Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

August 30, 2013

Stumptalk: Sustainable and affordable

By Phillip J. Chesser
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — I recently heard an ad on the radio for the “Cumberland Sustainable Farmers’ Market.” Words like sustainable and organic sanctify environmental language. Eating organic tomatoes from sustainable gardens provides a spiritual lift, a form of environmental communion.

I’ve eaten a lot of tomatoes in my life and have grown a few, but of course my tomato plants here in Cumberland County have had to be sprayed with fungicide to keep them from being destroyed by tomato blight, which probably means they were neither sustainable nor organic. Nevertheless, they have sustained me, especially when I’ve made BLT sandwiches with large slices of newly baked bread slathered with lots of cholesterol producing Duke’s mayonnaise, my unsanctified tomatoes, fresh lettuce, and delicious crispy bacon from a slaughtered porcine animal. I get hungry just thinking about them.

My father always planted a large vegetable garden each spring, from which we ate every day in the summer, and my mother canned vegetables for the rest of the year. But alas, my father used insecticides and, true to her country roots, my mother flavored pots of cooked vegetables with fatback. So my father’s large gardens were neither sustainable nor organic. Nonetheless, my sister, brother, and I were skinny, healthy and active children. Our children have produced 20 of the same kind of skinny grandchildren.

Unfortunately, my father lived to only age 97. My mother to only 98. Think of how long they would have lived had they eaten organically grown food from sustainable gardens!

I hear the words sustain or sustained mostly when I watch court room dramas. “Objection sustained!” the judge replies. Judges sustain a lot of objections in these shows. Of course, objections are never unsustained, only overruled.

I’ve watched actual trials over the years on TV and once as a juror. Maybe I should keep score to see how many sustainable objections occur in the course of a trial because it’s obvious to me from the current use of the word that sustainable objections are far superior to the other kind.

Another curious verbal phenomenon is the relatively new use of the word affordable. In the old days, we used terms such as cheap, inexpensive or low cost. Now, people apply the word affordable, probably to keep low income folks from feeling bad.

The phrase affordable housing is used constantly by people who have no need of it. We used to call cheap housing inexpensive. It was often subsidized by taxpayers, and subsidized apartment complexes were called projects. Comedian Bill Cosby and economist Walter Williams often brag about growing up in Philadelphia’s projects.

Another phrase for inexpensive housing, Section Eight housing, which must refer to something in the U.S. Code, is rarely used these days. I know that people fight to keep Section Eight housing from being built in or near their neighborhoods. I guess the phrase affordable housing doesn’t create the same level of opposition, or perhaps those who want to lower property values by building Section Eight projects in middle class communities think it doesn’t.

But isn’t everything affordable by someone? I can afford everything I have. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have it. Bill Gates can certainly afford rich people’s many toys: yachts, limousines, sports cars, and race horses, also houses, vacation resorts, and airplanes. Everything he owns is affordable.

However, there is a paradox emerging with the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare. From the looks of things, ObamaCare will be terribly unaffordable; otherwise, many of the President’s own supporters would not be seeking exemptions from it. Among these supporters are government employees, the labor unions, and rent-seeking businesses.

But why wouldn’t people want to take advantage of something that’s labeled affordable? Could it be that it’s inappropriately named? Has it become the Unaffordable Care Act? According to the president, the Affordable Care Act was supposed to save families $2,500 dollars a year. He must have miscalculated, or maybe he is not good at arithmetic. But then, if one is of a particular frame of mind, he doesn’t have to know arithmetic, especially when it comes to money, because he knows that wealth comes from that great Federal Reserve administered ATM in the sky.

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Stumptalk is published weekly in the Crossville Chronicle. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. To contact Stumptalk, email coordinator Jim Sykes at