September 22, 2013
Now the Republicans are targeting the poor by voting to slash food stamp assistance and delete 3.8 million of the neediest American citizens from the program.
The editorial board of The New York Times noted that the poverty rate has "worsened or failed to improve for the last 12 years." They called the vote a "supreme act of indifference."
In another editorial in The New York Times Paul Egan wrote:
A Republican majority that refuses to govern on other issues found the votes to shove nearly 4 million people back into poverty, joining 46.5 million at a desperation line that has failed to improve since the dawn of the Great Recession. It’s a heartless bill, aimed to hurt. Republicans don’t see it that way, of course. They think too many of their fellow citizens are cheats and loafers, dining out on lobster.
Certainly there are frauds among the one in seven Americans getting help from the program formerly known as food stamps. But who are the others, the easy-to-ignore millions who will feel real pain with these cuts?
. . .Underlying the food assistance fight is the idea that the poor are lazy, and deserve their fate — the Ayn Rand philosophy. You don’t see this same reasoning applied to those Red State agricultural-industrialists living high off farm subsidies, and that’s why Republicans have separated the two major recipient groups of federal food aid. Subsidized cotton growers cannot possibly be equated with someone trying to stretch macaroni into three meals.
But Republican House leaders do have some empathy — for themselves. National Review reported this week that Representative Phil Gingrey, a hard-right conservative who wants to be the next senator from Georgia, complained in a private meeting about being “stuck here making $172,000 a year.” To say the least, he doesn’t yet qualify for food assistance.Read his editorial. It also highlights out that fallacy that raising the minimum wage would be bad for business and the economy.
As Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) pointed out during the debate, members of the U.S. Congress use taxpayers' money to eat extravagant meals– meals that include steak, caviar and vodka. She pointed out that citizens on food stamps live on $4.50 a day, even as members took trips abroad where their food allowance was over $150 a day and was paid for by U.S. taxpayers.
Rep. Speier spoke of members of Congress who have taken the SNAP challenge. For one week they experience what it is like to prepare three meals a day with a budget of $4.50. Of course, this act is a symbolic gesture. After all, when the week is finished these congressional members go back to eating whatever they want, whenever they want. And they can certainly afford lots of food on their salaries, which are well over $5.55 an hour since they earn at least $172.000 annually. (Figuring their hourly rate would be difficult since they hardly work anymore.)
Perhaps some members do learn something from the "SNAP experience", but the ones that really need to, do not take the challenge. I would like to challenge Delegate Gregorio Sablan (I-CNMI), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and President Obama to take the CNMI federal minimum wage challenge. Live on the average CNMI worker's salary of $5.55 an hour for a week. That would be about $178 a week for a 40-hour week after taxes. No credit cards, no dipping into savings, just $178 for a week.
Experiencing what it is like to survive on poverty level wages might cause them to reflect a little more on the delay in the minimum wage increase that they pushed for, voted for and/or signed into law. What they did in stagnating abhorrently low hourly wages is similar to what the Republicans did this week in voting to slash millions from receiving food stamps. Both acts harm the poorest of the poor.
A few of the best lines from Rep. Jackie Speier's speech:
If the federal government shut down for a few weeks who would really notice? When a government for the people, by the people becomes a government in spite of the people who are we really serving? If we refuse to take care of the people who are the most vulnerable at a tiny fraction of the cost of say our defense budget don't we cease to be true public servants?I will remind Rep. Speier what she did to harm the poorest of the poor in the CNMI.