Local television news outlets have taken a bit of a metaphorical beating in the national (non-news) media lately. First, late-night host Conan O’Brien released another of a series of videos which shows local news anchors from across the country reading identical scripts. More recently, radio hosts Opie & Anthony excoriated the news for the “frozen t-shirt experiment” so many of them did during the recent cold weather that gripped the nation. However, some news stations take time between gimmicky news stories to do some real reporting, like WSAV in Georgia.
Their local Congressman, Jack Kingston, caused some controversy when at a meeting of the Jackson County Republican Party he suggested children pay five- or ten-cents “to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch.” A few days later, while appearing on CNN, Kingston backtracked, saying that he did not mean to unfairly target low-income children, but that it would be “good for all children” even though children not on the taxpayer-funded lunch program already pay for theirs with money.
WSAV pored over “thousands of pages” of documents, trying “to estimate just how many ‘free lunches’ a Congressman like Jack Kingston and his staff might receive.” Their investigation discovered that for the past three years Jack Kingston’s office has put $4,182 of meals on his expense reports. Also, while traveling abroad, Kingston received $24,313 in per diem expenses, essentially “walking around money.”
In an interview with WSAV, Kingston dismissed these claims, saying “It’s hard in today’s society to have a discussion where you wanna challenge the status quo because of the ‘I gotcha’ politics.” When asked about his own “work ethic,” especially since this is the least productive Congress on-record, Kingston suggested that keeping Congress closed down is doing the people’s business.
However, Kingston’s remarks showcase an attitude in the current Republican party that suggests that the poor are poor because they are lazy. Yet, rather than a serious social critique, perhaps this represents how out-of-touch representatives are with average Americans. A recent report from the Center for Responsive Politics found that—for the first time—the majority of those in Congress are millionaires, although the number of millionaires has hovered near 50 percent for some time. Kingston’s personal net worth is estimated to be between $2.4 million to $3.3 million.