Can’t Afford to Feed the Poor?

By: Derek Dyson

We can’t afford to defend the poor. No, we can’t afford it, but just a decade ago we started shelling out $2.2 trillion for a war in Iraq born of fraud. We can’t afford it, in this golden age of corporate profits when companies pay below zero in taxes while hauling in tax breaks from Congress worth millions upon millions of dollars — and, while, as we speak, the powerful business roundtable ratchets up a costly advertising campaign to cut corporate taxes even more.”                             – Bill Moyers, The Hypocrisy of Justice for All.

            Recently the Congressional House Committee on Agriculture, headed by Oklahoma’s 3rd District Representative Frank Lucas, approved a $20 billion cut to the federal food assistance program known as SNAP (formerly food stamps) citing the program and others like it as “outdated” and an “overreach of government”. This bill openly puts the sole program, that feeds the poorest of our citizens, on the chopping block supposedly because we “cannot afford it”. Beyond the hyperbole, what this really means is that the majority of a powerful House subcommittee and possibly an entire branch of Congress has openly proclaimed that, to save a relatively insignificant amount of money, they are willing to take the food out of the mouths of the poorest people in America….and somehow can do so without committing political suicide. This, is the country we now live in.

The cuts that the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013 inflict upon subsidized food programs will remove nearly two million people from it’s roster, 210,000 of which being children who undoubtedly call some of America’s poorest neighborhoods their home.  Are we, as a country, really in such dire straights that potentially letting children starve is a viable option to reducing the deficit or cutting overall government spending? Is there nothing else that should be cut first?

I make this argument all the time and it’s not confined to just food stamps. When it comes to social programs in general, programs that fund our schools, help our children get nutritious lunches and help their parents stay afloat in a recovering economy, I firmly believe they should be untouchable. I’m not saying that these programs can’t be reformed or streamlined, but I am saying that any cut in funding to these programs should be off the table unless every other option to deficit reduction has been exhausted first. Any attempt otherwise would be so inhumane, so irrational, that you would have to be a complete sociopath to even suggest such measures.  But the fact is politicians propose such cuts, cuts that only hurt the poor,  on a daily basis, all the while making backroom deals with lobbyist to extend corporate tax loopholes and tax cuts to the wealthiest individuals in this country. For example, Republican politicians emphatically pursue an increase in military spending (spending that already surpasses the other top 14 countries combined) without batting an eye, but then complain about the comparably dismal amount of money we spend on education nationally, even going as far as attempting to completely defund the Department of Education to make their point.

To put this absurdity and others like it into perspective we will have to look at some numbers. The proposed cut to the subsidized food program will save the government an estimated 20 billion dollars over 10 years. During that same 10 year period we will spend 8.6 trillion dollars on defense and lose roughly 6 trillion dollars just to Exxon Mobile alone (currently the worlds most profitable corporation) through corporate tax loopholes. During that same 10 years we will spend 3.8 trillion dollars on privately owned prisons, who will continue to rake in record profits by filling their cells with petty drug users and non-violent offenders, all in an attempt to meet their contractual quotas with the federal government. These are just three random examples of government expenditure, that in my mind, need to be addressed long before we even talk about cutting funding to a program like food stamps….and I don’t think that this stance is at all unreasonable.

In what world is it acceptable to be so intolerant, so obtuse, that you can be an elected official in the richest country in world, stand in front of your constituents and proclaim to be representing their best interests by potentially starving a large portion of them to death? In what kind of mind does one make this proclamation while knowing that the money being saved is dismal in comparison to what will be spent in this exact same farm bill to subsidize corn crops so that we can have plenty of cheap high fructose corn syrup for our sodas? What kind of person can take an active stance against feeding the poor in one breath, and in the next vote for bank bailouts and ignore tax loopholes and subsidies that do nothing but but expand the disparity gap and line the pockets of the wealthy few among us? Frank Lucas (along with vast majority of elected officials from this state) is exactly “that kind of person” and I think it’s about time we call him and those like him by their correct name, by what they are. Sociopaths. After all, I can think of nothing more lacking of moral responsibility or social consciousness than knowingly stealing from what little the poorest in this country do have so that you can turn around and give it to those who are the most wealthy.  It’s incomprehensible. It’s inhumane…and it’s happening every single day.