Scrooge Republicans prefer Pentagon White Elephants to Food Stamps for Poor Children

As of today, Republican cuts in food stamp support present a challenged nearly 23 million American households in keeping their children from hunger. Some 76% of SNAP or food stamp-receiving households include children, the elderly or a disabled person, and 83% of all SNAP assistance goes to such challenged households. The image of a single male lying on a couch drinking beer bought with food stamps is just cheap Scrooge propaganda.

Note that these families are in dire straits not because they are lazy but because Republican lawmakers reduced regulation and oversight of Wall Street banks and investment companies, who promptly engaged in unwise or illegal practices that crashed the US economy in 2008 and after. There has been no recovery to speak of for the non-rich since. Americans who resort to food stamps have increased by 25% in the past four years. So these struggling American families are being punished by the GOP twice– many of them lost their jobs because of bad banking practices or because the Bush economic downturn. And now the minor amelioration of their condition offered by the US government has been cut back.

These are the actions of a Scrooge ruling class, of mean rich white people (though in fact the majority of recipients of food stamps are also white). The same GOP congressmen ran up huge budget deficits for the benefit of their constituencies in the Bush era, and wasted over a trillion dollars on wars of aggression abroad, but now all of a sudden are interested in balanced budgets and austerity.

17% of Republicans say that someone in their household has received food stamps. Recipients are disproportionately young, including children, and disproportionately women. Only 22% of Latinos say they have used them. While African-Americans are twice as likely to have resorted to them as whites, since they are only 12% of the population, they are still a small minority of recipients.

Here are some things that Congress could have cut instead of food for poor children:

Development of the F-35 fighter jet will cost over $9 billion this year and $395.7 billion over all. It is corporate welfare of the first water, an enormous White Elephant, completely unnecessary at a time when the US military has nothing approaching a peer in the world. It is years behind schedule and 70% over budget. Canceling it would allow you to put back the $5 billion for food stamps for at least 80 years and probably more, since there will be more cost over-runs.

Then there is the SSN-774 Virginia-Class Submarine. Nothing wrong in principle with this item, but they cost $4.3 billion apiece, just about the cost of the food stamps that have just been cut. Republican standard-bearer Mitt Romney just last year ran on producing 3 of these submarines a year rather than two. In other words, he wanted to increase the budget deficit by nearly $5 bn a year for the sake of one extra submarine annually. If the GOP is willing to buy an extra submarine (which we don’t actually need– which of our enemies rules the underwater realm?) a year for that much, then it is hard to see why they are so pressed to cut $5 bn in food stamps.

The United States is spiralling down into a basic indecency and callousness not seen since the age of the Robber Barons of the late 19th century. The Koch brothers and other mean rich white people are intent on rolling back all the gains of the Progressive era and the New Deal, returning us to the jungle.

The only good thing about it is that sooner or later the sleeping giant that is the American people will be awakened by the lashes of injustice and the selfishness of a small coterie of the super-rich. And then perhaps we’ll get a new and more robust progressivism that will change the nation and the world.

32 Responses

  1. With Saudi and Israeli self-interests focused like lasers on the destruction of Iran–and anyone allied with them–what do you think the chances are of the U.S. giving further aid to al-Maliki? We lost that war once. What are we going to do, lose it again?

  2. I have posted the gist of this before and I will post it again and again in comments, because it needs to be said until it sinks in, and if I sound like a broke record it is because I am addressing a broken system.

    I have worked off and on as a volunteer on hunger issues in recent years, and now spend most of my time running a small family farm. Last year I had a chance to hear a pediatrician from Harvard Medical in Boston speak at a large conference on childhood hunger in our nation. What impressed me the most about her talk was how paradoxically expensive hunger, and especially childhood hunger is for all of us.

    The main take away for me? Children who are hungry and malnourished generally do not develop into normal healthy adults. Many suffer from damaged immune systems, behavioral and mental problems, and lower intelligence. Imagine how lousy you feel if you are a few hours late for your lunch. Well, multiply that by a half-day, or day or two, then imagine that is being imposed on a developing human being. This is how our children, and many children of the world, suffer. Damaged immune systems in turn mean adult illnesses down the road, meaning stress on an already over-burdened health care system as well as lost productivity and wages from work. Behavioral problems can often result in aggression, resulting in violence and ultimately prison.

