Tag Archives: food stamps

Oh, SNAP! The GOP’s war on the poor in the House farm bill

Eighty percent of the farm bill’s spending is on nutrition programs, e.g., the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly food stamps), but House Republicans want to start making work requirements for recipients harsher in order to benefit from these programs. No such requirements apply to the corporate welfare handed out to corporate executives to the tune of billions of dollars.

Tara Golshen at Vox.com has an explainer, House Republicans’ push to slash food stamps in the farm bill, explained:

The first draft of House Republicans’ farm bill, a $867 billion legislative package that subsidizes agriculture and food assistance programs, which Democrats say was written behind closed doors and without Democratic input. The bill has already passed out of the House Committee on Agriculture using only Republican votes. This is somewhat unusual — the farm bill has historically been bipartisan but has been plagued by a polarizing push over food assistance in recent years.

Rep. Collin Peterson, a conservative Minnesota Democrat and the Agricultural Committee’s ranking member, gave an impassioned statement just ahead of the partisan vote, saying, “We were pushed away by an ideological fight I repeatedly warned the chairman not to start.”

The House Rules Committee will devote Tuesday and Wednesday to the 2018 farm bill as members plow through a long list of amendments, raising the possibility of heated debate before it faces a floor vote later this week. Farm Bill Gets Two Days of House Rules Committee Consideration.

The Republican proposal to impose stricter work requirements and anti-fraud measures on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly known as food stamps — is estimated to slash $20 billion from the program’s benefits over the next 10 years. One million people in households of more than 2 million individual could be pushed off the program or experience reduced benefits, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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More poor bashing than usual in AZ legislative session

Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com

King Crab Legs 6-92

It definitely seems as if this is the Year of Going After the Poor with a Vengeance for Republicans in the Arizona Legislature. Which is saying something, since these are people who have shown an abundance of enthusiasm for punishing low income residents for their (real or imagined) transgressions for several years now. Bills going through committees this session target poor people’s public assistance and voting rights, perpetuating narratives about their being shiftless and untrustworthy. (And the usurious lenders that Arizona voters drop-kicked out of the state in 2008 are back.)

The complete takeover of our state by Americans For Prosperity (funded by the Koch brothers) types in the 2014 election has created the perfect conditions for a total war on low income people. There’s not likely to be much push-back on it from the public as we non-poor Americans are a bunch of judgmental pricks about poor people’s life choices, as Bryce Covert of Mother Jones notes: Continue reading

Fruity or Oaky? Rambling Thoughts on White People Problems

by Pamela Powers Hannley

My coffee table book is too large for my coffee table.

My Internet connection is too slow.

My dishwasher doesn’t really get the dishes clean.

iPads should have a USB connection.

I can’t remember all of my passwords.

Will Wall Street gambling hurt by 401K’s performance?

My car is annoying. The on-board computer tells me when to add air to the tires, when someone’s seatbelt is undone, and when it needs to go to the shop for service.

I hate it when I find a good recipe on the Internet and then can’t find it again.

Cable TV is too expensive for what your get. NetFlix is the way to go– or just plug the laptop into the flat screen TV.

I give my dog a daily dab of Greek yogurt with her dog food because she farts too much.

Heck with the dog. I’m out of probiotics.

I ran out of dishwasher liquid on Christmas. Why were the grocery stores closed?

I need a bigger hot water heater because I like steamy showers.

Should I add a diamond anniversary band to my wedding set?

Fast food workers should be glad they have a job. Minimum wage is just a starter salary for teenagers.

My smart phone camera doesn’t have a high-enough resolution.

Dry cleaning is a necessary evil.

Why do I have to press “1″ for English?

Charter or private school? Public education is a mess.

Email solicitations for donations are annoying.

I have so many device chargers that it’s hard to keep them straight.

Mini-dorms and maxi-dorms are decreasing my property values.

Lugging bottles of filtered water into the house is a hassle. I need purified water from the tap.

Poor people shouldn’t eat fast food. Buying organic is so much better for them.

I make chicken enchiladas with whole wheat tortillas, and I add plain yogurt and nutritional yeast to guacamole. There, I said it.

