Senate Democrats 2012: This $4.5 billion in SNAP cuts that 22 of us voted to leave in the farm bill is closing a loophole, see? And we fought more cuts, so let's let bygones be bygones on that earlier $14 billion.
Yes, the Republicans are the real bad guys in this. In 2010, they forced Democrats to trade future food stamp cuts for teacher funding and Medicaid assistance that the states badly needed. Now, they're looking for much bigger cuts to SNAP than just $4.5 billion, even proposing to eliminate the program and replace it with block grants. And the specific $4.5 billion being cut is a loophole through which some states are getting food aid recipients "extra" benefits. And we know that if Republicans don't get their way on this, they will hold something much bigger hostage, because that's what they do.
But this is an average of $90 a month to 500,000 families poor enough to meet the program's extremely stringent requirements. Think about the food you can buy with $90 and picture cutting it out of your family's monthly diet. Now imagine your family's monthly diet was already cut to the bone, before taking that $90 out.
It's not like this is a cut in isolation. What we're seeing here is the latest step in the Republican campaign to shred the safety net. For the longest time, they were going after programs that offered cash payments, raising the specter of taxpayer dollars spent on alcohol and drugs, of welfare queens driving Cadillacs. But food stamps can only be used on food, so that program wasn't targeted. That was then. Now, so many of the strands of the safety net have been sliced through that aid for food, and only food, is one of the few targets left for Republicans, and they've gone for it. So we hear about lottery winners receiving food stamps—well, make that one lottery winner, who was faced felony charges for not reporting her winnings. But as an example of food stamp fraud, it's always lottery winners, plural. And the implication that the government gave her nutritional assistance knowing that she was a lottery winner is let stand, rather than the point being made that it was a fucking felony for her to continue taking benefits rather than reporting her winnings to the state.
Republicans are the bad guys, but it is beyond frustrating, it is ... infuriating and tragic that Democrats allow themselves to be led step by step, cut by cut, through the Republican agenda. Republicans up the ante, Democrats push back a little. They don't give up everything. But the next time around, the cuts that last time represented upping the ante are now somehow the starting point, and to show that they're tough on waste and fraud, that one lottery winner has gone from being a Republican talking point to being a Democratic one.
Yes, we've seen it before on issue after issue. There's nothing new here. But there's something almost primal about the fact that now we're talking about food. Nothing but food, for our country's poorest people—many of them working full-time jobs and still needing help to afford the most basic diet. It's absolutely monstrous. And at the same time, it's business as usual in Congress.