I will organize and vote against any politician who votes to hurt those at the bottom of the wealth pyramid, and especially against those who vote to cut food stamps, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
And you should too.
After all, that's the only way to counter the malicious damage being done to our country by the TeaThugs.
Conservative Dems Work With Republicans To Cut Food Stamps
Congress is set to approve $9 billion in cuts to the food stamp program even as a record number of Americans live in poverty.—By Erika Eichelberger
Jan. 29, 2014
On Wednesday morning, Republicans won a years-long battle over whether to slash or spare food stamps when the House passed the farm bill, a $500 billion piece of legislation that funds nutrition and agriculture programs for the next five years.
The farm bill has been delayed for more than two years because of a fight over cuts to the food stamp program, which is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Last June, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) forced a vote on a bill that would have cut $20 billion from SNAP. But conservatives said the cuts were not deep enough, Democrats said they were far too deep, and the bill failed, 234-195. That September, House Republicans drafted new legislation slashing $40 billion from the food stamp program. That bill passed the House with Republican votes only.
After months of negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate, which wanted much lower cuts of around $4 billion, the House finally passed a farm bill 251-166 Wednesday that contains a "compromise" $9 billion in reductions to the food stamp program.
Both the Senate and President Barack Obama are expected to approve the legislation.
Here's why the compromise level of cuts is a Republican win: In addition to the $9 billion in food stamp cuts in this five-year farm bill, another $11 billion will be slashed over three years as stimulus funding for the program expires. The first $5 billion of that stimulus money expired in October; the rest will disappear by 2016. In the months since the first $5 billion in stimulus funding was cut, food pantries have been struggling to provide enough food for the hungry. Poverty remains at record high levels, and three job applicants compete for every job opening.
And yet, despite the $5 billion in cuts that already happened and the guarantee of $6 billion more, Republicans succeeded in getting their Democratic peers to cut food stamps further. This is the first time in history that a Democratic Senate has even proposed cutting the program. Now the upper chamber is expected to pass cuts twice the level it approved last year.
"It's a net loss for Democrats," Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tells Mother Jones. "It's absolutely a GOP win," agrees a House Democratic aide.
How did the GOP do it? In November, Dems said that Boehner was interfering with House-Senate negotiations on the farm bill, rejecting proposed legislation that contained shallower food stamps cuts. (Boehner's office denies this.)
But Dems deserve much of the blame, the Democratic aide says. Last year, House liberals were scheming to get progressives to vote against any farm bill that contained SNAP cuts. The idea was that if enough progressives voted no along with the House conservatives who think the cuts are too low, Democrats could defeat the bill. In that case, food stamp funding would be preserved at current levels. A "$9 billion [cut] is too much…It hits in the gut," Rep. Gwen Moore (R-Wis.) told Mother Jones earlier this month.
When the final bill came up for a vote in the House, the Congressional Progressive Caucus advised its 76 members to vote against the bill. But not enough Dems voted to block the cuts. One hundred three Democrats voted against the farm bill, but 89 voted in favor. If 43 more Democrats had voted no, the farm bill would have failed. "Dems are . . . complicit in changing [the] law, when they could just [block the bill] and let that status quo continue," the Democratic aide says.
Democrats in the House and Senate agreed to cut nutrition aid for poor Americans because they "have shifted to the right on SNAP politically," the staffer adds. "If Dems were as absolutist as the tea party, this bill would be dead on arrival and SNAP would continue as is."
But the assault on the food stamp program "could have been much, much worse," argues Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. Stacy Dean, the vice president for food assistance policy at the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), agrees. Democrats succeeded in stripping many draconian GOP provisions from the bill. Republicans wanted to impose new work requirements on food stamp recipients; allow states to require drug testing for food stamps beneficiaries; ban ex-felons from ever receiving nutrition aid; and award states financial incentives to kick people off the program. None of those measures were in the final legislation, Dean notes.
The cuts to the food stamp program come from closing a loophole that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed needed to be addressed. A household's level of monthly food stamps benefits is determined by how much disposable income a family has after rent, utilities, and other expenses are deducted. Some states allow beneficiaries to deduct a standard utility charge from their income if they qualify for a federal heating aid program called the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, even if they only receive a few dollars per year in heating aid. The arrangement results in about 850,000 households getting a utility deduction that is much larger than their actual utility bill. Because the deduction makes these families' disposable income appear to be lower than it actually is, they get more food stamp money each month. The farm bill that passed the House on Wednesday saves $9 billion by closing that loophole.
