Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Republicans war on the poor : food stamps

The Republicans want to bring back starving children to our country.

This story is from the November 7th, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.

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OCTOBER 24, 2013

The way the program to provide the poor with the bare minimum of daily nutrition has been handled is a metaphor for how the far right in the House is systematically trying to take down the federal government. The Tea Party radicals and those who either fear or cultivate them are now subjecting the food-stamp program to the same kind of assault they have unleashed on other settled policies and understandings that have been in place for decades. Breaking all manner of precedents on a series of highly partisan votes, with the Republicans barely prevailing, the House in September slashed the food-stamp program by a whopping $39 billion and imposed harsh new requirements for getting on, or staying on, the program. The point was to deny the benefit to millions.

Hardly any other federal undertaking – with the exception of the Affordable Care Act – has attracted more hostility from the far right than the food-stamp program. As recently as the mid-Sixties, actual hunger and starvation existed in this country on a significant scale, particularly in the Deep South and Appalachia. In 1967, Robert F. Kennedy took a widely covered trip to the Mississippi Delta, where he was quite evidently shocked at the sight of listless babies with distended bellies who were unresponsive to his touching them or trying to get them to laugh. That same year, a group of doctors took a foundation-sponsored trip to Mississippi and reported, "In child after child we saw: evidence of vitamin and mineral deficiencies; serious untreated skin infestation and ulcerations; eye and ear diseases, also unattended bone diseases secondary to poor food intake; the prevalence of bacterial and parasitic diseases. . . ."


In 1979, 12 years after the original report calling attention to the appalling hunger in the Deep South and Appalachia, the Field Foundation sent another medical team to roughly the same areas, and it found that despite no sizable improvement in the condition of poverty, there had been a dramatic reduction in hunger and malnutrition as a result of food stamps and other nutrition assistance. The data shows that while a significant number of nonelderly households left the program as their income improved, the group whose participation had increased the most was the working poor.


Food stamps are far from an extravagant benefit. The average allocation is $1.40 per person per meal. (Try it some time.) A few years ago, the program was renamed SNAP, for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program


In 1996, when Congress revised the separate welfare law, it also placed severe new restrictions on food stamps. Able-bodied adults who weren't raising children were limited to receiving food stamps for only three months out of three years if they weren't working at least 20 hours a week or participating in a job-training program. This grim rule applied no matter how hard they tried to find a job and even if they hadn't been able to get a slot in a training program. An exception could be made if they lived in an area of high unemployment and if their governor requested and received a federal waiver. The average income of these people is about $2,500 a year, or 22 percent of the poverty level.

The job-training program that's part of the food-stamp law is modest, nowhere near the needed capacity, and other job-training programs the government offers are full, with waiting lists in many areas. But Republicans have resisted significant increases in training programs – if this hurts the economy or large numbers of individuals, so be it. First things first: Undermine Obama's presidency.


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