Friday, September 20, 2013

House Republicans Celebrate War On Poverty By Gutting The Food Stamps Program


Thursday afternoon, all but 15 Republicans voted to take $40 billion out of the food stamps program. It will never pass the Senate or be signed by the President, but it was a way for Republicans to reassure their crazy Tea Party base that they're as greedy, selfish and filled with hatred as the people who vote for them are. Progressive Caucus co-chairs Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) and CPC Whip Barbara Lee (D-CA), like every Democrat in the House, voted NO. Grijalva: "Some of my Republican colleagues want to cut food assistance for needy families instead of closing business tax loopholes as a way to save money. There's a basic question of fairness and who our country looks out for here. If you think more corporate tax cuts are the answer, go ahead and say so, but don't take food out of children's mouths while you're doing it."

Ellison: "Food assistance for working families fulfills a promise we make to each other: if you fall on hard times, your neighbors, friends and fellow Americans will help you get a meal. Eighteen companies dodged $92 billion in taxes last year, which is more than double the cut passed by Republicans today. Let’s cut corporate waste, not meals for our nation’s children."

Lee: "The proposed $40 billion in cuts to our nation’s first line of defense against hunger, SNAP, are heartless, unbelievable, and immoral. We cannot balance our budget on the backs of our country’s children, seniors, veterans, and disabled. As a former recipient of public assistance, I know that I would not be where I am today if it were not for the vital lifeline that was extended to me by the American people. SNAP serves as a bridge over troubled waters, and at a time when we are still recovering from the Great Recession, we must protect our nation’s vulnerable, not push them aside."

I also asked some of the candidates Blue America is backing how they felt about their own congressmembers voting to cut the food stamp program. Tom Guild is running against a junior member of the Republican leadership, right-wing extremist James Lankford (R-OK). Guild seemed personally affront by his vote: "My brother and I survived on government commodities in our early childhood.  We would have likely starved without the generous help from the government, and the generosity of the American people. It is despicable that Mr. Lankford voted to take food away from hungry children, and the beleaguered working poor. He should be ashamed of himself."

Nick Ruiz is running against a worthless old hack, John Mica (R-FL), who just does whatever Boehner tells him to do. "In voting to cut food aid to citizens who need it most," asked Nick, "what exactly does John Mica hope to prove? That he's heartless? That he doesn't care about the health of citizens who are having difficulty providing basic nutritional food for themselves or their families? There's no greater sign of weakness and dishonor than to prey upon the weak or downtrodden: today John Mica has proven his worthlessness as a representative of all American families."

Danielle Adams, a supervisor on the Durham Soil and Water Conservation District Board, is running for a rural North Carolina congressional seat currently held by Howard Coble. Coble, unlike North Carolina Republican neighbor Walter Jones, voted for the drastic cuts to food stamps. Right after he voted, Danielle told us that "In a district with over 10% of it's constituency depending on SNAP funding for assistance I believe it is cruel, deplorable and unacceptable for Congressman Coble to support cuts to this program. Over 17,000 households with children under the age of 18 will find themselves in the position of how to feed their children with less resources while drought and flooding drive up the costs of food. These families expect more and deserve more than a Congressman that turns his back on them. Congress created the circumstances that allowed for the economic climate that we are in and instead of closing tax loopholes and asking the 1% to pay their fair share the conservative right is choosing to punish children, the elderly, and the disabled. There is no honor in punishing the poor for being poor. None."

In all likelihood, the next House candidate Blue America will be endorsing is Jason Ritchie, the progressive running for the central Washington state seat Dave Reichert is sitting in. Call it part of the vetting process, but we asked Jason what he made out of his opponent's vote. He seemed surprised that Reichert didn't offer any explanation for his vote and didn't propose an alternative. "He simply walked in lock step with his fellow House GOP colleagues to destroy an essential social safety net. We must never forget this betrayal. We are the richest country in the world but we cannot afford to provide supplemental food aid to the most needy in our country? We should be ashamed of ourselves for electing this majority and their ill-conceived priorities. We cannot stand by and allow the House GOP to turn their backs on the needy simply as an excuse to balance the budget. A balanced budget at the expense of hungry children does is a fraud. How many corporate tax loop holes need to be closed to fund SNAP? How many pork-barrel projects need to be killed to fund SNAP? Can we build a few less bombers, fighters and jets so that we can feed our needy citizens? We must find a solution that supports those most vulnerable in our country.

"We will be judged by future generations by how we help those who need help. If our elected representatives will not do the right thing, we will use the ballot box to reclaim our dignity and insure that we can stand tall in the light of history."

Up in Michigan, Paul Clements is running for the 6th district seat held by multimillionaire Fred Upton who inherited his family's ownership of Whirlpool. Whirlpool has helped devastate the economies of two states: Arkansas and Michigan. But the people impacted by Whirlpool's selfish, grubby policies aren't people that Fred Upton ever knew. His policies and his personal economic agenda have helped send countless people onto the unemployment lines-- and now he voted against them being able to feed themselves until then can get back on their feet. Paul told us that this kind of behavior is "deeply un-American. He voted for a bill that kicks 3.8 million people out of the food stamps program by 2014. Michigan still has 9% unemployment, many people have used up their unemployment benefits, and our food banks can’t keep up with demand. Many children in Fred Upton’s district already struggle with hunger. I wonder how much time Fred Upton has spent with children who don’t have enough to eat? We do not need more hunger in America. Mr. Upton, in America we can afford to feed our people."

Republican policies crashed the economy and then hampered Obama in everything he tried to do to improve it. Now they blame people thrown out of work by their policies and demonize them for feeding their families with food stamps. And in states controlled by Republicans it's been far worse than in the rest of the country. The average household in Michigan saw its income drop by a whopping 19.1 percent, from $57,963 a year in 2000 to $46,859 a year in 2012. In Mississippi, the median income plunged from $43,664 in 2000 to $37,095 in 2012, a 15 percent decrease. Household incomes fell by at least 10 percent in Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee, Nevada, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.

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