The savings from closing the heating aid loophole could have been returned to the food stamp program. Instead, Republicans succeeded in prodding Dems to accept $9 billion in new cuts on top of the $11 billion in expiring stimulus funds. That extra $9 billion in cuts means that close to a million households will see their benefits slashed by about $90 a month—enough to pay for a week's worth of cheap groceries for a family of four.
Did you know the famous (or is that infamous?) Diaper David Vitter, the Cheater (no wonder those LA "Christians" didn't make him resign in disgrace if he'll do this for them), wants you to show ID before you can spend your now even tinier ration of food stamps? This is a particular hardship on the elderly poor. None of whom matter to these do-gooders.
You can't make this stuff up.
On Wednesday, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) introduced a bill that would force recipients of food stamps to show a valid photo ID to buy food. Anti-hunger advocates say that because many poor people cannot afford to purchase government IDs, the requirement would make it harder for low-income Americans to eat.
Vitter says the bill is designed to cut down on fraud. "Using a photo ID is standard in many day-to-day transactions, he said upon introducing the bill. "My bill will restore some accountability to the program so it's not ruined for people who use it appropriately."
But it's not that simple. Vitter's bill would also prevent many Americans from using the nutrition aid they're eligible for. "Many poor people do not have photo ID's, and it costs money they do not have to get them," Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the advocacy organization Coalition on Human Needs, told the Times-Picayune on Wednesday. "Senator Vitter's proposal will be especially tough on elderly and poor people who do not have the documents needed to get their photo ID, and who will struggle even to get to the necessary offices. They will wind up going without food."
This is just the latest assault in the long-running GOP war on the food stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Last year, Vitter drafted an amendment to the Senate farm bill—the five-year legislation that funds nutrition and agriculture programs—that would ban those convicted of certain violent crimes from ever getting food stamps. The amendment, which the Senate approved, would have "strongly racially discriminatory effects," according to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
In 2013, House Republicans passed a version of the farm bill that would cut $40 billion from the food stamps program. The House farm bill also contains GOP-backed provisions that would impose new work requirements on food stamp recipients, and that would give states financial incentives to kick people out of the program.
The final version of the farm bill, which is a compromise between the Senate and the House versions, is reported to contain $9 billion in cuts to SNAP.
North Carolina is not only at the mercy of the merciless Koch/Pope-funded ALEC troops who took over the NC General Assembly for the first time in 100 years due to the flood of Citizens United out-of-state campaign contributions, but one very slick Republican candidate (supported by Rand Paul) for the Senate race against Kay Hagen (D) is openly drawing the lines against the huge number of NC's poor people. And essentially asking the people of North Carolina to vote against their neighbors' health. Sick.
North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Greg Brannon has an interesting argument for eliminating food stamps: "slavery." In a videotaped interview with the North Carolina Tea Party in October, Brannon, a Rand Paul-endorsed doctor who is top contender for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, cited James Madison in making the case for abolishing the Department of Agriculture — and with it, the $76 billion-a-year Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. Brannon has a real chance of winning: A December poll from Public Policy Polling found the GOP primary field split but showed him leading Hagan, 45-43.
"We're taking our plunder, that's taken from us as individuals, [giving] it to the government, and the government is now keeping itself in power by giving these goodies away," Brannon said in the interview. "The answer is the Department of Agriculture should go away at the federal level. And now 80 percent of the farm bill was food stamps. That enslaves people. What you want to do, it's crazy but it's true, teach people to fish instead of giving them fish. When you're at the behest of somebody else, you are actually a slavery to them [sic]. That kind of charity does not make people freer."
It's something of a mixed metaphor, because Brannon is suggesting that people on food stamps are lazy, while also conflating them with a system of labor exploitation in which people were literally worked to death. (Also: Madison liked slavery.)
Food stamps aren't the only thing Brannon believes is subjecting Americans to the cruelties of the chattel system. At the RedState Gathering in November, an annual event organized by the influential conservative website, Brannon suggested that bipartisan compromises also "enslave" Americans.
