Friday, September 20, 2013

The real outrage

     The Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have long been outraged at the waste, fraud and abuse they see in the welfare system, particularly food stamps. Many evoke Reagan-era stories about welfare queens driving Cadillacs to pick up their government checks.

     Now, Fox News has uncovered an even more “shocking” (their quotes) example of why the food stamp program is a useless money pit.

     In a “News Special” titled “The Great Food Stamp Binge,” Fox discovered a 29-year-old surfer and rocker, whom they said describes himself as living a “rat life” in California. Because he apparently chooses to have no income, he signed up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, i.e. food stamps.

     Fox reported they witnessed him buy lobster with his $200 monthly benefit. “It’s free food,” Fox quoted the surfer dude. “It’s awesome.”

     Fox has screamed its outrage for days. In the same report, Fox also noted that one in seven Americans now receives food stamps. Guilty by association, the implication is clear and even stated outright, that all recipients are just surfer-rockers living the high life on our tax dollars.

     Tea Party conservatives seem to be enjoying their outrage over this example and are using it to justify proposing massive food stamp cuts. However, if food stamps were supporting only those who won’t work, there would be no need to consider how cuts might affect the poor.

     The reality is that that the surfer-rocker is no more representative of those struggling to get by and experiencing real poverty than the welfare queen of the 1980s.

     What’s outrageous is that Fox’s obsession with an anecdote about one man, one case of apparent fraud among the millions who receive food stamps, is being used to support reductions in the SNAP program that would eliminate 76 million meals in a single year in New York City alone, according to Margarette Purvis, president and CEO of Food Bank For New York City, one of America’s largest food banks. That’s what’s outrageous.

     Most middle-class Americans live unbothered by the reality faced by those who struggle just to get by. Few know anyone who lives in real poverty. We can barely imagine the pain and shame of not having enough money to adequately feed our children. We live essentially in separate realities.

     To propose draconian cuts that will take bread and milk out of the stomachs of children just because one guy scammed the system is the true outrage.

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