Republicans will tell you they don’t hate the poor–its the “deficit” they hate. But the deficit reduction crowd is for reducing the deficit only in the screeching that passes for their rhetoric. In reality, Republican Steve Daines is pushing deep cuts to the food-stamp program or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP) as it is now known. He’s combined these cuts new with wacky new restrictions. All of this arose from long-standing hatred within the Republican Party toward poor people and minorities, as Elizabeth Drew brilliantly writes in a recent edition of Rolling Stone.
TEA Party effigy Ronald Reagan fabricated one of Republicans’ favorite fairy tales, Drew explains. That of the
“welfare queen” driving around in a Cadillac and the “strapping young bucks” said to be dining on T-bone steaks purchased with food stamps touched a racist nerve that is more prevalent in this country than we care to admit.
Of course, besides the racial element, among the True Believers, hurting poor people is also thought to be an effective hex against TEA Party primary challengers.
Proving once and for all that the snake on a yellow background is the perfect symbol for the TEA Party is Tom Burnett, a former state legislator who has become obsessed with preventing poor people from getting enough to eat. For a peek into the serpents’ nest of irrationality that is this guy’s brain, look no further than the Bozeman Chronicle, which has published the latest round of Burnett’s lies, unsubstantiated anecdotes, and incoherent wackiness. (I’m not linking to it. Reading his nonsense would mean taking 2 minutes of your life you could never get back.)
Burnett says the world’s richest nation shouldn’t help poor with a small amount of food each month because this help costs roughly $78 billion annually. Food stamps are far from an extravagant benefit–$1.40 per person per meal. One chicken breast will cost you about $2.50.
What neither Daines nor Burnett is telling you is that food stamps only account for 2 percent of the federal budget. Meanwhile, $154 billionin special corporate welfare went out to corporations courtesy of the GOP as part of the 2012 fiscal cliff debacle.
Burnett also wants you to believe that helping poor children get something to eat costs you thousands. Another lie. In 2012, the average American taxpayer making $50,000 per year paid just $36 towards the food stamps program. Meanwhile, the average American family pays a staggering $6,000 a year in corporate welfare to big corporations.
Congress is basically an army of incoherent Tom Burnett and Steve Daines clones who make policy by conspiracy theory or astroturfed anecdotes rather than facts. Both seem enraptured by the fantasy that hordes of freeloaders are getting benefits they don’t “deserve” or have decided to become dependent on food stamps rather than get a job. As Rolling Stone reports this is typical of the TEA Party GOP these days. But the facts show otherwise.
In 1996 Congress passed severe new restrictions on the SNAP program that meant adults without kids could only receive food stamps for three months within a three-year period–unless they were 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… The average income of these people is about $2,500 a year, or 22 percent of the poverty level.
But if Tom Burnett is the prince of the policy by garbage anecdote ploy, Steve Daines is the king. Like Burnett Steve Daines’ attempt to justify the cuts to needy families is based on the myth that the program is full of “fraud and abuse.” As the data shows:
The accuracy rate of 96% (2011) is considerably higher than other major benefit programs, for example Medicare fee-for-service (91%) or Medicare Advantage Part C (89%). ” [Source]
What’s more –“two-thirds of all SNAP payment errors are a result of caseworker error. Nearly one-fifth are underpayments,” people getting less then they need and are eligible to receive. [Source]
You’re heard the “turn around shop in town” ads that explain how $1 dollar spent in a local store is turned over and re-spent many times to help the local economy? Works the same for food stamps. Department of Agriculture data shows that for every $5 spent on food stamps, up to $9 is generated in economic activity for local communities. Even George W. Bush understood the efficiencies, economic benefits and positive economic impact of food stamps. As FactCheck.org points out, 14.7 million Americans were added to the food stamp rolls by Bush.
Of 126,000 people statewide that get a small amount of help paying for food each month in Montana, nearly half are children 55,000 of those are children. Nine thousand are seniors. That’s a lot of people who will be impacted by Steve Daines’ most recent cuts.