Look around you, wherever you happen to be. In the office, on the bus home from work, at the post office, in the coffee shop, maybe waiting in line at the grocery store. Now, count off the number of people around you. One, two, three, four, five, six. Stop when you hit seven.
The House GOP wants that person to go hungry.
You may think that reasoning is a bit dramatic, but it's not far from the truth. According to the latest stats, one in seven Americans utilize food stamps -- or, SNAP, in actual legislation parlance -- for at least a portion of their purchases. And the House GOP today pushed through a bill that cuts $40 billion (that's billion with a b) from the program over the next decade. So, while saying that "members of the GOP want one in seven Americans to go hungry" is a bit over the top, as of now, there's really no legitimate evidence to the contrary.
Seeing as this news wasn't entirely surprising, everyone had their perfectly-honed rage-infused soundbites ready to go. The L.A. Times was just waiting for the official vote to take place before hitting "publish" on their op-ed piece.
Their big point:
Data from before the recession show that few people stop working after they start receiving food stamps. And states and cities have been reimposing the work requirement as their economies improve. By pushing that process ahead prematurely, the House bill would force some laid-off workers off the rolls because they can't find a job, and there are no other ways for them to satisfy the work requirement.
The real solution to the high demand for food stamps is to get the economy growing faster, not to force more Americans to go hungry. Unfortunately, the former is hard to do, and the latter seems all too easy for the House GOP.
As far as the Democrat side of the aisle is concerned with the massive cuts, shocker, they're certainly not in favor:
"It's a sad day in the people's House when the leadership brings to the floor one of the most heartless bills I have ever seen," said Representative James McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts. "Its terrible policy trapped in a terrible process."
And from Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier:
"They somehow feel like crusaders, like heroes when they vote to cut food stamps," she said of GOP backers of the cuts. "Some of these same members travel to foreign countries under the guise of official business. They dine at lavish restaurants, eating steak, vodka and even caviar."
The plan's passage -- which was passed in a 217-210 vote, with all Democrats voting against the measure -- also led a few Republicans to showcase some hesitation about the massive cuts:
"I just think on balance it's not a good bill," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. who intends to vote against the measure. "Against the whole backdrop of a government shutdown, I just think it's too much."
But, simply to offer some kind of balance to this post, here's the GOP's point of view regarding why the cuts are necessary for all of the American people:
[A]griculture Committee member Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said Thursday "we are not talking about eliminating the SNAP program." The goal of the bill, he said, is to "limit the public assistance program to those who qualify and close loopholes that have allowed people to game the system." The changes will help "keep the safety net intact for qualified families," he said.
And apparently that "safety net" means that one in seven Americans are back to worrying how they're going to put food on their table.
If there's any consolation to these cuts getting passed, it's that the current makeup of the Senate will keep this vote from really doing a whole lot. When the bill reaches that chamber of Congress, the Democrat-led Senate is planning on getting rid of a substantial part of these cuts before reconciling back with in the House. But still, the message from the House GOP should be clear to voters by now:
Food is not a basic right for the American people.
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