War on food stamps

So, I wrote recently about how the farm subsidies were held up because Tea Party Republicans would prefer to see Americans go literally hungry, but I did not fully realize just how amazingly mean-spirited and divorced from reality these people are on the matter.  The Atlantic’s Matthew O’Brien has enlightened me:

After all, the battle over food stamps isn’t just a battle over budgets; it’s another battle in our not-so-cold war over ideology. As the Wall Street Journal editorial page makes clear, conservatives think the welfare state is so generous that far too many people aren’t, as they put it, “buying food, which is one of life’s most basic responsibilities.” In other words, they think the safety net has become a hammock stocked with snacks on the road to serfdom…

Now, to be fair, House Republicans do have a plan to save money by kicking millions of non-drug users off of food stamps: they want to kick the unemployed off too. As it already is, food stamps, like welfare, have a work requirement. Beneficiaries have to look for a job, accept any job they can find, get in job training if they can’t find one, and can’t quit a job. But as Robert Greenstein of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, House Republicans wanted to add a “work requirement” amendment that would let states to cut off food stamp benefits to anyone without a job or in job trainingwithout providing any funding for jobs or job training [emphasis in original]. In other words, if you’re unemployed, you’re out of luck — and out of food stamps.

There are lots of words that come to mind here, but sociopathic might be the first one. As my colleague Jordan Weissmann points out, food stamp use has gone up because poverty has gone up. And poverty has gone up because there still aren’t enough jobs… there are still three unemployed people for every job opening

House Republicans are ideologically incapable of imagining a world where people can’t find a job because there aren’t enough of them. In other words, they won’t let themselves understand the world we live in. They think food stamp use is at record-highs, because people are drug addicts or just shiftless — not because the recovery has been so weak. This insistence that our problems are all supply, and no demand, is why Republicans have opposed any and all attempts to stimulate the economy, either monetary or fiscal. It’s bad economics, and worse morality.

At least Marie Antoinette wanted to let them eat cake.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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