

People starved Mr. Stossel.  They went hungry.  Some of them, we don't know how many, died, either from the direct effects of starvation or from malnutrition and  illnesses related to their lowered resistance to disease caused by, yes, starvation.  And guess what?  More people would be dying today if we didn't have social welfare programs such as SNAP (i.e., food stamps) to prevent poor people, and the unemployed from going without food.  Yet you want to eliminate these programs.  In fact you stated that you wanted to eliminate the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Education, among others.  

You cut whole departments,” the Fox Business host explained. “Why do we have a Commerce Department? Commerce just happens! Agriculture, farmers do that! You don’t need bureaucrats.”

He added that the Department of Education was also unnecessary.

“Isn’t that part of what the government does in a lot of people minds?” Fox News host Steve Doocy asked. “They need to help people rather than let people help themselves?”

Guess what you left off your list?  The entire Department of Defense.  Well hell's bells, why do we need a wasteful military establishment when we have an armed militia available?  Using your logic, our military forces are completely unnecessary, because individuals can take care of that themselves when it comes to national defense.  Just like social welfare programs are unnecessary.  Please let me know, from your libertarian perspective, why the largest Department in the Federal Government and the one whose elimination, or even significant down-sizing, would solve most of our debt issues going forward is left off your list.  I'm dying to find out why you failed to mention it, though you have no problem with killing off social welfare programs that millions of your fellow citizens depend upon.

UPDATE: Further evidence of the effects of starvation among the poor in the United States during the Great Depression era and the years leading up to it (i.e., before the development of our current socialist hellhole welfare state) can be found at the Link (h/t to mollyd from the comments.

UPDATE 2:  Stossel has issued a classic nopology:

This morning, on Fox and Friends, I said "no one" starved during the Depression. I was almost certainly wrong.

During the Depression, the governor of Pennsylvania wrote, "we know that starvation is widespread, but no one has enumerated the starving." However, all other governors who wrote to Congress, 43 of them, sent letters saying that they knew of no starvation in their states. Historians Steven Mintz and Sara McNeil wrote that there were hundreds of deaths in NYC alone.

However, hunger was rare enough that health in America generally improved during the Depression, according to a National Academy of Sciences study [...]

There's no doubt that there was privation of all sorts in the 30's - when America was much poorer. But today's reduction in malnutrition is almost entirely a result of greater prosperity, thanks to our relatively free market.

Our unsustainable welfare state causes poverty (by rewarding dependency) as often as it relieves it. Stopping government handouts to people like ME won't lead to starvation.

Stossel forgets to mention that part of that "improvement" was related to advances in medicine, and part only looked like improvement, since the 1918-1920 "Spanish Flu" epidemic which killed millions skewed the statistics by making the pre-Roaring Twenties look very deadly in comaparison.  He also forgets that under FDR, federal funding for vaccinations increased significantly under FERA (the Federal Emergency Relief Administration) which in all likelihood led to better health outcomes and fewer childhood deaths.