Monday, October 28, 2013

A Cold Thanksgiving And Christmas Season-- But Just For Poor Families, So Our Congress Of Multimillionaires Doesn't Give A Rat's Ass


The Ted Cruz/Koch brothers-inspired government shutdown cost the American taxpayers an unfocused and gratuitous $24 billion. Conservatives in Congress can at least tell them selves they're recouping part of that loss by cutting back on food stamps. The end of next week-- Friday, November 1-- will come as a shock for millions of American families as food stamp benefits-- including benefits for children, seniors and the unemployed thrown out of work because of bad conservative economic policies that crashed the economy are slashed. Conservatives feel confident that many of the 47 million families impacted won't vote-- so why should they care? They sure aren't part of the campaign donor class.
For a family of four, the cut will be $36 per month, or about 20 meals under the Department of Agriculture’s estimate for the cost of a “thrifty meal.”  Single adults will see their monthly benefits reduced to $189 per month, for a cut of $11.

“We have never seen a cut like this affecting all beneficiaries,” said Lisa Davis of the food bank network Feeding America. “With the government shutdown and other national and international issues going on, many people have no idea this is coming.”

Davis said that food banks are bracing for an influx of the needy as the holiday season approaches, and are concerned about keeping up with demand after donations wane in January.

“We’re hugely concerned … this will affect 23 million kids,” said Tom Nelson of Share Our Strength, a group focused on child hunger. “At a minimum we can’t accept more cuts.”

…Hunger groups are fighting a House proposal to cut an addition $40 billion from food stamps in the farm bill. Those cuts come primarily from provisions that would make it harder to qualify for food stamps when receiving other aid, such as home heating assistance, and by stopping states from waiving work requirements.
With conservatives blocking an increase in the minimum wage, low wage employers, like McDonald's, tell their workers to make ends meet by getting food stamps. Watch:

We've talked about the gospel-singin' congressman from Tennessee, Farmer Fincher, who helped lead the Republican jihad against poor families on food stamps. For many, it was hard to watch Tennessee Republican Stephen Fincher, a Methodist gospel singer aside and the congressman for the 8th district (Jackson, Germantown, Dyersburg and the whole western part of the state minus Memphis), voting to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program for the neediest American families. Why was Fincher harder to watch then any of the 217 House Republicans who backed this travesty (all but 15 of them)? Well, there's a special little place in hell for the gospel-singin' Fincher from Frog Jump? Fincher, it turns out, has gobbled up nearly $9 million in farm subsidies from Uncle Sam over the last decade, mostly for his cotton crop. Congressman Fincher also received a $13,650 grant to help buy grain hauling and storage equipment from the state Department of Agriculture in 2009 as part of the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program. Yes, teabagger Stephen Fincher is a welfare queen. And a hypocrite. A pious hypocrite eager to starve poor families who can't get jobs because of economic policies his party used to crash the economy.

And it gets worse, according to Forbes magazine. Remember when we were talking about how so many wealthy congressmembers on the House Agriculture Committee were all gung-ho to shave billions of dollars off the food stamps program? That's Fincher's committee. (No conflict of interest there, right?)
Armed with an array of proverbs and quotes from the Holy Bible, Congressman Fincher is pressing his fight to dramatically curtail the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-- better known to most Americans as food stamps-- relied upon by 47 million Americans for some or all of their daily sustenance.


Because the Bible tells him so.

Appearing this past weekend at a gathering at a Memphis Holiday Inn, Fincher explained his position on food stamps by stating, “The role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity is to take care of each other, but not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country.”

The Congressman’s remarks come on the heels of his taking the biblical route when responding to Representative Juan Vargas’ (D-Calif.) somewhat different take on the teachings of Jesus. During a recent House Agriculture Committee debate over the Farm Bill (which contains the food stamp budget), Vargas, citing the Book of Matthew, noted, “[Jesus] says how you treat the least among us, the least of our brothers, that’s how you treat him.”