It’s 6:30 a.m., and my newspaper hasn’t been delivered yet. Where is that guy?

Why should I subsidize Medicaid with my taxes? The government should take care of the poor.

Coconut Minis!

Is seven remote controls too many?

Hot guacamole? Yum, it’s great in a bread bowl. Just remember to stir continuously so it doesn’t scorch when you’re cooking it.

Gentrification? So, what’s wrong with improving the neighborhood?

I support mass transportation. I took the bus twice last year.

A wine refrigerator would be nice.

Salmon or halibut?

Mac or PC?

iPhone or Droid?

Tablet or laptop?

Verizon or Credo?

Fur or fake?

Fruity or oaky?

Whether you call these “white people problems” or “first world problems,” the message is the same. To all of you who are living near the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, don’t forget the people at the bottom who are searching for food and shelter– not the remote control.

Self-Actualization, White People Problems, & the War on the Poor

640px-Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svgby Pamela Powers Hannley

As one year comes to a close and another begins, people often look back at events to reflect and perhaps resolve to improve their lives or change their behaviors in the coming year. In 2013, the Do-Nothing-at-All Congress— led by the nose by Teapublicans– continued its war on the poor– fighting for cuts to food stamps and unemployment and fighting for austerity for the 99%, while disingenuously padding the pockets of their corporate benefactors.

As Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs teaches us, people must satisfy their basic needs before they can become fully self-actualized, before they can reach their full potential. To put this simply, if you don't have food, water, and shelter, your time, energy and resources will be spent obtaining those basic needs. Until you have security and the necessities of life, you will not have the luxury to worry about trifles– Christmas gifts, video game releases, wine selections, fancy coffee, designer-label clothes, insignificant social snubs, political differences– in other words, "white people problems".

Since our country is governed by the  Congressional millionaire's club, it's no wonder that they can't relate to the poor (or even the struggling middle class).

The richest man in Congress is California Representative Darrell Issa, who has a net worth of $335 million. How can he know what it's like to live in poverty? Has he ever tried to live on the food stamp allotment of $4/day? Has he ever had to choose between buying food or buying medicine? Has he been evicted? While members of the Millionaire's Club occupy themselves with fundraising, satisfying the needs of the 1%, and climbing the ladder of success and power toward self-actualization, millions of Americans struggle to meet basic needs, at the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy.

Keeping Americans desperate by off-shoring jobs, depressing wages, and promoting fear and division among those of us in the bottom 99% enables the upper class remain in power. As long as we allow them to manipulate our government with money, too many Americans will continue to live on the edges of society; too many children will go hungry; too many people will live on the street.

Progressives fought the good fight in 2013— pushing back against cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment, and Food Stamps– while promoting fiscal responsibility, a humanely balanced budget, military spending cuts, peace, and revenue generation through higher taxes on the wealthy and the Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street trades.

We will continue that fight in the coming year.

Tucson Food Stamp Challenge: A Teachable Moment

Food-stamp32-sig-sm72by Pamela Powers Hannley

September is Hunger Action Month. Locally, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona is encouraging Tucson residents to take the SNAP (food stamp) challenge by trying to live on $4 of food per person per day.

If you follow my blog, you know that I write regularly about poverty and imperiled social safety net programs, including food stamps and other nutrition programs like Meals on Wheels and school lunches. When the food bank called me and asked if I wanted to join the SNAP Challenge and blog about it, I jumped on board. I was intrigued by Cory Booker’s food stamp challenge blogging and video and wanted to try it.

My husband and I both participated in the SNAP challenge this week. Since there were 2 of us doing it, our allotment was $32 for the 4 days of the challenge. Read about our experience after the jump.

Broccoli39-sm72On Sunday, with SNAP in mind, we purchased $20 of food– mostly bulk grains and vegetables– at Sprouts in midtown Tucson and purchased a few additional items– like butter and ground turkey– at Fry’s on Monday. It was the first time in years that I looked at every price, weighed all of my purchases, scouted for items that were on sale, and looked for cheaper alternatives to regular purchases (like buying a 1 lb block of butter in a plain wrapper for $2.79 , instead of 4 quarters individually wrapped and boxed for $4.39 or buying Roma tomatoes for $.99/lb rather than vine ripened tomatoes for twice the price).

