Yesterday we were informed that POTUS (Trump, 45, Mr. Small Hands) has decided to pay for his tax-cuts for the rich by totally eviscerating the social safety net including, but not limited to, food stamps (SNAP Benefits).
Luckily, Presidential budgets are almost always DOA. However, since Paul Ryan and the House Republicans have wanted to dismantle the social safety net for years, this is a real and present threat.
Today, I want to focus on the food stamp debate (If I can, I will cover Medicaid soon).
Let me start by saying food should be a basic human right and that nobody should actively try to stop anyone from eating.
In this ongoing debate, the Republicans talk way too much about the scammers and way too little about the people who need and use assistance properly. In other words, we punish the vast majority of food stamp users for a small percentage who misuse food stamps.
And, even worse, many times, these “food stamp gourmands” are totally made up by the marketing arm of Fox News and the Ayn Randian Congressional Caucuses.
And, let’s assume these serial haters of the poor are 100% right and poor people use their benefits to buy expensive foods. Why does it make us mad that every once in a great while a poor person buys a lobster with food stamps and has one really amazing meal?
Why in the world do we base policy around the cheaters and not around the real needs of people in our communities? And don’t even get me started on all of the new paternalistic “work requirements for food stamps.
In addition, I am very troubled by the entire misleading (and often racist) “welfare queen” narrative. Where do we as a society get off demonizing the poor from middle-class or rich ivory towers?
More specifically, how often to you hear people complain about corporate welfare recipients not having enough oversight about how they use taxpayer funds? When tax-cuts come down, are rich people castigated for trips to Cannes or for eating lobster with fungible funds?
When oil companies get subsidized during a period of record profitability do we castigate them for celebrating with lobster dinners or pass paternalistic legislation making it nearly impossible for them to use the funds?
When banks get bailed out do we force them to provide an extensive accounting of how they used every dollar?
Well, we do all of that to people applying for food stamps.
My Experiences With Food Stamp Paternalism
When I first got out, I found that despite having run a very successful team and business and despite having twenty years of successful work experience (in higher education) and a Masters Degree that I couldn’t get a job waiting tables.
I am not ashamed to admit that Food Stamps were a bridge between when I started to try to establish my freelance writing business and when I could pay for my own food again.
Once I got to the place where I could afford to pay for my own food again I immediately discontinued my food stamps and went back to what I thought would be a normal life.
One year later, through normal attrition, I lost a few of my best clients and was in pretty rough shape and I decided to apply for food stamps again. Unlike the first time, I was confronted with an absurdly complicated and frustrating set of new application requirements and told that most of the hours I worked (and was not paid for – because entrepreneur) trying to establish new business or writing for free did not count and that I only qualified for $17 a month in food stamps.
And despite all of this, believe it or not, I had it good.
PRWORA and Returning Citizens
In the mid-1990’s Bill Clinton passed a “Welfare Reform” package (PRWORA). One aspect of that so-called “reform” package was to ban anyone who had a drug felony from getting food stamps at all.
In Michigan and many other states, that prohibition is still enforced.
And let’s not forget that food stamps work to help people get back on their feet. In particular, benefits are CRITICAL for formerly incarcerated people who have a very hard time finding work and housing upon release.
If you are wondering why you should care:
* People pay their debt to society when they serve their sentences, discrimination is wrong.
* Also, and I mean this with rapidly declining respect, screw anyone who thinks people should not be allowed to eat (even so-called lazy people should have food). If we stand for letting people starve, we are a cruel, amoral, and uncivilized society (the same is true about health care).
I only included this information to show that the lack of food stamps and access to food is something people struggle with every day (and to suggest future reforms).
STAND WITH THE POOR
Some thoughts that I want to close with:
* Who are we as a nation if we will not stand up for the poor? If there was ever a time to resist, this is the time – Please use every tool at your disposal from Retweets to using your phone to call your representative and Senators every day.
* Every Congressperson or Senator who votes for these cuts should read #Matthew25 – Shame on You, Shame on VP Pence (who claims Christianity), shame on you Speaker Ryan (who claims Christianity), and shame on you Donald J. Trump.
* There are PLENTY of places to cut that do not involve destroying the lives of people with next to nothing. For instance:
Over $4 Billion in Federal Subsidies to profitable Oil Companies, $400 Million in Ships nobody wants, The Trillion (with a T) Dollar F-35 reboot (boondoggle), or the other BILLIONS the Pentagon wastes annually.
* And please don’t believe manufacturing jobs are coming back, factories may stay and new ones might be built but they will be hiring robots not humans.
It is time for us to stop the BS and start standing shoulder-to-shoulder. A house divided against itself cannot stand and will surely fall. Stand up for the poor.