Mar 30 // Mar 18 2017
It's two stories in one!
This is what passes for journalism these days. Ready?
About two weeks ago, the world of social media erupted in sputtering outrage. And who could blame us? The proposed budget from the White House advocated cutting social services programs that simply “do not show results.” One could call it ruthless and heartless, since apparently one of the services set to get the ax was Meals on Wheels.
Who doesn’t love Meals on Wheels? It’s a simple idea executed in communities around the country, an organization that utilizes teams of volunteer drivers who deliver hot meals to otherwise fairly independent seniors, people who otherwise would have few, if any, resources to provide for themselves on a regular basis. From their website:
ABOUT MEALS ON WHEELS
Meals on Wheels operates in virtually every community in America through our network of more than 5,000 independently-run local programs. While the diversity of each program's services and operations may vary based on the needs and resources of their communities, they are all committed to supporting their senior neighbors to live healthier and more nourished lives in their own homes.
Together, we galvanize the resources of local community organizations, businesses, donors, sponsors and more than two million volunteers – bolstered by supplemental funding from the Older Americans Act – into a national safety net for our seniors.
At the core of the Meals on Wheels service is a nutritious meal, companionship and a watchful eye on the health and safety of our seniors. For those who have trouble getting around, we bring the service to you. For those who can still venture out into their communities, we serve in gathering places, such as senior centers and community facilities.
What kind of a cold, callous, unfeeling government could advocate the end to such a well-intentioned and well-loved program?
Well, depending on what day you chose to read The Washington Post, or news from any number of other sources, the Trump White House could. And did. At a news conference on March 16, President Trump’s budget chief announced “proposed cuts to the Meals on Wheels program…by saying the program is one of the many that is ‘just not showing any results.’ ”
This was their headline: Meals on Wheels is ‘not showing any results’ only if you ignore all these results
The Post article goes on to list any number of positive outcomes and “results” that have been researched and documented about the program, seemingly dismissed by Mr. Mulvaney and his team. Among the findings, Meals on Wheels improves diet quality, increases
...Or not even one, if you think about it.
opportunities for socialization and decreases food insecurity among seniors. It enables many seniors to stay in their homes and avoid the high costs of nursing home care.
Again, from the Post: “Meals on Wheels sounds great,” Mulvaney said Thursday, but “to take that federal money and give it to the states and say, ‘Look, we want to give you money for programs that don’t work’ — I can’t defend that anymore.”
Have we sunk to a new low of compassion in just two months?
Hold on. Maybe not.
Two days later, this headline appeared in The Washington Post:
For the Record: White House Budget Director Did Not Say Meals on Wheels Did Not Show Results
Didn’t The Washington Post article from one day earlier contain a quote from him about how the program doesn’t work? Are we confused?
Well, certainly we are but it turns out, the funding under scrutiny was identified as a program found within the Housing and Urban Development Department known as CDBG, or community development block grants. Some “scattered” locations use some of their CDBG money to help fund programs like Meals on Wheels. But according to the Post – yes, the same Post that threw Mulvaney under the bus just TWO DAYS EARLIER – “most of the funding for Meals on Wheels comes from a program run out of the Health and Human Services Department,” according to Jenny Bertolette, vice president of communications at Meals on Wheels.
This next bit is our favorite part of the reporting about this story. It’s hilarious only if you don’t let yourself think about how pathetic it is. From The Washington Post: There has been a lot of media criticism of Mulvaney for suggesting that the popular Meals on Wheels program does not work or is “just not showing results.” The newspaper claimed that “because of tweets and snippets posted on the Web, it appears his comments have been misinterpreted.” Tweets and snippets online? Would that include The Washington Post headline? And their “reporting” on his press conference remarks? Possibly? Whaddayathink?
Fact: The Trump proposed budget indicates there would be a 17.9% cut in funding for HHS, but it does not provide details on whether or not that would have an impact on the Administration for Community Living, which funds nutrition programs for the elderly. Bertolette believes it’s fair to think it will. She may be right but we don’t know yet.
Bottom line: It’s a proposed, not a passed, budget. (We feel like we could write this sentence a thousand times between now and when the budget is approved.) The Washington Post and other major news outlets, to say nothing of social media, deliberately misled the public about the finality of the budget and its impact on a well-loved program like Meals on Wheels.
So do us a favor and re-read the new step-by-step journalism outline that we outlined above. You can’t find a more perfect example than this “story.”