What we purchased (above) was almost as interesting as what we didn’t purchase.

We bought: a 5lb bag potatoes, 2 sweet potatoes, 3 Roma tomatoes, 1 head of broccoli, 1 head of Romaine lettuce, 2 ears of corn, 1 lb of brown rice, 1 lb of dried black beans, 1 cantaloupe, 1 package of whole wheat tortillas, 1 mango, 1 small bag of carrots, 2 Hatch chillies, 12 eggs, cheese, 1 lb of ground turkey, 1 block o’ butter, tofu, and $4 worth of coffee. Our most expensive food item was the ground turkey at $3.79, followed by tortillas ($2.99), and eggs and butter ($2.79 each). We spent about $10 total on all of the fruits and vegetables.

Food items that we usually buy– but didn’t– include: salmon, chicken breast, lunch meat, Kefir, Greek yogurt, expensive cheese, crackers, chips, good bread, milk, olive oil, prepared sauces, specialty foods, non-dairy ice cream, and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. What’s interesting to note is the number of protein-rich foods we couldn’t afford to buy.

Having read many Facebook posts and the food bank’s communal blog written by other SNAP challenge participants, I think we did pretty well, compared to some others who tried this. Although we probably didn’t consume enough protein during the past 4 days, we didn’t go hungry, we didn’t run out of food, and, for the most part, we ate well and included many fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in our meals– not junk food.

Although we ate slightly different items at some meals (since I am a vegetarian and he isn’t), we cooked our usual 3 meals per day over the 4 days. Some food choices got repetitious– particularly the tofu and black beans– because it’s difficult to create a variety of meals with the same ingredients. Creativity helped a lot– in coming up with different combinations and with making substitutions based upon what’s available. For example, we always cook with olive oil, but since we didn’t buy oil with our SNAP allotment, we ended up cooking with butter. (The butter was a tasty change of pace for us, but it’s interesting to note that we had to make an unhealthy choice because of our limited food budget.)

Our dinner menus included vegetable and tofu fried rice on Tuesday; corn on the cob, steamed sweet potatoes, and salad with lettuce, tomato, and carrots on Wednesday; and cheese and Hatch chili omelette with sauted sweet potatoes on Thursday. Lunches consisted of a bowl of black beans with salad; broccoli, brown rice, and cheese burritos; ground turkey, brown rice, and cheese burritos; black bean, potato, and cheese burritos; or stir-fry leftovers. The stir-fry meal is a good example of a modified regular dish we make because we had limited veggies and no prepared sauces to spike it up. The $.22 worth of fresh chilies really came in handy several times– including in the stir-fry. Stretching small quantities of food is another skill learned on the SNAP challenge. It was amazing how my husband stretched that one pound of ground turkey out over 4 days– fashioning it into burritos for lunch and self-styled meat patties to eat with his morning egg and home fries.

There are lessons learned here on the SNAP challenge.

It takes a lot of planning, creativity, and home cooking to exist on the food stamp allotment of $4/day/person. For the most part, we made the SNAP allotment work for us by shopping frugally, cooking everything from scratch, and making trade-offs. But we have life skills and education that many food stamp recipients don’t have– like a masters in public health. An 18-year-old single mom would have a much harder time creating healthy meals for herself and her child on this meager amount of money than we did.

It’s easier to live on SNAP when you’re a couple (without kids). Getting $32 for the 2 of us enabled us to buy a wider range of food. I think it would be extremely difficult to live on food stamps if you are a single parent with a child because you would be constantly saying, “No, we can’t afford to buy that.” Prepared foods– cereal, peanut butter, cookies, chips, frozen dinners, soda, candy– are marketed heavily to children. It was easy for us to bypass all of those pricey items.

Buying bulk foods and shopping sales saves money. Sprouts has a wide variety of bulk grains, fruits, and vegetables at affordable prices. It was a good choice for the bulk of our SNAP shopping because we could buy one pound of black beans for $1.69 or one pound of brown rice for $.99, instead of large prepackaged bags.

