A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 20, 2010
Bread-and-Butter Issue

A “bread-and-butter issue” is a central economic issue, such as the price of food (bread and other foods) or the price of gas. The early 19th century featured the “bread-and-butter politician”—one who “knows which side his bread is buttered”—but that is a different meaning of the “bread-and-butter” term. “Bread-and-butter issue” has been cited in print since at least 1892.

Another term for the “bread-and-butter issue” is the “pocketbook issue.” A highly emotional and divisive issue (such as abortion) can be described as a “hot-button issue” (since 1970) or a “wedge issue” (since 1976). A central issue (such as a war or an economic depression) is a “paramount issue” (cited in print since 1844).


Wiktionary: bread-and-butter issue
Noun
bread-and-butter issue
(plural bread-and-butter issues)
1.(politics) any issue, such as inflation or prices, that affects ordinary people in their daily lives

The Free Dictionary
bread-and-butter issue - an issue whose settlement will affect financial resources

(Oxford English Dictionary)
bread and butter
Taken as a type of every day food; the means of living; hence attrib. in many elliptical and allusive expressions. See also QUARREL v. 1a.
1732 SWIFT Let. 12 Aug. (1965) IV. 60 Your quarrelling with each other upon the subject of bread and butter is the most usual thing in the world.
1738 Polite Conv. I. 17, I won’t quarrel with my Bread and Butter for all that: I know when I’m well.
1836-7 SIR W. HAMILTON Metaph. (1859) I. i. 6 By the Germans, the latter [i.e. the professional or lucrative sciences] are usually distinguished as the Brodwissenschaften, which we may translate, ‘The Bread and Butter Sciences’.
1844 H. TWISS Life Ld. Eldon I. vi. 119 Young man, your bread and butter is cut for life.
1870 LOWELL Among my Bks. Ser. I. (1873) 222 Life lifted above the plane of bread-and-butter associations.
1884 Harper’s Mag. Dec. 92/2 Industries were not so plenty..that men could afford..to quarrel with their bread and butter.
1886 Contemp. Rev. May 663 Journalists who frankly avow what is called the bread-and-butter theory of their craft.
1929 Publishers’ Weekly 30 Nov. 2588/1 The old stand-bys, the bread-and-butter books in every department.

Google Books
18 June 1892, The Illustrated American, pg. 203, col. 1: 
Michael Davitt is one of the leaders who has sight clear enough to perceive that the question at issue is not one of faction or of methods, but a material, bread-and-butter issue affecting the interests and well-being of the working population of Ireland.

29 October 1894, New York (NY) Times, “New-York Has What It Deserves: Felix Adler Talks Plainly Concerning the Conditions of Municipal Affairs,”
To-day the higher issues have vanished, and the bread and butter issues alone occupy the field.

Google Books
October 1901, Century Magazine, “The Desperate Plight of New York City,” pg. 952, col. 2:
Primarily, it is this bread-and-butter issue which keeps the Tammany party— a purely mercenary party— in power.

Google News Archive
5 July 1908, Bridgeport (CT) Herald, pg. 14, col. 3:
Bread and Butter Issue
Only One for the Toilers.

WANTS ESCAPE FROM PANIC’S GRIP.
By Jasper McLevy, Nominee for Congressman-at-Large.
(...)
Therefore, we Socialists insist that whatever may be the “paramount issue” in the campaign for the Republican and Democratic parties, there is only one issue for the working class and that is the bread and butter issue, the issue of work, food, clothing and shelter.

Google Books
November 1912, Munsey’s Magazine, “A Straight Talk” by Frank A. Munsey, pg. 192, col. 1:
You must not forget that this is a bread-and-butter issue with the men less favorably situated in life than you are.

Google Books
If America fail;
Our national mission and our possible future

By Samuel Zane Batten
Philadelphia, PA: Judson Press
1922
Pg. 44:
Some years ago at a political gathering, a noted speaker declared, “No issue ever gets above the bread-and-butter issue “; and the people applauded.

Google Books
Safire’s Political Dictionary
By William Safire
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
2008
Pg. 80:
bread-and-butter issue On that affects voters’ personal budgets; a POCKETBOOK ISSUE.

Bread and butter, the staff of life slightly greased, had a stronger political meaning in 1840 when an Ohio politician named John Brough switched his vote on a bill with the explanation: “I have my bread and butter to look after.” Earlier, Washington Irving had referred to these “little, beardless bread-and butter politicians.” The phrase is related to “knowing which side your bread is buttered on.”
(...)
Bread-and-butter politician fell into disuse in recent years, and when the phrase reappeared as bread-and-butter issue, the pejorative meaninghad disappeared. it is still in current political use, though its meaning is more usually expressed as pocketbook issue, or one that hits the voter where it hurts.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Wednesday, October 20, 2010 • Permalink