    In sum: lost productivity over a lifetime, health problems, prison, means expensive outlays by our health care providers, our schools (where many of the behavioral problems play themselves out), our criminal justice system, and at the same time a loss in revenue as we bandage these problems rather than addressing their root causes (at the dinner plate!). It is far cheaper to put give a child three square meals daily at government expense than it is to pay for the results of what certain elements in this country want to do by cutting SNAP or WIC.

    Food pantries, churches, and all private charities combined only make up at any one time 3-6% of the nourishment provided to the hungry in this country. Cut that out of the federal budget and you have effectively undercut all of the efforts of those private charities. What the government can do to address hunger by contrast is enormous.

    One South American country, Brazil, recently had the right idea (see: link to marketplace.org). They actually decided, rightly so, that food is a public resource, and access to good nutritious food is a fundamental human right. Nationally 16.7 million children live in homes with poor food security (go to: feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-facts/child-hunger-facts.aspx# to see the numbers). My home state of Oregon stands at the bottom (if you exclude DC), with over 29% (!) of our children at some point not having enough to eat, an absolute scandal in a region that is so rich in the production of excellent agricultural goods (particularly those that serve the elite, such as very expensive Pinot Noir).

    There is no weapons system that can address an alleged national security threat that is more serious than the very real damage and waste that we face daily as a result of not feeding our hungry.

    • Grumpy — Double plaudits for not only being observant and informed and cogent on this (among many) issues, but actually doing something to help alleviate some bit of the pain.

      An abiding frustration is the use of the pronoun “we” in any kind of “policy discussion.” My observation is that there never was much “we-“ism in the world, except as to tribe or narrow parochial interests, right down to “enjoyment” of that perfect Pinot Noir. And there’s been a slow and increasing leak from the reservoir. I have no idea any more what causes people to actually care about one another, in the sense of empathy on up to agape, link to rightfromtheheart.org , or whether the quantum of that kind of care is growing or fast receding. It seems pretty clear that the drivers of behavior and the rationalizations and myths and traditions that support all its bits are pretty much pushing in the direction of selfISH and strongly away from selfLESS. It’s not even much about survival any more for the people who have figured out how to institutionalize the REAL “taking,” by which, at the direction and to the benefit of a very few, “we” humans are eating ourselves out of house and home.

      It scares me that the power of “threat perception” extends so far that “we” are tricked into thinking in terms of “food security,” and the kind of enormous insanity that is exemplified in one of my 3×5 rocking horses, the War Department’s “strategic thinking” on how to grow its particualr cancer ever bigger and more invasive and malignant on the back of that New Godzilla Threat, “climate change:” link to acq.osd.mil

      Yah, it all reads like “just good planning.” But with the F-35 as the model, and the kind of thinking that the People of the War Department have shown they are limited to, putting folks from a system that generates the likes of Petraeus and McChrystal and a faceless (until bad crap happens) horde of others “in charge of addressing” that starvation thing and that environmental-calamity thing and those various how-can-“we”-keep-control-of-all-those-resources things seems maybe not like a “winning strategy.” Except for those few people who profit off that kind of “threat management.”

      You available for cloning?

    • You’re right, poverty hurts the entire economy. But the rich don’t need for the entire economy to be strong, just the parts they invest in. Since they can invest anywhere in the world, they don’t need Americans to be working. In fact, they often consider American labor worthless unless it is competitive with the Third World, and they have embarked on a vast, long-term project to bring that about. The poorer ordinary voters are, the more of them the rich can buy off with crumbs.

      On the other side, the military budget has become its own country, a welfare program for white towns across the Red States that lets its recipients believe they are better than people on welfare. What does it do for the rich to have this military made of desperate, arrogant yokels? Well, sometimes you gotta keep those foreign investments in line. We have perfected an empire in which a faction of our poor hate everyone different than themselves at home and abroad, and are then handed weapons as policemen and soldiers to stand over them all, even the educated classes of the Third World and Western Europe. If you think they are rational people who should see they are being materially screwed, then consider that they could have emigrated to more enlightened parts of the US long ago – but they didn’t like the “culture” over there. They are rational about what they value.

    • “What impressed me the most about her talk was how paradoxically expensive hunger, and especially childhood hunger is for all of us.”

      If you think that is expensive, how about these million-dollar weddings and birthday parties some dads have to pay for?

  3. Sadly, that may be the point. It’s not about expense per se but about funneling money and resources upwards at any expense. The more people in poverty the more the prison system profits and the cheaper will be the labor etc. Weapons systems are an excellent way to channel money to the super rich.

