Monday, July 15, 2013

Krugman offers a lesson on food stamps to Tom Cotton

Posted By on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 at 6:18 AM

TOM COTTON HAS A BETTER IDEA: Put food assistance farther out of reach for poor Americans.
  • TOM COTTON HAS A BETTER IDEA: Put food assistance farther out of reach for poor Americans.
All four Republicans House members from Arkansas voted to strip food stamps from the farm bill, but U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, the Club for Growth's visiting congressman in the state, has wangled TV invite after TV invite to brag about his work to strangle nutrition aid to the poor and has said he'd do it again happily.

So for Cotton we direct attention to Paul Krugman's column in the New York Times.

Yes, spending on supplemental food aid has increased sharply because unemployment has increased sharply. And unemployment benefits have been trimmed in many places. (This is another holy grail of Club for Growth types.) Times have been hard for Americans, if not for Harvard-educated Washington, D.C., consultants, the well-paid vocation Cotton followed until setting a new trajectory to use Arkansas to implement the low-tax, starve-the-poor strategy the billionaires at the Club for Growth favor. Writes Krugman:

What about the theory, common on the right, that it’s the other way around — that we have so much unemployment thanks to government programs that, in effect, pay people not to work? (Soup kitchens caused the Great Depression!) The basic answer is, you have to be kidding. Do you really believe that Americans are living lives of leisure on $134 a month, the average SNAP benefit?

MYTHMAKER: Cotton trots out the SUV-driving, iPhone-using, steak-eating food stamp abuser.
  • MYTHMAKER: Cotton trots out the SUV-driving, iPhone-using, steak-eating food stamp abuser.
When a Republican congressman from Tennessee (himself a recipient of farm subsidy payments) starts perverting Bible quotes in support of NOT feeding the poor, something bad is afoot. Krugman doesn't think it's complicated.

So what’s going on here? Is it just racism? No doubt the old racist canards — like Ronald Reagan’s image of the “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy a T-bone steak — still have some traction. But these days almost half of food stamp recipients are non-Hispanic whites; in Tennessee, home of the Bible-quoting Mr. Fincher, the number is 63 percent. So it’s not all about race.

What is it about, then? Somehow, one of our nation’s two great parties has become infected by an almost pathological meanspiritedness, a contempt for what CNBC’s Rick Santelli, in the famous rant that launched the Tea Party, called “losers.” If you’re an American, and you’re down on your luck, these people don’t want to help; they want to give you an extra kick. I don’t fully understand it, but it’s a terrible thing to behold.

With the miraculous exception of the legislature's approval of Obamacare Medicaid expansion, we just got through witnessing months of this sort of thinking in Arkansas. Going to be a lot of darkness before the dawn.

How dark? Check out Roby Brock's interview with Cotton, in which — absent any solid evidence — he suggests a program that, on average pays a few hundred dollars a month to families making $13,000 a year, is going to people with iPhones and new SUVs who are using food stamps to buy prime steaks. This mythology has worked for opportunistic Republicans for decades. Facts don't matter. Only prejudice against the poor.

SPEAKING OF TOM COTTON: Yet another glowing tribute to him from the ultra right — National Review talks about his rising status among the extremist Republican caucus. Noted: Cotton claims immigration — the subject of this tribute — is an "elitist" issue. Tell that to the thousands of chicken eviscerators and family members in his impoverished congressional district, yearning to be full participants (including with college in-state tuition for the kids) in a system to which they pay taxes.

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