There they go again. It seems as though the Republican Party cannot control themselves when it comes to their disdain for poor people. Does that sound somewhat harsh? Perhaps, but the evidence these days seems overwhelming. The recently enacted massive tax cut, which exceedingly benefits the wealthiest of Americans and corporations serves as a prime example of where the loyalties of this Republican Congress reside. Now, when you couple that with the recently reported news that the Agricultural Committee in Congress has proposed massive cuts to the SNAP program (aka food stamps), you get the idea that the Party of Trump has basically declared war on the poor.
While Mr. Trump campaigned as a populist and vowed to not cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, he has governed much differently. No longer is he touting his supposed allegiance to those programs, especially since the tax cuts will add trillions to the debt and deficit over the next several years. Evidently he has succumbed to the Paul Ryan ‘entitlement’ reform ideology. But perhaps even more pathetic is the recent budget proposal put forth by the White House that pretty much takes a sledgehammer to the SNAP program. Mr. Trump has proposed a 30% cut over the next 10 years to SNAP totaling nearly 213 billion dollars. In addition, the AG Committee has proposed not only throwing nearly 8 million people off of SNAP over the next 10 years but also wants to implement work and even drug testing requirements on recipients. Many in the media like to refer to these kinds of actions by republicans as ‘dog whistle’ politics. Let’s be clear, this is not ‘dog whistle’ politics anymore. No, this is ‘bullhorn’ politics. With Mr. Trump leading the charge, attacking the poor and people of color is now considered standard operating procedure for the Republican Party.
The current state of politics on the Right should come as no surprise. After all, who can forget Ronald Reagan and his ‘welfare queen’ references while he campaigned in the Eighties? Clearly those racial divisions were meant to inflame white middle class voters back then and Mr. Trump capitalized on those same themes while he campaigned in the last election. The work requirement and drug testing components to SNAP are certainly meant to further the myth that most recipients are deadbeats. That most are lazy, on drugs, and are stuck in a culture of governmental dependence. This of course is wrong on so many levels. Last year, Caitlan Dewey of the Washington Post wrote about some of these so-called food stamp myths based on her interview with Craig Gundersen, a professor of agriculture and consumer economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana. The piece points out that instead of deadbeats, most recipients of food stamps are children, the elderly, or people with disabilities. It also points out that since 2013 spending for the SNAP program has been steadily falling, coinciding with the improving economy.
So the message to Mr. Trump and the Republican Party is that while attacking the poor and vulnerable may get you cheap political points, it’s wrong not just morally but also in a practical sense. The SNAP program works. It’s there for people when they need it. It helps keep people out of poverty. Passing a massive tax cut for people and corporations that did not need it while going after programs that help the less fortunate should not be the norm in the richest country on the face of the earth.