Last Thursday billionaire public education wrecker Betsy DeVos spoke to the Conservative Political Action Conference, a right-wing revival meeting at which all conservatives must declare their belief in Free Market Capitalism, Christian Shariah, and Death to Big Government.
When it was her turn on stage, DeVos began by immediately trashing free school lunches:
“I’m Betsy DeVos. You may have heard some of the ‘wonderful’ things the mainstream media has called me lately,” she said. “I, however, pride myself on being called a mother, a grandmother, a life partner, and perhaps the first person to tell Bernie Sanders to his face that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
Perhaps this was just Betsy DeVos having a Rick Perry moment — being totally oblivious to the realities of her new job. But as the still-free press reminded her, there actually is a school lunch program that provides free lunches to 31 million children, almost a quarter of whom now live in poverty, and to others whose parents find it difficult to pay. Since there are roughly 78 million children in the U.S., the Lunch Program in fact feeds 40% of the nation’s children. Chopping this program would harm as many people as Trump’s plans to destroy the Affordable Care Act.
But this is not something that those in gilded palaces know.
DeVos’s defenders were quick to point out that the new Secretary of Educational Sabotage didn’t really mean that there was no such thing as a free lunch. Sheesh! It was just a metaphor, a joke, an expression! What DeVos really meant was that she liked putting wasteful programs on the chopping block.
Devos may have been speaking in metaphors and maybe she was even joking — unless she does happen to throw a grenade into the school cafeteria. But that’s the trouble with the Trump administration — you never know if they’re kidding, bullshitting, speaking in metaphors, secret codes, dog-whistles, are off their meds, or are making up alternate facts to suit some occasion. All the rules of communication that normal humans use have been suspended. Or maybe they just lie when they’re caught: “Just kidding!”
Although the apocryphal joke — “Let them eat cake” — was probably told by another contemptuous noblewoman a century before her, legend insists that Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine for the same crime as DeVos’s — making light of hungry kids — and for her generally snotty attitude.
For billionaires, school lunches may be an opportunity to laugh at the little people. But for everyone else it’s no joking matter.