Gingrich Bites the Hand that Fed Him

In September 2008, as the U.S. Congress "was debating the first financial bailout, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich went on Fox News to decry how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had so 'many politicians beholden to them' that no one would step up to protect the American taxpayers," notes But, as it turns out, Freddie Mac paid Gingrich $300,000 in 2006, "to push back against tough, new regulations of the mortgage company at a time the Bush administration was concerned about how big the two government-backed mortgage giants had become." After taking the money, Gingrich "talked and wrote about what he saw as the benefits of the Freddie Mac business model," reported the Associated Press. The Gingrich hire was part of an effort to woo conservatives; Freddie Mac also hired Frank Luntz and the DCI Group in 2005. Freddie Mac spent $11.7 million on outside lobbyists and consultants in 2006; 17 firms focused on Republicans, while four focused on Democrats. Freddie also hired Gingrich in 1999, "to provide strategic counsel," notes TPMMuckraker.


It's impossible to discuss schools and food without looking at the federal lunch program — invariably an object of derision for its gray, off-color hotdogs and limp, overcooked vegetables.

It's so much fun to ridicule school lunches that it's easy to forget that the program routinely comes under attack from conservatives who obsess that government programs providing free food to the poor are not only a luxury in budgetary hard times, but smack of socialism.

One of the most notorious attacks on the program occurred when President Reagan, during his onslaught against social programs in his first year in office, wanted to cut child nutrition programs by a third. To meet his goal of reducing the size and cost of school lunches, Reagan proposed that ketchup be considered a vegetable. The proposal was roundly criticized, and some anti-Reagan protesters took to chanting, "Ketchup is a condiment — Reagan is a vegetable."

Even many Republicans were appalled. Sen. John Heinz of Pennsylvania (a member of the H.J. Heinz Co. family) called the Reagan definition of ketchup "one of the most ridiculous regulations I ever heard of, and I suppose I need not add that I know something about ketchup and relish — or did at one time."

While the redefinition of ketchup was dropped, cuts remained. It took a decade for the school lunch program to regain the initiative and focus on improvements.

The next attack came in 1995 as part of the "Contract with America" initiated by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. As part of the contract, Republicans proposed to scrap both the federal school lunch program and a program feeding pregnant women and preschool children, and combine them via block grants to the states. But the block grants would have been less than if the programs remained under federal control.

That attack was unsuccessful. Among other reasons, Democrats still controlled the Senate and President Clinton threatened to veto the measure.

Given the size of the federal lunch program — $7.1 billion in fiscal year 2003, not including the breakfast program and agricultural commodities sold to schools at bargain prices — the likelihood is ever-present that school lunches will be slated for cuts. [Note: Other food-related federal programs, such as food stamps and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, are targeted for reductions under President Bush's fiscal year 2007 budget.]

But in recent years the most contentious debates have centered on the need to update the program's nutritional guidelines and bring them in line with a nation whose children are threatened more by obesity and diabetes than malnutrition and hunger. The debate also includes the growing prevalence of junk foods and sodas sold via vending machines, snack bars, and school

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