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Greg Kaufman: America's Poor Are Demonized To Justify Huge Cuts in Gov't Prgrams

Many low-income Americans work extremely hard but need food stamps and other support to make up for low wages.
 
 
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In the following interview with Bill Moyers, Greg Kaufmann, poverty correspondent for  The Nation, says the poor in America are stereotyped and demonized in an effort to justify huge cuts in food stamps and other crucial programs for low-income Americans.

“People are working and they’re not getting paid enough to feed their families, pay their utilities, pay for their housing, pay for the healthcare… if you’re not paying people enough to pay for the basics, they’re going to need help getting food,” Kaufmann tells Moyers. “There are a lot of corporations that want to be involved in the fight against hunger. The best thing they can do is get on board for fair wages.”

The following is the transcript of an interview that originally appeared on BillMoyers.com

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Bill Moyers: Food stamps were at the core of the monster farm bill that went down to defeat in the House of Representatives last week. That bill would have cut food stamps by some $20 billion over 10 years, but that was too little for House Republicans and too much for House Democrats, although Senate Democrats had already agreed to cuts of more than $4 billion.

Here to talk about food stamps and the farm bill is a journalist whose beat is hunger, politics, and policy. Greg Kaufmann is poverty correspondent for “The Nation” magazine and a contributor to our website, BillMoyers.com. He’s also an advisor to the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, founded by journalist Barbara Ehrenreich and the Institute for Policy Studies. Greg Kaufman, welcome.

Greg Kaufmann: Great to be with you, Bill.

Bill Moyers: There are almost 48 million people using food stamps a day, and over recent years that’s a 70 percent increase. What does your own reporting tell you about why?

Greg Kaufmann: Well, the biggest reason, I think, is the proliferation of low-wage work. People are working and they're not getting paid enough to feed their families, pay their utilities and pay for their housing, pay for the healthcare. We had 28 percent of workers in 2011 made wages that were less than the poverty line. Poverty wages.

Fifty percent of the jobs in this country make less than $34,000 a year. Twenty-five percent make less than the poverty line for a family of four, which is $23,000 a year. So, if you're not paying people enough to pay for the basics, they're going to need help getting food.

And food stamps expanded because we went through the greatest the worst recession since the Great Depression. And it did what it's supposed to do. And now, you know, mostly Republicans are saying, "Why are there so many people on food stamps?" You know, they're claiming the recession's over, but we know that most people on food stamps are, if they're getting work, it's low-wage work that doesn't pay enough to pay for food.

Bill Moyers: The farm bill that failed in Congress last week would've spent $743.9 billion on food stamps and nutrition over the next ten years. Republicans wanted to cut that by some $20 billion over the same period, ten years. Given that we're spending $75 to $78 billion a year now on food stamps, do they have a case?

Greg Kaufmann: Well, look, do they make a point that we’re spending too much? I mean, if they're comfortable saying two million people should be thrown off food stamps, 200,000 low-income children should not have access to meals, to their meals in school. Hey, they can make that argument all they want. I think it's out of sync with the values of this country.