  4. Institutional changes are an important element of addressing growing poverty. Consider: ”The sharpest increases in wage inequality in the Western world have taken place in the United States and in Britain, both of which experienced sharp declines in union membership.” Imagine how different worker pay would be in the US if “Wal-Mart employees were part of a union that could demand higher wages and better benefits…[While] retail prices might be slightly higher…the retail giant wouldn’t go out of business—and the American middle class would have several hundred thousand additional members.”
    link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

  5. By chance I read Walter Karp’s “Liberty Under Siege” yesterday in which he described Ronald Reagan’s campaign to stack the deck in favor of the rich and blow hundreds of billions of dollars on military and naval forces and pay for these costs by vindictive penalties against people in the lower income brackets. Karp also noted how Reagan increased the imperial power of the presidency with laws that constrained citizens and the press. All of this was achieved with the assistance of a craven Democratic Party oligarchy led by Tip O’Neill.

    Then we had a variation on the same theme from the Bush/Cheney administration and another generation of Democratic Party oligarchs.

    But wait, as they say in TV commercials. We have more of the same with the only differences being a Democratic Party president in the White House and an increased pace of waste and Big Brother tactics against whistleblowers for now with outspoken activists probably next. Obamacare has been set up to transfer enormous sums of money from the people to insurance companies and there is a duopoly vendetta in the works to turn Social Security over to private interests. To help pay for this there are to be cuts in welfare programs for the poor and needy. Just as in Reagan’s Morning in America.

  6. Thank you for such an enlightening post. I whole heartedly agree with everything that you write. However, I wonder if it’s necessary to use the term “mean rich white people” twice. I think that when characterizing people, especially in negative terms, it’s best to leave out their race. Even if the majority of those you describe are white, that shouldn’t imply a relationship of “white” to “mean and rich,” especially as the latter do seem to belong together.

  7. Grumpy is right. Almost anything is better than WMD, but the USA keeps pretending it is in some existential danger which violence will solve. If the USA halved its Pentagon bill, it could solve most other real problems. Getting rid of all the bases and weapons would be even better!

  8. The American people won’t wake up. They prefer the dream of American exceptionalism: unchallengeable military power, best health care in the world, etc. … and they definitely don’t want people darker than themselves to benefit from a change in government spending priorities. Conservatives even view white recipients of government aid as somehow morally depraved or even mentally defective.

  9. Hungry and malnourished kids grow up to be adults, often angry, mentally disturbed, hopeless, criminal that become uncalled for burdens on society.

    Try going without food for one just one day or for 2 meals, observe your mental and emotional states. You may soon find compassion for the street people, for those without jobs or money for food.

    Austerity doesn’t work. European countries trying austerity end up with their economies getting worse with increasing unemployment. Haven’t heard about austerity measures in the news – not a great news nor money making story.

    Honest Solutions To Improve Economy – Not Simple
    Corrupt Politicians/the Rich Would Block

    1. Shut down the Military Industrial Complex (MIC)! President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s exit speech on Jan.17,1961 warned Americans of the Military Industrial Complex. The MIC only makes Congress members and other millionaires and billionaires richer. And the MIC appears to make America less safe with more enemies and terrorists. America is loosing the support of many countries.

    2. Have the American government circulate new good money by funding construction of new public works projects and repair of existing roads and bridges, levees, schools and colleges, hospitals and other public works projects.

    3. Provide affordable, if not free college education or work-study programs for 4 to 6 years for all. Not everyone is able to begin and complete a college education. About 50% of college students never complete college:

    link to nces.ed.gov
    “Among full-time, first-time undergraduate students who began seeking a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2005, the 6-year graduation rate was 57 percent at public institutions, 65 percent at private nonprofit institutions, and 42 percent at private for-profit institutions.”

    4. Stop the US government from borrowing money(bonds) from the Federal Reserve that charges interest keeping America in debt. Nationalize the Federal Reserve which is not a government department.

    5. Send all the corrupt bank executives to jail for selling phony mortgages that they knew would fail since workers salaries would not keep up with the ballooning interest on non-fixed interest loans and mortgages. And the corrupt Secretaries of the Treasury, other problems and crimes to correct…………

    6. Take the money out of politics………Prohibit millionaires from political office. Special interests……

    7. Replace all the corrupt millionaire/billionaire Congress members, both republicans and democrats with new independent individuals that will represent the 99% of Americans.

