in a column today titled Free to be Hungry, which I highly recommend.
He starts by noting the Right's obsession with the word "freedom" (such as in Freedom Works and "freedom fries") before offering this gem of a paragraph:
The right’s definition of freedom, however, isn’t one that, say, F.D.R. would recognize. In particular, the third of his famous Four Freedoms — freedom from want — seems to have been turned on its head. Conservatives seem, in particular, to believe that freedom’s just another word for not enough to eat.I would interject here that despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans learn in PUBLIC school the positive things that FDR did - including Social Security - for many on the right (who seem increasingly to oppose PUBLIC schools) Social Security remains philosophically - or should we say "theologically?" - an abomination and proof of how much FDR and the New Deal damaged and distorted America. After all, the New Deal was an expansion of the Federal government, and they continually obsess about the size of government. While they try to argue that it has under Obama, in fact federal employment has shrunk.
Yes, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has (as Krugman observes) grown from 26 million Americans in 2007 to almost 48 million now.
Of course, the average benefit is $4.45/day, and it has
it has indirectly helped save hundreds of thousands of jobsand has
at least mitigated the hardshipof the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression for many people,
keeping millions of Americans out of poverty.But what about the huge growth in the numbers receiving the benefit?
Conservatives look at this and see what, to their great disappointment, they can’t find elsewhere in the data: runaway, explosive growth in a government program. The rest of us, however, see a safety-net program doing exactly what it’s supposed to do: help more people in a time of widespread economic distress.There is more, much more, in this column.
What really matters about this column is in the last three paragraphs.
Krugman takes on the likes of Paul Ryan, who views SNAP as "a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.” Krugman looks at the work of economists Hilary Hoynes and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, who in studying the recipients of food stamps in the 1960s and 1970s found
children who received early assistance grew up, on average, to be healthier and more productive adults than those who didn’t — and they were also, it turns out, less likely to turn to the safety net for help.In other words, like so many other social programs, investment in early support saves major public expenditures later in life. This was true of Head Start as it is of early childhood education today. Fritz Hollings, who helped birth WIC (Womens, Infants and Children's Nutrition) once opined that it was cheaper to feed the child than to jail the man. That principle still applies, even as some on the right seem to want to oppose ALL social programs (except for welfare for corporations and the rich).
Krugman's penultimate paragraph reads as follows:
SNAP, in short, is public policy at its best. It not only helps those in need; it helps them help themselves. And it has done yeoman work in the economic crisis, mitigating suffering and protecting jobs at a time when all too many policy makers seem determined to do the opposite. So it tells you something that conservatives have singled out this of all programs for special ire.conservatives have singled out this of all programs for special ire - including those conservatives who themselves are receiving farm subsidies in the tens of thousands of dollars, or even more, as is true of at least 14 members of the House who voted to slash SNAP.
Let me help them properly phrase their "philosophical" principles:
"Don't you DARE touch anything that benefits me or my supporters and to hell with anyone else."
In other words, government's primary purpose for them is to take from those who need assistance - who still pay income and payroll taxes - and give to those who agree with them. To hell with any social contract. To hell with the principle in the Preamble to "promote the general welfare."
Republicans are now the party of Scrooge - that is, Scrooge before he is visited by the ghosts. I suppose some will move to ban the reading of Dickens precisely because those who read his classic works might oppose what they are doing politically.
But if that is what they want to do, they will also have to eliminate large portions of both the Hebrew and Christian Bible.
Since many claim they are Christians, let me merely remind them to go read Matthew Chapter 25, you know, the part about "I was hungry" and Jesus notes that those who fed the hungry enter into the joy of God while those who failed to do so are cast out. In the Orthodox Churches, that passage is the heart of the Gospel for the Sunday of the Last Judgment.
That is ultimate.
There is a judgment that will come sooner, for many in 2014.
Which is why Krugman's final paragraph needs no explication from me:
Even some conservative pundits worry that the war on food stamps, especially combined with the vote to increase farm subsidies, is bad for the G.O.P., because it makes Republicans look like meanspirited class warriors. Indeed it does. And that’s because they are.