It can be rightly presumed that extremely severe and unusually cruel conduct that is mutinous to the rules of right or virtuous conduct is considered Draconian, or in 2012 terminology, Republican. It seems that every budget proposal or new legislation submitted by the GOP is another opportunity for them to show their lack of compassion for the American people and apparently there is no end to the depth of depravity they are willing to go to cause suffering in the populace to reward corporate America. This week, Republicans in the House maintained their reputation as Draconian stewards of America’s purse strings and crafted a “compromise” farm bill that cuts billions of dollars from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or informally, food stamps, and increases farm subsidies to the corporate agriculture industry.
At a time when 46 million Americans (one half are children) depend on food stamps to avoid dire poverty and daily hunger, Republicans who created this sluggish economy decided that several million poor Americans should lose their eligibility to qualify for assistance because it is the fiscally responsible thing to do. The Republican plan eliminates “categorical eligibility” which means that a family living at or below the poverty line that owns a dependable car will be cut off of food assistance. According to Republicans, a dependable automobile will be figured in to the family’s income and when they are near the eligibility cut-off point, even a moderately-priced used car sends them over the limit. The plan also means that several hundred thousand low-income children will lose access to free or reduced-priced school meals based on the elimination of categorical eligibility. It is the perfect method for Republicans to punish poor Americans by not only cutting off food assistance at home, but completes the hunger cycle by keeping children hungry throughout the school day.
The GOP plan forces low-income families to choose between owning a dependable car to commute to their jobs and feeding their families and it may be a new low for Republicans, but as the past year-and-a-half has shown, they can always exceed their current Draconian spending habits, especially where the poor are concerned. In fact, since they took control of the House in 2011, Republicans have worked diligently to portray any social safety net spending as wasteful regardless that, at its peak, the SNAP program was only .52% of GDP and it kept 5 million Americans from sinking into abject poverty in 2011, and cut the number of children living in extreme poverty by 50%. However, Republicans are unfazed by a UNICEF report that ranked the United States in second place for the percentage of children living in poverty at 23.1% behind Latvia, and above 33 of the world’s richest countries of which America is the richest, so achieving number one status is within their reach.
Republicans have attempted to perpetuate the myth that African Americans and Latinos make up the lion’s share of SNAP recipients, but the truth is that out of 46-million Americans living in poverty, 31 million are white, ten million are African American, and the remainder were Hispanic and Asian. During the Republican presidential primary race, a common theme was that Republicans did not “want to make black people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money” and it plays on the racism rampant in American society. Presidential candidate Willard Romney said “I’m not concerned about the very poor” because there are safety nets, but he plans on throwing 13-million low-income Americans off of food stamps. It is a common theme for Republicans and informs a recent poll that found only 40% of Republicans agree that “it is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves” and it demonstrates a growing lack of compassion for those struggling in the Republican-caused economic malaise. As a contrast, 75% of Democrats say the government should help those who cannot sustain themselves and their position is more in line with public sentiment.
This moral depravity on the part of Republicans is not a matter of fiscal responsibility, because every food dollar spent generates $1.80 in economic activity that creates jobs, increases tax revenue, and keeps millions of Americans and their children out of extreme poverty. Each food dollar spent also gives farmers $.21 besides their subsidies, and with high crop and land prices, and a record $136.3 billion in farm exports in 2011, it is egregious to cut food stamps while increasing subsidies. In fact, for the first time in 2011, farm income exceeded $100 billion and so far this year it is forecast to reach $91.7 billion, the second-highest on record. Still, it is not good enough for the agri-corp industry and Republicans who are duty-bound to give as much taxpayer dollars to corporations at the expense of working-poor, elderly, and children to create a population of peasants barely subsisting to bolster the wealthy’s profits.
Republicans claim they are being fiscally responsible and doing the will of the American people, but a recent poll by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) disclosed that 74% of Americans say the SNAP program is very important and 71% say cutting SNAP is the wrong way for Congress to reduce spending. The GOP thinks otherwise and the Paul Ryan and Willard Romney budgets make more drastic cuts to SNAP and increase the deficit by $4 – $6.7 trillion with incredible tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. The FRAC poll also found support for SNAP and ending hunger is strong among all demographics and political groups with 91% of Democrats, 70% of Independents, and 56% of “strong” Republicans believing SNAP is a very important program. Obviously, Republicans in Congress and aspiring to the White House are out of touch with Americans who have a strong moral compass and not tied to enriching the wealthy at the expense of the poor whether they are white, Black, or Hispanic, and especially children.
There are many Republicans who claim there is widespread fraud among SNAP recipients, and the Republican financial guru Paul Ryan said, “you know we get all these reports about how the SNAP program is rife with fraud, how it’s not getting the assistance to the people who need it,” but the truth is the “errors” in administering SNAP payments are within the 1% range and they are not fraud, but mistakes within the program’s administration; the only fraud is from vendors who double-bill and cheat the government with unsubstantiated receipts. The eligibility requirements to receive SNAP are so stringent that it is all but impossible for program participants to qualify much less cheat.
The Republicans’ drastic cuts to SNAP are not for fiscal responsibility, to staunch fraudulent claims, or to teach low-income children the value of work. Their cuts are to make room for more subsidies for corporate agriculture and to create higher poverty numbers, and possibly to reach number one in industrial nations with the most children living in poverty. With their version of the farm bill, they will approach Romania’s 25% of children in poverty and create another 3 million Americans going to bed hungry every night, and eliminating categorical eligibility means a family head gets to choose between feeding their family or selling their used car and walking to work. It is possible that Republicans think SNAP recipients are proud to take government assistance, but the stigma attached to using food stamps creates psychological stress and embarrassment to people who would rather have a living wage job that Republicans will not help create.
Republicans are just cruel and unusually severe in their treatment of Americans whose only crime is living in an economy created by Republicans for the wealthy and their corporations, and are ill-inclined to pass President Obama’s jobs bills when they can fight for more tax cuts for the wealthy and subsidies for corporate agriculture. It has been nearly a year since the President proposed jobs bills the Republicans will not even bring up for discussion, much less a vote, and their big plans before the election are extending Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, casting symbolic votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and now, cutting millions of low-income Americans’ eligibility for food stamps. There are few words to describe the Republicans in Congress, except that they are evil incarnate and the scourge of this country for sending millions of elderly, disabled, and children off the SNAP program to make room for more corporate entitlements in the form of subsidies to an industry that is awash in cash, making record profits, and getting free taxpayer money the American people would rather see go to feed the poor; something entirely alien to Republican monsters who are devoid of compassion, unusually severe, lacking a moral compass, and mutinous to the rules of right and virtuous conduct. In other words, they are the scum of the Earth.