    8. Increase the taxes to the rich and corporation that never suffer.

    9. Bring back manufacturing of “”quality product that last to America. Stop manufacturing planned obsolescence. Cars can be built to last 5 to 10 years, 300,000 miles. An economy based on consumerism and fighting stupid wars is a stupid and failing economy that corrupt politicians and the rich thrive on.

    10. Eliminate the secrecy in the US government by following the Constitution, basically without exceptions. Get rid of the corrupt Supreme Court justices.

    11. Prosecute “all” found guilty of crimes including crimes against humanity such as drones’ second attack killing civilians responding to those injured or killed.

    12. Eliminate the illegal monopolies like the news media monopolies. Existing antitrust laws should be enforced.

    13. If there are new Occupy movements, have the Occupy focus on independent candidates and honest incumbents that will represent 99% of Americans and replace the garbage in Congress.

    America needs and real, honst President and Congress.

    The US Government is broken.

    Enough.

    • Corrections to my comments above:

      America needs a real honest President and an honest Congress without secrecy, just honest facts in context with full disclosure, no propaganda, spin, lies nor politicking.

    • To ‘Nobody’, what you list are by and large good goals. The question is how does one go about accomplishing them. The politicians do no longer need the voters because they can be manipulated by sophisticated advertising paid for by rich interests. Mass protests can not take place because of the national security state, the police will put it down with an increasing degree of brutality. The judiciary has by and large been bought…now we have ‘corporations are people’ and ‘money is free speech’

      …this will either self implode over time or we are headed towards an ‘Elysium’ like set up. In the meantime we can slow the trend…

      • For my two cents, I’d bet more on something like the end-state portrayed in H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine”– Eloi and Morlochs…

  10. Those People, Cadillac welfare Queens, 47% Moochers, Able bodies lulled to lives of dependency. The Takers.

    Demonizing the poor with catchy slogans is what the GOP is really good at.

  11. It would be one thing if our war department made some halfway plausible argument for the weapons Congress buys, but when the generals and admirals declare they don’t want some of these multi-billion dollar wasteful purchases then we are looking at Congressional activity that should be considered criminal and the perpetrators should be charged with fraud and corruption.

  12. ‘ perhaps we’ll get a new and more robust progressivism that will change the nation and the world.

    What’s up with this obsession to lead the world?

    The US is the most conservative least progressive nation in the Western world. You have yet to manage universal health care or standard holiday entitlements. You have a government of two right wing parties which deadlocks over finance and can’t keep to a budget.

    You still measure in feet and pounds, a system dropped decades ago by everyone else. The rest of the world has long since stopped looking at you for leadership.

  13. Thanks Juan!

    Yes, first comes a good description of the situation based on good hypothesis about reality (that is, what usually is called ‘facts’), then, comes analysis, and finally conclusions. You are good at all of these.

    The crucial question is in what state the sleeping giant will wake up. Since long, all kinds of seeds are already planted in the US soil.

    A dominant condition in current America is structural and open violence, fear, ignorance, and injustice. These seeds must be cast off in the process of organizing radical change – mental, social, communal, economic, and political.

    Recently Timothy Garton Ash stated that “Americans Need to Discover How the World Sees Them” (The Guardian
    15 October 2013). That is, to shred the crazy self-image that Americans are indoctrinated with.

    Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky has done a great work lifting up the forgotten and marginalized history of the American people.

    Leaving a false self-image is an important and painful work of grieve. England and France has just began to walk this long road of sobering. (Scrapping their nuclear armed submarines, military useless, but dangerous, would be a good next step.)

    Sweden, a regional superpower, terrorizing the European continent during the 17th Century, have had two hundred years to mourn the loss of “greatness.” It has not yet been completed.

    Björn Lindgren

      • Hi Spiral007,

        Thanks for the link, which I´ve just read.

        I am afraid that much of what Lynn Parramore is writing is superficial and historically wrong. I don’t blame him for this, because he simply tries to explain processes which are very complex, hard to discern, and are under current reconsideration of historians.

        For a much better understanding of the Scandinavian welfare state (and Japan), please read Richard Wilkinson’s och Kate Pickett’s: “The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better,” Allen Lane, London 2009.

        In their collected studies, the Scandinavian countries and Japan, always rate highest for welfare, equality, education, medical care, trust, and so on. And there are always two countries that rate lowest: England and the U.S.

        But, from a high level of equality, justice, and welfare, Sweden is now racing downhill due to neo-liberal deregulations and sell-out. (One grand example is the railway system that now is steadily deteriorating and collapsing.) Trade unions, the Social Democratic party have turned away from people. They forgot the crucial question of “power”. But the global finance didn’t.

