Hit us when we’re down.

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By Rowan Wolf

There are headlines that I just hate to see because what follows is just formulaic. “Investigations” into public employee benefits, pay, or retirement funds are a sure fire bet that big pressure to cut all of the above are coming. Instead, they should be asking, “How to we improve all worker’s wages and benefits?” Likewise, I cringed when I saw the headline “Ballooning food stamps likely to face deep cuts” – part of a larger article Big jump in food-stamp enrollment drives farm bill debate (Oregonian, 7/22/2012).

I remember, as likely do many of you, when the Gingrich Congress “Contract on (sorry, with) America”, decided that we needed a war on the poor. Bill Clinton negotiated in and we ended up with Welfare “Reform.” Or back to the (supposedly) great Ronald Reagan, who came up with the distinction between the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor. Reagan changed the way the Consumer Price Index was calculated (mainly through adjusting both housing and fuel costs if I recall correctly). (He also started the “Drug War,” but that’s another (though related) story). The aim of both Reagan’s, and then Gingrich’s efforts were to reduce the number of people receiving “Welfare.” However, they did nothing to reduce poverty nor the need for the programs.What did happen was that those receiving aid today are in much worse straits than those receiving assistance before the changes in policy and program.

Now we are still struggling in the mire of the great bank escapade, where the big investment houses bet all our houses (and everything in them) on long odds that ultimately had to collapse. The depression/recession is not over for most of the population (here or in Europe). This has left many depending on Food Stamps and Food Banks to get them and their families through the week.

Of course, one might have guessed that we were heading in a stingier direction when Food Stamps were renamed “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” (SNAP) in the 2008 Farm Bill (wikipedia). In other words, food stamps were not supposed to feed you anymore. They were just there to “supplement” ….what,  water? The names of things are so very important. So now we have an ongoing (and I think likely permanent) high unemployment and lack of living wages.  More people are qualifying for even the highly restrictive poverty level guidelines.

So once again, instead of asking “How do we support our population and get them opportunity for a better quality of life?”, the issue becomes decreasing the amount of funds available for assistance. That means either cutting the amount of assistance being received across the board; or changing eligibility guidelines to require people to be in even more dire situations before they are eligible.

As stated by Akiba Solomon (The Indypendent, July 27,2012):

The Senate version of this year’s Farm Bill cuts about $4.5 billion from SNAP. In real life, this means 500,000 households would lose $90 a month in benefits, according to the Food and Research Action Center. Meanwhile, the House Agriculture Committee’s version, passed early this month, includes a staggering $16.5 billion in SNAP cuts. Per Feeding America, this would result in 3 million people losing all of their benefits, 300,000 children going without school lunch, and 500,000 households losing $90 in monthly grocery money.

More “compassionate conservatism” – which I believe is a fancy way of saying “F**k you,” or “Go away and quietly die”. In other words, “compassionate conservatism” is about as 1984 double-speak as you can get.

The reality is that we (and the rest of the world) are in an economic muck that is not going to just clear up. This boondoggle has left millions of people struggling. Instead of addressing the issue and strengthening the safety net, our corporate sponsors say “get rid of the damn safety net – and all those social programs ( like schools) as well. The whole thing is not just wrong headed, it is cruel. Of course they may rename food stamps again to ease their consciences. Perhaps they can call it SNAK (Small Nosh And Kibble), or NAP (No Assistance Program). It would then be clear to everyone how little people actually need food stamps, or more specifically, our need makes no difference.

 

Thanks to Kelly Mitchell for acronym ideas

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