When Republicans Fight Hungry Families and Nuns

sister-simone-campbellEver have to worry if you’ll be eating tomorrow, or tonight? Ever have to rely on a soup kitchen or food pantry to make it through the week? Ever feel the gut-wrenching indignity of worrying about what you’ll feed your child in the good ol’ USofA?

Apparently, about 80% of us have at least once. According to the AP:

The gauge defines “economic insecurity” as a year or more of periodic joblessness, reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.

And with a growing wealth disparity between the wealthy and the rest of us, with a shrinking middle class, with increasing union busting and resultant deterioration of workers’ rights and bargaining tools throughout the US, the need for public assistance is rising. Of course we need to raise the minimum wage to a living standard in order to get more equitable pay at the base, leading to more influx of cash at all levels rather than just the top – but even IF that solution were to be employed overnight, there’d still be many, many hungry people out there. And if you’re like me, you may be one of them.

Recently you may have heard from the House of Representatives that the Republicans who control the House want to drastically cut SNAP benefits. By over 20 billion dollars over the next ten years, throwing 2,000,000 people in dire need of assistance off the rolls. Which of course completely ignores the reality of the situation – SNAP funding should be increased because the price of food doesn’t decrease and neither does the population.

When it became clear that the Captain-Planet-Level-Villain Hoggish Greedly* Republicans could not get the Farm Bill out of committee, they decided to cut the bill into two parts – one having to do with agriculture and the giant subsidies for Big Ag and the other having to do with the 80% of us who face hunger at least one year of our lives. Not to mention the 47%, the McDonald’s and Walmart employees, the seasonal workers, the unemployed who do not qualify for or have over-extended their unemployment insurance and thus aren’t counted, etc…

You know, those societal leeches that the Ayn Rand crowd despises because, though we could vote for them, we don’t have enough money to bribe them. They look at their congressional seat as a stepping stone to lobbying and real money and us pesky 80% are reminders of what they do not want to be, so they have the opposite of empathy. They have antipathy. Just sheer out-and-out hatred for their fellow human beings. How else to explain the gutting of the SNAP benefits now being proposed to be $40,000,000.00? Such a cut is so fundamentally irresponsible and fiscally stupid, let alone mean-spirited, that I’m sure the Republican Party has been possessed by Chucky, Puppet Demon of Slashing.

Look at this issue from an economic standpoint. The preferred Republican (and neo-liberal) method of economic investment is to give steep tax cuts to the rich (like the Bush taxes) or corporate tax cuts. These make a return to the economy of $0.30 to every tax dollar spent. On the other hand, for each dollar given in unemployment benefits and food stamps, the economy receives about $1.70 back**. So, in short, when tax breaks are given to the rich, we lose money. When they are given to poor people who need to buy stuff quickly and cannot hoard their wealth, the economy is stimulated and actually creates wealth. So, again, who are the wealth creators?

Another argument that conservatives – and particularly the Christian Right – love to make is that charity should take care of the poor. Anybody who spends as much time in front of numbers and policy as professional politicians do (or should) is supposed to know that what they propose is incompetent wish-making at its derpiest. Though absolutely necessary, charity is a band-aid approach. Food injustice is a structural break in the Hoover Dam. I don’t care how many patchworks or how big the bandages are – they will never be able to stop the collapse, pull back the flood, and save the village.

To be honest, food stamps do not completely work either. Many, many people are not eligible for them that should be, and allowing poor people to buy more processed foods isn’t a way to a healthier populace. True food justice would look at structural problems and inequity so that all could afford Whole Foods-style quality, for instance.

But imagine that forty million people could no longer receive food stamps. Despicable politicians like Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) seem to believe that the Catholic Church should be able to take care of most of them. He actually seems to think it’s the church’s obligation to take care of them, perhaps thinking that if nuns like Sister Simone Campbell hound him about care for the poor, then maybe he’s found a doorstep where he can place his burden (you know, because poor people are a burden?), in a basket with a note that says, “They’re YOUR problem now!”

Ribble asked Sister Campbell, “What is the church doing wrong that they have to come to the government to get so much help?” Seriously. He seriously deflected blame for his evil. That’s how heartless and willfully ignorant these villains are. Sister Campbell, who has traded barbs with Colbert and garnered up her own controversy with her Nuns on the Bus campaign, is too bright for the likes of a lowly US Congresscritter.  “Justice comes before charity… Everyone has a right to eat, and therefore there is a governmental responsibility to ensure everyone’s capacity to eat. Love and care makes a difference, but the issues are so big there isn’t sufficient charitable dollars there.”

Are the forty million supposed to get their needed food now from already flooded food pantries? No fresh fruit or vegetables, or fresh food of any sort. Bread with high mold probability. No dairy products. Lots of cans. Lots. People being turned away at times. The food offered there is supplemental at best. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve recently used them and am grateful. They work in a pinch. But pinches are for short periods of time, not for trying to feed families for years. Not in the land of plenty.

Where will the pantries find the extra volunteers; let alone the extra food? Maybe Ribble can help out. Maybe he can lend a hand every day, because it sure doesn’t seem like he’s doing anything constructive in Washington. If he was, he’d know what an incompetent plan he’s backing.


*Hoggish Greedly is one of the supervillains from the 90s cartoon, Captain Planet. I just remember that show for all the particularly gross and malicious villains who seemed to have no agenda but to dirty the world. They’re how I’m thinking Republicans are these days. Nothing but hurt.

**Also, infrastructure spending pays back $1.59 for each dollar. Which makes sense in a high trade economy. Just gotta smh at that…


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


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