        And now Sverigedemokraterna, SD, (The Swedish Democrats), an extreme right wing party with a Nazi history, and a
        “social democratic” facade and propaganda, gains access to county parliaments,the parliament (Riksdagen), and state money financing their propaganda. They attract people who mainly used to vote for the Social Democrats.

        The same happens in Denmark and Norway. In Norway, Fremskrittspartiet, with a history and agenda a bit different from SD, now is part of the Norwegian right-wing government.

        This happens all over Europé: the revenge of the destitute.

        If you want to know the Nordic mind and (tribal society) of Scandinavia before the introduction of Christianity, read the Icelandic sagas. Especially “Njal’s saga”; it belongs to world heritage. Already then, equality was important, and women had a strong position.

        Björn Lindgren

        • Hello Bjorn,

          Thanks for your comments….

          Could not find the book you mentioned (on Amazon) but found the following:

          The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson (Apr 26, 2011)

          Is this any good? I will get it and definitely read it….also, I do read a lot of Scandinavian mystery novels and have been getting the inkling of the ascent of the neo-nazi right-wing groups (do not follow the politics in these countries as thoroughly as perhaps I should).

          This does not lead to a good ending for capitalistic/democratic societies….does the end result always have to be fascism, due to greed and capture of state organs by the monied class?

        • Hello Spiral 007,

          It seems that the book you found at Amazon is identical with the edition I have read. The book is a pearl.

          Does the ending have to be fascisic?

          Well, when the “system” has discredited itself, there will be disappointment and confusion. In the Weimar Republik, there were some specific factors present, leading to Nazism: an authoritarian culture, a polarized political scene, a need for compensation, and an inferiority complex. (Compared with Great Britain and France, Germany was a small colonial Power.)

          As I have written in other comments, the seed of Fascism/Nazism could be found already at the dawn of Western civilization: admiration for strength and contempt for weakness.

          Remedy? Lift up the poor! It could be done by a progressive movement (that is not isolated!). It should give space (mental, cultural, ideological, and physical) for people to ask the following question:

          How should a society/community look like that I would like to live in?

          In the case of M.K. Gandhi, his positive program was
          “swaraj”, i.e. self-rule, independence, self-providing community.

          Cheers, Björn Lindgren

          PS: At “Transcend Media Service” homepage, you can read an article by Harald Ofstad, “Did Hitler Win the War?”. Though written 1969, it has relevance still today.

  14. The Republicans don’t have a monopoly on being Scrooges and stuffers of the bloated department of war budget. There are many willing accomplices in the lesser-evil party, aka the Democratic (?) Party.

    Democrat President Slick Willie, smiling and surrounded by some of Wall Street’s most predatory vultures, signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley act that set the United States on its path to the economic crash of 2008. Our current vice president was a leading player in rigging the bankruptcy bill that set credit card companies up to charge usurious rates while it tightened the screws every more on people in dire economic straits.

    • Bill, fully agree with you…I do not believe one party is significantly better than the other when it comes to entrenched politicians (they have all been bought)…

      I found the following article right on…

      link to salon.com

      Just like Reagan, who is now almost worshiped as a saint by the right, was responsible for the breakup of the unions and the bad mouthing of the government; Clinton, who almost sits on a similar pedestal was responsible for sowing the seeds of the middle class decline and the loss of manufacturing.

      • No, the loss of manufacturing was set in the 70s when foreign competitors in steel and auto invented new processes of steel production and better cars than American companies and continued unabated in the early 80s as Reagan brought in his air traffic controllers lock-out to shift blame to greedy workers. The ’70s were a period called at the time “stagflation”. You could put a $10,000 CD in a money market for double digit growth. Interest rates peaked at 21%. Who want to invest in the stock market or in innovation when you could build a retirement with hardly any risk through money market CDs. Volker famously ‘choked off inflation’ with rising interest rates. The late ’80s marked the rise of finance – buy-outs, take-overs and restructuring – that accelerated the trend of de-industrialization. The deals basically sold and traded parts of industrial America without creating jobs, new production and were/are parasitical. At one point, finance made up 40 per cent of GDP. Look at it now: what could be more parasitical that ‘synthetic credit default swaps’. Clinton only opened the gate wider.

        • I do not disagree with your analysis. Finding a single root cause is a futile exercise, when one is talking about society and economy. I would add the oil embargo as a big factor in inflation.

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