Vargas also noted that Jesus directly mentions the importance of feeding the hungry.

Not to be outdone by a Godless Democrat, Congressman Fincher responded with his own Bible quote taken from the Book of Thessalonians-- “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Nicely played, Congressman.

While the biblical back-and-forth is interesting, I wonder if Congressman Fincher would be good enough to refer me to the part of the Bible revealing to us how providing adequate food stamp assistance to those in need violates the teachings of Christianity but venerates accepting government hand-outs in the guise of farm subsidies?
Michael Tomasky, writing over the weekend at the Daily Beast, asserts that "the GOP isn’t trying to cut $40 billion from SNAP just to save money. It wants to punish the poorest among us." He calls it "unspeakably cruel and that it's at least as much about inflicting pain and anguish on poor families as it is about saving any more-- which, of course, the $14 billion cost of the shut down shows definitively the Republicans don't even care about at all.
The basic facts on the program. Its size fluctuates with the economy-- when more people are working, the number of those on food stamps goes down. This, of course, isn’t one of those times. So right now the SNAP program, as it’s called, is serving nearly 48 million people in 23 million households. The average monthly individual benefit is $133, or about $4.50 a day. In 2011, 45 percent of recipients were children. Forty-one percent live in households where at least one person works. More than 900,000 are veterans. Large numbers are elderly or disabled or both.

…The proposed GOP cut is such a piddling amount of money, in terms of the whole federal budget and especially when spread out over 10 years. But nearly half of it is quite literally taking food out of the mouths of children. What’s the point? The point really is that Tea Party Republicans think these people don’t deserve the help. That’s some fascinating logic. The economy melts down because of something a bunch of crooked bankers do. The people at the bottom quarter of the economy, who’ve been getting jobbed for 30 years anyway and who always suffer the most in a downturn, start getting laid off in huge numbers. They have children to feed. Probably with no small amount of shame, they go in and sign up for food stamps.

And what do they get? Lectures about being lazy. You may have seen the now-infamous video of Tennessee Congressman Steve Fincher, who told a crowd over the summer that “the Bible says ‘If you don’t work, you don’t eat.’” This while Fincher, a cotton farmer, has enjoyed $3.5 million in federal farm subsidies. This year’s House bill ends “direct payments” to farmers whether they grow any crops or not-- except for one kind: cotton farmers.

Religious bloggers have noted that Fincher got his theology wrong and that the relevant passage, from Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, wasn’t remotely about punishing people too lazy to work. It was about punishing people who’d stopped working because they thought Jesus was returning any day now. So: mean bastard, hypocrite, and Scripture-mangling idiot to boot. Nice trifecta.

The other argument one sometimes hears concerns the dreadful curse of food-stamp fraud. The actual rate of food-stamp fraud-- people selling their coupons for cash-- is 1.3 percent, but this of course doesn’t prevent the right from finding a couple of garish anecdotes and making it seem as if they’re the norm. Voter fraud, Medicaid fraud, food-stamp fraud…Somehow, in Republican America, only poor people and blacks commit fraud.

This cut is the fraud, because it’s not really about fraud or austerity. It’s entirely about punishing the alleged 47 percent. The bottom half or third of the alleged 47 percent. It’s absolutely appalling. These folks have done a lot of miserable things in the past four years. But this-- the morality of this is so repulsively backward, the indecency so operatically and ostentatiously broadcast, I think it takes the gold going away.

The conference process starts next Wednesday and is going to take maybe a few months. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow has taken the lead on this issue and has been terrific. Ditto Pat Leahy. Max Baucus, I’m told, is a good get to go a little wobbly (surprise). But this is one where the Democrats have to say this won’t stand. It’s one thing to shut down the government for two weeks and take quixotic stabs at Obamacare. Telling poor children that that fourth box of macaroni and cheese is excessive is something very different.

Fincher and Baucus-- too many corrupt millionaires in Congress for a democracy

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