May 20, 2013
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Stephen Fincher, a deranged Republican congressman from Tennessee, is very angry that the federal government is committed to preventing poor people from starving to death:
Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, who supports cuts to the program, had his own Bible verse from the Book of Thessalonians to quote back to Vargas: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” he said.
The program in question is SNAP, better known as food stamps. Fincher and his ultra-right-wing friends in the House are furious about the fact that the worst economic crisis in 80 years has resulted in more Americans needing food stamps. The whole point of programs like SNAP and other automatic stabilizers, of course, is that they kick in when the economy is struggling and people need help. Fincher is shocked and horrified by this heinous policy of ensuring that poor people and their children don't starve. Food is to be earned! Sure, this is the richest country in the history in the world, but if we provide our citizens with food to eat, then freedom is obviously dead.
He fulminates about people who are allegedly "unwilling to work" sucking off the government teat with impunity. This is a patently dishonest representation of the SNAP
program. Most people who receive food stamps cannot be dismissed as losers who are "unwilling to work." Nearly half (47%) of all food stamp recipients are children. Another 8% are 60 years of age or older. The "working poor" - people who live in a household with income from work - represent another 41%. Between children, the elderly, the working poor, and people who want a job but cannot find one - someone should tell Fincher that there are still
more than 3 unemployed job seekers for every 1 opening - that leaves very few people who can be accurately described as being "unwilling" to work. It's also worth noting that the average monthly SNAP benefit is a whopping $287. It takes a deeply disturbed person to crusade against providing this class of people with food to eat, when the economy is this battered, and when the broad economic benefits
of the program have been so well established (at least in the reality-based community).
Now, this would not normally be worthy of mention. Hardly a day goes by without some Republican sadist expressing fury that poor people have it so good. Devising new ways to make the peasants suffer is what makes Republicans wake up in the morning. What's fascinating about this particular case, though, is Fincher's background.
The reason this is even more egregious than the usual Republican class warfare is that Fincher himself is a poster boy for government dependency. It's not just that he's benefited here and there from some government help. That sort of low-level hypocrisy is almost to be expected from these types. But Fincher has received millions - $3.2
million as of June 2010 - in federal crop subsidies. The people who refer to themselves as Tea Partiers
threatened to derail his candidacy over this, but then they realized that they have no principles, and supported him anyway. He's now a member of the "Tea Party Caucus," which, amazingly, is something that actually exists. Fincher's brother and father also snatched another $6.7 million in subsidies as Stephen geared up to run for Congress on a platform of eliminating "wasteful government spending." The "wasteful spending" that he had in mind, of course, was that which serves policy aims with which he disagrees, such as keeping poor people alive.
House Republicans are on a mission to slash the SNAP program by $20 billion over the next decade. A Senate committee, just last week, voted to cut it by "only" $4 billion. If some sort of vicious "compromise" is reached between the sociopaths in the House who are demanding human sacrifice on a massive scale, and the "moderates" in the Senate who are only comfortable with letting some people starve, it will not be pretty. This is not hyperbole, either. SNAP really does keep poor people, including millions of children, from going hungry, and it's under attack from ultra-right-wing ideologues. This program deserves the support and activism of progressives as much as any government program in existence.
Justin Doolittle blogs at www.justindoolittle.net He has a master's in public policy from Stony Brook and a bachelor's in political science from Coastal Carolina.