I often criticize the modern GOP for its radicalized and weaponized cruelty. In the interest of being fair and balanced, let me pay them a rare, pseudo-complement. I grudgingly admire their relentless consistency around one issue which has the ability to unite both RINOs and MAGAs: they will never miss an opportunity to starve the poor in order to fatten and butter up the rich.
The latest example of Republicans’ comic book villainy is their ongoing attempt to weaken SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps, which help feed nearly 41 million low-income Americans who receive an average of over $230 each month for groceries.
Cosplaying as deficit hawks, the GOP seeks to to gut SNAP, along with other popular government programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, under the guise of reducing America’s $31 trillion dollar debt they helped create (and which they only show concern over when they’re out of the White House). It doesn’t take much to see through the GOP’s cheap spandex and mask to reveal they’re economic terrorists currently hijacking the debt ceiling, and thereby potentially harming the global economy, just so they can cut popular welfare programs to give tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent.
The GOP’s ultra-rich donor base must be placated and pleased regardless of who suffers. As such, sacrifices must be made.
Enter poor families and their children. They have always served as reliable tributes, rarely missed and easily forgotten. The expansion of SNAP benefits, one of the last standing COVID relief programs, serves as a lifeboat for these impoverished Americans who are barely surviving in a difficult economy with low wages, inflation, the lingering damages wrought by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
According to a report from the nonprofit research group, The Urban Institute, SNAP benefits kept 4.2 million people out of poverty and reduced poverty rates for children by 14 percent in the final quarter of 2021. The expanded benefits have already ended in 18 states, negatively affecting nine million people.
In an email to Axios, Moody’s economist Mark Zandi wrote that SNAP benefits have an overall positive impact on the economy, because they give money to families to buy groceries, and cutting them will have only a marginal impact on inflation. Specifically, “every $1 spent on SNAP currently generates about $1.42 in GDP. (The number is higher when the economy is weaker.)” Cuts in SNAP, according to Zandi, will only reduce CPI inflation by a measly .07 percent.
Surely, the GOP can find something else to trim so our children can eat bread?
Perhaps a small little tuck from the defense budget is in order, considering the U.S. has the world’s most awesome and expansive military? Nope. Last year, Congress passed an $858 billion bill and increased the defense budget by eight percent.
The “pro-life-as-long-as-you’re-in-the womb” GOP cares little for child poverty and homelessness, insisting that poor kids should pull themselves from their BabyBjorn bootstraps and stop whining and asking for “handouts,” such as the Child Tax Credit, which temporarily helped reduce the child poverty rate by 12 percent until it was iced by Republicans and moderate (obstructionist) Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.
These supposed GOP “deficit hawks,” under the leadership of the spineless House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, are allegedly so zealous about “balancing the budget” that they have no problem adding $3 trillion to the deficit to reward their gilded and privileged donor base—whose wealth has, historically, never “trickled down” but instead stayed at the top for the one percent. Not only do Republicans want to extend Trump’s expiring $2.7 trillion tax cuts, which did nothing to juice the economy, but the new House majority already passed a bill that increased the deficit by $114 billion and helps the rich pay less on their taxes.
If Republicans still needed street credibility to bolster their reputations as heartless class warriors, Rep. Matt Gaetz called for new “work requirements as a feature for welfare reform,” even though many states already have such requirements to receive food stamps. Last month, the GOP proposed more draconian restrictions that would limit needy families from accessing food stamps.
If your family has more than one vehicle, well, best of luck to you, because you’ll no longer be eligible. Also, the GOP wants to restrict what foods people will be able to buy with food stamps: no white grains, no baked, refried, or chili beans, no fresh meats, no sliced, cubed, or crumbled cheese, and definitely no American cheese. However, don’t fret, your child can eat canned meat and 100 percent whole wheat bread, brown rice, and 100 percent whole wheat pasta—no white bread. What child doesn’t love canned spam on wheat bread? Even Marie Antoinette let the poor eat cake, but the GOP says, “Hold the flour!”
No such cruel, restrictive conditions have even been placed on the rich to receive more tax cuts.
This utter contempt for the poor is a feature, not a bug, of the GOP which also proclaims itself to be the party of God and uses Jesus as a gun-toting, white nationalist mascot instead of actually following his example of feeding the poor and helping the sick. This is a sickness that has contaminated the entire party, including its alleged “moderates,” such as Sen. Mitt Romney. Recall in 2012, when Romney was the Republican presidential nominee, he was caught on tape telling wealthy donors that he believes “47 percent” of Americans are “dependent upon government…believe that they are victims…believe the government has a responsibility to care for them…these are people who pay no income tax.”
Fast forward to 2023 and several Republican lawmakers were openly boasting about killing Social Security until President Biden called them out during his State of the Union address, though he politely declined to name them. But the public fallout was so intense that it forced Sen. Rick Scott to amend his disastrous economic policy, which originally called for cutting Social Security and Medicare.
While the GOP’s proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare have now been exposed and used to shame them towards relative moderation, the majority is still unaware of how many Americans are on the verge of slipping into hunger and food scarcity. It’s up to Democrats to continue hammering Republicans publicly about their transparent plans to starve American children just so they could continue feeding the rich.
More awareness and relentless messaging about the GOP’s cruelty, especially their food restrictions for families, will not only help save SNAP benefits from cuts, but also be a winning Democratic talking point ahead of the 2024 election.