Living on foods stamps is about making wise choices and trade-offs. The bottomline is: on SNAP you can’t buy or eat what you want when you want– especially meat, fish, and chicken. When you’re on such a strict food budget, you have to make tough choices. The lack of variety– particularly in protein-rich foods– got boring for me, but beyond “boring”, it’s not healthy to have such a limited diet.

The official 4-day challenge ends today– Friday– but you can still take the challenge and try living on a $4/day/person food stamp budget. Living on SNAP is anything but a snap. If you’re in the cut food stamps political camp, put your money where your mouth is and take the SNAP challenge.

Like what you read here? Check out my Word Press blog Tucson-Progressive.com, my Tumblr page, or my Facebook page.

From DC to Texas: Men Behaving Badly (video)

Texas-flagby Pamela Powers Hannley

From the failure of the Farm Bill to the ups and downs of Immigration Reform to last-minute,late night anti-abortion bills– it’s been a wild ride lately. And, the craziness is not likely to stop any time soon.

After the jump, check out several news stories and two videos which highlight [Republican] men behaving badly in the Congress and multiple state legislatures. Heavy sigh. Will this strategy of "subtraction" work for them in 2014 or 2016? I personally don't see how it can.

All Eyes on Battle Between Texas Legislature and Pro-Choice Protesters

The Texas House approved the draconian anti-abortion bill that was stopped a few weeks ago by State Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster. The performances of three women are worth note. (Quotes form MS. Magazine Blog.)

A Republican who dared to vote “No” with the Democrats and said…

Now is not the time to play political football with women’s health. Abortion … is a constitutionally protected right.

A Democrat railed against the Republicans who would not allow even rape or incest victims to get abortions after 20 weeks and said…

When a person is raped, a woman is raped, they don’t go and see whether or not it’s a Republican woman or a Democratic woman or an independent woman, the rapist just rapes a woman. And I don’t want to force them to have to use a coat hanger [in a] back alley or use a knitting needle or use a feather or take turpentine. I want to make sure that the law allows them that option.

A citizen who was removed from the Legislative Chambers but managed to say this first…

Thank you for being you, Texas legislature. You have radicalized hundreds of thousands of us. And no matter what you do for the next 22 days, women and their allies are coming for you.

You can see her whole testimony here before the Texas Rangers forcibly removed her.

Now that both chambers of the Texas Legislature have passed this anti-choice Legislation, it goes to Governor Rick “protect-the-fetus” Perry’s desk for a signature. From the Arizona Daily Star

“Today the Texas Legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life,” said Gov. Rick Perry, who will sign the bill into law in the next few days. “This legislation builds on the strong and unwavering commitment we have made to defend life and protect women’s health.” [Emphasis added.]

The Decline of North Carolina

In 2013, Republicans took control over the state government of North Carolina. This editorial in the New York Times chronicles North Carolina’s dramatic decline after just a few months under total Republican control. Here is a taste of the “grotesque damage” that Republicans have created in a few short months. From the New York Times

In January, after the election of Pat McCrory as governor, Republicans took control of both the executive and legislative branches for the first time since Reconstruction. Since then, state government has become a demolition derby, tearing down years of progress in public education, tax policy, racial equality in the courtroom and access to the ballot.

The cruelest decision by lawmakers went into effect last week: ending federal unemployment benefits for 70,000 residents. Another 100,000 will lose their checks in a few months. Those still receiving benefits will find that they have been cut by a third, to a maximum of $350 weekly from $535, and the length of time they can receive benefits has been slashed from 26 weeks to as few as 12 weeks.

The state has the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the country, and many Republicans insulted workers by blaming their joblessness on generous benefits. In fact, though, North Carolina is the only state that has lost long-term federal benefits, because it did not want to pay back $2.5 billion it owed to Washington for the program. The State Chamber of Commerce argued that cutting weekly benefits would be better than forcing businesses to pay more in taxes to pay off the debt, and lawmakers blindly went along, dropping out of the federal program.

