Saturday, November 2, 2013

GOPers: Defer Your Salary, Live on Food Stamps One Year

 Accepted GOP View of People on SNAP (Food Stamps)

Food Banks Help the Needy But Are Insufficient

Right up front are my views on food stamps (SNAP) and most other public assistance programs: They are supposed to help the needy, not be abused, cheaters are not allowed, accountability is paramount. I am not a bleeding heart liberal, but I strongly believe in helping the needy - I know what that means in my own personal life (but that's a story for another day). The purpose of this post is to take some facts, something the GOP and their side hates with a passion for anyone bothering to listen to their views and opinions on a wide range of public assistance. This post is a bit long, but I wanted to post it for posterity's sake if nothing else on this recent news about SNAP cuts and the weak GOP "justifications."

The Myth of the Welfare Queen: Ronald Reagan is largely responsible for the GOP's misguided obsession with framing African Americans as the predominant poor and welfare-dependent. In his 1976 race for the White House, Reagan repeated hyperbolic stories of a woman on the South Side of Chicago who was the quintessential “Welfare queen” with this story now infamous Reagan/GOP-Conservative yarn:

 “A woman had 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards, and was collecting veteran's benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She's got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.”

Mr. Reagan never named the woman in the example, but his statement, including the reference to the South Side of Chicago, said it all (a woman of color) – and it’s been the same since, even though that story was later proven false.

Facts:  Even though that Reagan story proved to be false, the concept of “free stuff, cheaters in the system, and tax dollars wasted” became an American colloquialism, propagated by mostly rightwing news media like FOX – it to this day remains a disturbingly popular image of poor black women and families and any single mom with kids need and on public assistance. But, what is truth about public assistance?

1.    There were 46 million people living in poverty in America as of 2010 (Census Bureau).
2.    Some 31 million were white families. About 10 million were black and other minorities.
3.    Over 45 million Americans were without health insurance coverage.
4.    Of that number, 37 million are white; 8 million African-American; and Latino and Asian Americans representing the remaining largest ethnic groups.
5.    White Americans, poor and middle-class receive the vast majority of taxpayer-funded government assistance programs, including monthly food and health care assistance to Social Security and housing subsidies. 
6.     The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, that provides aid to single mothers, is the most well-known welfare program. It replaced the nasty “Welfare Program” that the GOP hated with a passion. The operative word is now “temporary” the opposite of “permanent.”  
7.    Social Security and Medicare are also a form of social services that are partially funded by tax dollars, and about 70 percent of those two benefits alone go to white Americans. 
8.    This is not a color, or we (good Americans) vs. all others issue. That mindset should end.

SNAP (Food Stamps):  In December 2009, the New York Times published a series of related articles showing that poor whites families across Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta and through the Midwest, Deep South and Texas borderlands were the highest percentage of Americans relying on the Food Stamp program (SNAP). And yes, it has gotten worse. Why: (1) near total economic meltdown in 2008; (2) constant flow of jobs off-shore; (3) Americans with jobs work part-time for minimum wages, with families, and without healthcare trying to get by.

More specifics:

1.  76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits (not many “Welfare Queens” in that picture!!). 
2. SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130% of the federal poverty guideline, but the majority of households have income well below the maximum: 83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013), and these households receive about 91% of all benefits.  
3. 61% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 75% of the poverty guideline ($14,648 for a family of 3 in 2013). 
4. The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744 (net monthly income of $338 after standard deductions) and, for certain households, deductions for child care, medical expenses, and shelter costs; and countable resources of $331, such as a bank account.
5.  The move to cut back benefits will be the first wide-scale change to the program affecting nearly every single participant.
6.  The 13.6 percent cut comes out to about $36 a month less for a family of four.
7.  Since 2000, the costs for the plan have increased more than 358 percent.
8.  GOP supporters of the cuts cite lax eligibility requirements as one of the reasons behind the increase.
9.  Enrollment in the food-stamp benefits also rose during the 2007-2011 recession.
10.  Anti-poverty groups have warned that cutting the program will leave millions of Americans vulnerable.

A real documented story about SNAP cute that represents millions and much better than the Reagan fake story:

A single mother of four, Amira Watson, working full time as a medical assistant at nights at an assisted living facility for the disabled in Brooklyn. She says the cuts won't be enough to feed her four kids (age from 3 months to 15). 

She says, “The job is good with medical benefits but not with the paycheck. I’m always in the hole. If I pay the rent I sacrifice the light bill. If I pay the light bill I sacrifice the gas bill. It's always something.” 

She went on to say she finds herself relying on food pantries and other stopgap measures to help provide food for her family even with SNAP aid.

I say to the harsh and callous critics: Put on her shoes, walk the same path, and see for yourself. But, my hunch is none of them will take this offer... a matter of pride, I guess.

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