Take yourselves on over to Karen's Sardonicky for a first-rate dissection of the SOTU dulcet-toned mishmash.
As soon as Obama mendaciously announced last night that fast track approval of the TransPacific Partnership* would help American entrepreneurs and small business owners create jobs for "folks," I tuned out.
Along with Noam Chomsky's advice to run for the hills whenever you hear a politician utter the word folks, I would also urge you to be wary of his bucket full of dreaded "common-sense approaches". This weasel phrase paradoxically always seems to bode ill for the commons - as in, common-sense deficit reduction, common-sense food stamp cuts, common-sense job-creating deregulation of fracking, and last night's promise of "common sense solutions to drone policy" - or if you insist on being blunt about it, the therapeutic assassinations of Muslim people by sane surgical hellfire missiles.
Barack Obama is simply using the old tried and true formula beloved of slick politicians since time immemorial. Check the polls, and determine what people are mad as hell about these days. (Hint: it's the failure of their government to protect them from the machinations of the pathologically wealthy.) Feel their pain for a minute. And then begin to oh-so-stealthily change the subject. Or, as the neoliberal elites say when they want to co-opt populist sentiment: "Shape their thinking" by changing the "terms of the debate."
And thus does the scourge and crime of unfettered capitalism and extreme wealth disparity become Obama's phony "ladders of opportunity" for increasingly desperate people to gain entry into Middle Class Nirvana. Save for retirement with your pennies. Play the trickle-down Promise Zone/charter school lottery. Work hard and play by their rules. Be afraid of terror. And above all, support the troops. Feel guilty about feeling your own sadness as the millionaires of Congress give a standing ovation to a maimed veteran who's suffered through a sadistic and unconscionable ten deployments to keep you safe and free and unquestioning. And don't forget pragmatic.
And if you do take it into your head to resist, a la Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and other government whistleblowers, along with thousands of Occupy protesters and anti-war activists, watch your dulcet-toned President turn into the Soup Nazi in a New York Minute. If you dare ask for bread to go along with your watered-down soup, you'll not only be refused. They'll raise the price even more before summarily kicking you to the curb.
Back when the corporate media was bashing the Occupy movement every night, saying it was leaderless and without a message, they suddenly changed their tune and decided it indeed did have a message which THEY had finally figured out: Income Inequality (not Corporatization and Globalization and the selling of our democracy).
Didn't we really suspect that Obama would co-opt that message and become the leader just in time for the 2014 Congressional elections? Didn't 'income inequality' sound just a little too politically palatable and useful? Never mind that Occupy was a global movement. Well he did tweak it a bit - it's now 'opportunity' but just for the middle class. Ha!Ha! though. Between then and now, Wikileaks and Michael Hastings (RIP) helped reveal some of the regime's dirty tricks at suppressing, infiltrating, and crushing the Occupy movement - and watering down the message.
Then Ed Snowden threw a bright spotlight on the NSA and the regime's surveillance of all Americans as well as the world. Poof! There went that nice convenient cohort of voters called Occupy. Poor Obama is now stuck hinting at an 'evolution' of his position on marijuana to entice the young people to get back on board. After learning more about the regime's actions against the Occupy movement, I don't think it was a fluke that Occupy protests changed in date and venue from the October Washington DC protest under activist Kevin Zeese to the September NYC version promoted with slick ads by the corporate AdBusters agency out of Vancouver, BC.
It worked out too well for the regime in so many ways - spotlight off politicians, confined and restricted spaces, heavily fortified by NYC's huge and well funded anti-terrorism police state, riffraff kept away from Obama, relieving him of having to interact personally in his own backyard, weather harsher, etc. I don't think the regime leaves anything to chance when they could do things to control it.
Good news though. Several online start-up media companies such as First Look Media will be online soon as competition not just to traditional media but to counter the propaganda fronts for the Intelligence Community. Government propaganda targeted specifically towards Americans in the United States has become legal as of July 2013, thanks to Obama signing the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, reversing a 64-year old ban on the government deploying propaganda against/on its own citizens.
We desperately need to break the hold that corporations, their politicians and government, and their media have over this country. Every voice counts - if we can get it heard. p.s. Karen, I agree. MyIRA is the privatized baby version of Social Security. They will let it mature a little before they kill off the elderly version.