Well, as the republican donnybrooks narrow down, the enemy becomes evident – the American poor. Newt Gingrich particularly dislikes poor folk, especially poor children, because after all, if they were good people they wouldn’t be poor, they’d be working 50 hours a week in some nice sweatshop!
Celeste Monforton at The Pump Handle has a nice post on the realities of the food stamp recipients Newt claims are lazy buggers.
“And we think unconditional efforts by the best food stamp president in American history to maximize dependency is terrible for the future of this country.”
It is absolutely true that there are more food stamp recipients as a percentage of the population than ever in history – and that that was also true during the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency. President Obama’s claim that this is due to the recession is only partly right – the reality is that as fossil energies, health care and housing costs have risen, most households have a smaller and smaller portion of their income to devote to discretionary expenses like food – and oddly, food as become functionally discretionary for many people, I’m not just being facetious, although I wish I was.
For most people with fixed costs for transportation, medications and high housing and associated costs, food is one of the few things you can cut back on – which means that the end of the month looks very different than the beginning. The incredible draw on food pantries, food stamps and soup kitchens isn’t about dependency – or at least dependency on social programs. It is about another kind of dependency, on an economic system that is slowly chewing people up and spitting them out.
It is disturbing that 1 in 7 Americans will soon probably depend on food stamps and 1 in 3 children. As I have argued before that represents a fundamental shift in our culture – we can no longer afford to eat well even on the cheapest food in the world, and the US has now functionally joned other nations that have to subsidize food for its people in order to ensure that they eat. This is a huge fundamental shift – but we also know what happens when we don’t subsidize food for the hungry poor in any nation. The kids suffer, the elderly suffer and those with the strength and the anger riot.
The reason so many people (and you can see this in the comments at the Pump Handle) get so angry about recipients of any kind of aid is that we are so good at setting people against one another, particularly the weakest and most desperate people – so the barely getting by working poor hate the unemployed poor – and we feed on this just as we do on our government subsidized milk.
Depending on food subsidies should not be a source of shame as the last three presidents have moved towards making them normative, and our whole culture has worked to making sure that food came second to everything else. What should be more troubling is asking why we are spending so much on everything else, why food is relegated to the corners, and why a destructive agricultural system whose primary virtue was that it provided cheap food has become unaffordable in so many ways.