Food stamp cuts: Republican hunger games

    With so much attention being lavished on Obamacare these days, it’s easy to forget that the House Republicans are still up to their old shenanigans. Exhibit A is their own shameless version of Hunger Games.

    It has been clear all year that the GOP foot soldiers on Capitol Hill have no intention of erasing the party’s heartless image. Yes, they were warned last winter – in a report by the Republican National Committee, no less – that heartlessness was a bad image to be saddled with. Indeed, they were warned about this quite specifically: “The perception, revealed in polling, that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the party and its candidates on the federal level, especially in presidential years. It is a major deficiency that must be addressed.”

    But House Republicans haven’t heeded the warning; let’s face it, they can’t help being who they are. Which is why, earlier this fall, they slashed $40 billion from the food stamp program over the next 10 years. Those cuts would terminate benefits to roughly four million people who are literally living hand to mouth (170,000 of those people are military veterans; way to support the troops!), cancel or cut subsidized school lunches for 210,000 kids, and cut the outlay that all 47 million recipients currently receive. (Half of those 47 million are children.) All told, an eligible family of four currently gets roughly $668 a month in food stamps; the GOP voted to shave off $36 a month.

    Yes, folks, the best way to reinforce the perception that “the GOP does not care about people” is to vote anew to screw the have-nots.

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    And the best way to reinforce the perception that the GOP favors the haves is to keep indulging the haves with government goodies. Which the House Republicans are still happy to do. At the same time that they’re slashing food stamps – 87 percent of households using food stamps have a child, elderly person or disabled person in the family – they’re serving the affluent farmers in their rural constituencies. They’re ensuring, via the farm bill currently on the table, that those farmers will continue to get the same corporate welfare they’ve long received.

    Here’s the House GOP mindset in a nutshell: Right-wing congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, who was swept into office in the ’10 tea-party wave, voted this fall for the food stamp cuts. (The average Tennessean on food stamps currently gets a $1586 a year.) He recently explained his stance with a blast of piety: “The role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity, is to take care of each other, but not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country.” On the other hand, Fincher is just fine with “stealing” from others in the country to give to himself…

    …Because his own family farm reportedly has been showered with $3.48 million in taxpayer-backed federal subsidies. That’s according to Department of Agriculture data. Heck, the feds cut him a check for $70,000 in 2012 alone – and that’s no surprise, because federal crop insurance subsidies (untouched by the GOP) are a big earner for farming fat cats. Some of them collect $1 million a year.

    See, this is the GOP’s image problem: The party is gung-ho for haves lining up at the trough, but it can’t abide the have-nots doing the same thing despite their greater need for aid. Currently, the average food-stamp allocation is roughly $1.40 per person per meal, but apparently that’s pure catnip for tea-partying Republicans who came to Washington to “cut government.” And what better way to cut government than to do so on the backs of people who lack the lobbying clout to fight back?

    It’s hard to say whether the House GOP will ultimately prevail in its war against the needy; the Democratic Senate opposes the deep cuts, so the whole issue is in limbo (these days, Capitol Hill marinates in limbo). But at least we have stark evidence that the Republicans are ignoring their own advice about the urgent need to change their image. The party’s report, bemoaning the fact that the GOP has lost the nationwide popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, beseeched the lawmakers – “people who are flat on their back…just want help” – but alas, the lawmakers, in thrall to the tea party, continue to have a tin ear.

    It’s enough to make rational conservatives seethe in frustration. Here, for instance, is conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, a frequent Obama critic: “What could seem more heartless than cutting nutrition aid for 47 million poor people, including 210,000 children whose school meals  likely would be eliminated or reduced, in the midst of an anemic recovery from recession, a still-lousy job market, and…the holiday season? Forget optics; this is the visceral equivalent of puppy mills…This seems not so much heartless as brainless.”

    Yeah. What she says.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1


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