The “war on poverty” began with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s and was more overtly declared by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Fifty years later, the battlefield has changed, for the Republican party’s extreme conservatives and their Tea Party allies have unfurled anti-food stamps and anti-unemployment compensation extension banners in a war not on poverty but on the impoverished. The moderate Republicans in my family are appalled.
While 1.3 million Americans, cut off from unemployment checks since Dec. 31, wait to see if the House will pass a bipartisan emergency bill to extend financial relief for them, at least one in seven Americans also are waiting in trepidation about impending food stamp cuts.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, costs nearly $80 billion a year to keep food on the table for the destitute, or as the critics in Congress who want to cut $9 billion from SNAP like to define them: “drug users, welfare queens, takers, free-loaders and lazy leeches.”
Missouri will lose $96 million SNAP benefits and impact some 915,000 Missouri food stamp recipients, who average $269 a week, including 138,804 recipients in Jackson County.
Local charities and food pantries and pantry suppliers such as Harvesters are concerned. Harvesters alone feeds 66,000 people each week in 26 area counties, including 250 to 350 families a month at the Christ United Methodist Church in Independence. That church also distributes food aid through the Community Services League.
“Food is medicine,” Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat defending SNAP, told the Associated Press. McGovern and other poverty fighters posit that cutting food stamps could worsen health and raise health costs for the poor.
Many doctors are agreeing with that scenario and are finally speaking out and lobbying Congress by warning them that cutting benefits would ensure bigger health bills, more untreated diseases, an increase in diabetes and add poorer child development.
Republicans say, find other revenue or make cuts elsewhere to assist the unemployed or the hungry. How about the $700 billion in the defense budget that exceeds the next 10 highest countries defense budgets combined.
As one unemployed worker told the media, “If receiving unemployment checks and food stamps is a desirable lifestyle, then quit your job and find out for yourself how sad, demeaning and stressful it is.”
I give you President John Adams’ toast: Independence forever.
Jerry Plantz lives in Lee’s Summit. His website is at www.Jerryplantz.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.