At the same time, the state is also making it harder for future generations of workers to get jobs, cutting back sharply on spending for public schools…

We’ve seen this “blame the poor” meme repeated by Republicans at all levels– from the US House of Representatives to the Arizona Legislature. Instead of starting jobs programs or boosting the economy, what does the NC Legislature do? Take money out of the pockets of people who can least afford it– the poor and the unemployed.

On the abortion front, NC legislators have been infamously attaching anti-abortion measures onto totally unrelated bills– like the one outlawing Sharia Law and another one on motorcycle safety. (Oh, yeah, that makes sense.)

Food Stamps Cut from Farm Bill

Like petulant children offering a middle finger salute, Republicans in the US House of Representatives took food stamps and other supplemental nutrition programs out of the Farm Bill and passed it.  You’ll remember that a few weeks ago the Farm Bill was defeated in the House because the bill included dramatic cuts to food stamps a

nd schools lunches– while increasing subsidies to agribusiness. Well, just to show us (and those uppity poor people), they eliminated the supplemental food programs but kept the pork barrel spending for agribusiness. From the New York Times

Democrats denounced the bill as a naked attempt to make draconian cuts in the food stamp program.

“A vote for this bill is a vote to end nutrition in America,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.

Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, called the House measure “an insult to rural America.”

Anti-hunger groups called passage of the farm bill without the food stamp program a disgrace.

“Today’s vote is the latest smoking gun that the House majority isn’t truly interested in deficit reduction,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “They’re interested in supporting special interest groups over hungry Americans.”

The House got so out of control during this “debate” that Republicans booed Congresswoman Corrine Brown when she dared to quote the Bible to them. (Kind of embarrassing when one of those heathen Democrats quotes the Bible to Bible-thumpers behaving badly.) From The Raw Story…

Republicans in the House of Representatives on Thursday threatened to strike a Democratic representative’s words from the record and then booed her after she shamed them for cutting food stamp funding from the farm bill.

“The Bible says, to whom much is given, much is required,” Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) observed during debate over whether funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) should be stripped from the farm bill. “And this is a sad day in the House of Representatives. Shame on the Republicans! Shame on the House of Representatives!”

After an objection from Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA), Speaker pro tempore Kevin Yoder (R-KS) ordered Brown to “suspend” and “be seated.”

“Excuse me,” Brown replied, glaring at Yoder. “What did I say that was incorrect?” [Emphasis added. Watch the fiasco here.]

Does Anyone See a Pattern Here?

Former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he didn’t care about the 47% of Americans who were just moochers, people who feel entitled to government assistance. Although it has been obvious for many years that the Republican Party stands with 1% (and not the 99%), it was shocking to hear Romney’s crass take on the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the wounded, the hungry, the young. Blinded by ideology and religiosity, Republicans in the Congress and in State Legislatures  across the country are unapologetically goose-stepping to the same marching orders. If you’re not a straight, white man, you’re not only unimportant, you are worthy of scorn and ridicule– and not worthy of governmental assistance, even for basic food needs.

In closing, I offer this provocative article from the Huffington Post: Why the GOP Is Running Into a Political Box Canyon — And Political Marginality. The author lays out one issue after another in which the Republican Party is marginalizing itself by being out of touch with the majority of Americans– choice, gun control, immigration, climate change, voter suppression. From the Huffington Post

Despite warnings of some of its wisest strategists, the GOP is racing headlong into a political box canyon — and potential political marginality.

On issue after issue, the GOP has veered far from the mainstream of the American electorate. Worse, they are swimming upstream against a tide of changing demographics — and an electorate with ever-increasing numbers of young voters from the “millennial generation” that polls show is the most progressive generation in half a century.

So far, at least, efforts to “rebrand” the GOP have simply collapsed. And even though most Americans are primarily concerned with jobs and the future of the economy, the GOP leadership in Congress insists on focusing on cultural issues that pander to a narrow segment of the electorate — and are downright unpopular.

They seem to be practicing the politics of “subtraction” — which is not a good plan if you want to achieve an electoral majority.

Will the Republican strategy of “subtraction” prevail? Can they knock enough Americans off the voter rolls to keep their gerrymandered stranglehold on state legislatures and the Congress?

[Photo Credit: Texas our Texas by jmtimages, Creative Commons License.]