by Linda Beale
The House has its priorities firmly in mind. Those priorities involve making sure that the wealthy people and corporations keep their wealth while any and all possible cuts to any welfare or “entitlement” programs are made.
All you have to do is look at the right’s emphasis on passing a farm bill (mostly aiding corporate farmers and gentlemanly nonfarmers) and on cutting food stamps to the nation’s food-insecure. In June, the House proposed slashing $20 billion from food stamps and ended up passing a separate farm bill because it was so determined to cut aid to food-insecure Americans. Now, the media is all concerned that a farm bill won’t pass at all, because the right is insisting on doubling the cut to food aide–slashing $40 billion from the program. See, e.g., Nixon, GOP Rush to Slash Food Stamps Puts Farm Bill in Jeopardy, (Aug. 1, 2013).
These proposed cuts are draconian. As those legislators who took the “live a week on food stamps” challenge learned, it is extraordinarily difficult, time-consuming, and unsatisfying to try to find sufficient food on a budget of $3.00 a day. And there are literally millions of Americans without enough food to live decently, and millions whose well-being will be jeopardized if Congress does not fund food stamps at an adequate level. Food stamp recipients already faced difficulties because of the expiration of the stimulus provisions.
A report released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which studies federal spending, found that the 47 million people who currently receive food stamps will see their benefits reduced in November because of an expiring provision in the stimulus bill passed in 2009 by a Democratic-controlled Congress.
The stimulus law provided a slight boost in benefits for all food stamp recipients as part of a bill to strengthen the economy and ease hardship on millions of unemployed workers.
According to the center’s report, beginning Nov. 1, a family of three will see a reduction of about $29 a month — $319 for the remaining 11 months of the next fiscal year. The report said the cut would result in an average of less than $1.40 per person, per meal. Id.
We are the richest country in the world. Twenty of the country’s richest billionaires earned in 2012 as much money as is needed to cover food aid for food-insecure Americans who go hungry or eat poorly most of the time. Food-insecure Americans lose focus and lose opportunities while those overpaid equity fund managers whine over the unlikely prospect (unlikely because of all the heavy lobbying and the quid pro quo nature of providing campaign support to those in Congress who write the laws) of actually having to pay regular ordinary income rates on their overabundant take from the profits of other people’s money that they manage (i.e., their compensation income, labeled carried interest). Everybody in Michigan pays a very low flat income tax, while underprivileged, unemployed and discriminated against blacks in Detroit scrounge for used metal to sell to buy food or pay the mortgage. Ordinary people have been tossed out of their homes by the banks that were bailed out by the government, while the bank presidents and CEOs and directors and other managers continued business as usual with multimillion dollar salaries, stock options and other perks.
Poor people do not “deserve” to starve. Rich people do not generally “deserve” to be rich. Yet flat tax schemeds and preferential taxation of capital income belie that wisdom by giving the rich a pass. Democratic egalitarianism demands a change. Those at the top have been getting richer and richer, but ordinary Americans have not. It’s time to reverse the redistribution direction. Instead of redistributing resources upwards to the rich, we must move them down to the needy.
Watch the Bill Moyers program on hunger in America (linked at the bottom of the post). If you do not wince with uncomfortableness at the way we Americans are dealing with food insecurity, you must have lost all compassion.
It is time, folks, to just say no to all this brute capitalism, “free” market ideology that has given us an unequal society with high teenage pregnancy, low birth weight babies, high illiteracy, shorter life expectancy, high unemployment, low educational achievement and all the other indices of an underdeveloped country in the midst of enormous, even obscene wealth. Say “NO” to the right’s idea that poverty results from a lack of personal responsibility, rather than a lack of personal opportunity. Say “NO” to the ideology of the self-described meritocracy that considers its own wealth and the poverty of others merited, rather than recognizing the increasing impact of the class status one is born into and the decreasing possibility of upward mobility in America. Say “NO” to the failed pseudo-economic theories of Milt Friedman, Ayn Rand, Glenn Beck, and Karl Rove–the ideology of “free” markets and unfree persons, of “competitive capitalism” and uncompetitive positions defined by class status and money. Say “No” to the politics of the right, that would privatize, deregulate, cut tax revenues and increase military expenditures, that would willingly support a government of largesse and entitlement for the rich and austerity and “personal responsibility” for the poor.