Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fox News and the Food Stamp Stigma

“Three or four million heads of households don’t turn into tramps and cheats overnight, nor do they lose the habits and standards of a lifetime. They don’t drink any more than the rest of us, they don’t lie any more, and they’re no lazier than the rest of us. An eighth or a tenth of the earning population does not change its character which has been generations in the molding, or, if such a change actually occurs, we can scarcely charge it up to personal sin.” ~ Harry Hopkins, Federal relief administrator under Franklin D. Roosevelt, talking about the unemployed in 1933.

Ever since President Lyndon B. Johnson's "War on Poverty" in 1964, for the Republicans, it's always been a "War on the Poor". As a part of the Great Society, Johnson believed in expanding the government's role in education and health care to reduce poverty. These policies were seen as a continuation of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, which the GOP has been steadfastly against.

Instead, the Republicans primarily catered to the very wealthy and large corporations, doing everything they could to expand wealth inequality --- not necessarily to deliberately make anyone poorer, but focusing on those who were already doing well, to make them much wealthier...even if it happened to be at the expense of the middle-class and poor. "Trickle-down" was, and always has been, a great farce perpetuated on the American worker.

For many years I used to watch a lot of Fox News until one day I wised up (after being laid off in 2008) and realized what was going on in this country. I came to learn that Bill O'Reilly, Neil Cavuto, Sean Hannity and others at Fox News were nothing but multi-millionaires pushing their own greedy agenda --- with no concern at all for regular working people. Bret Baier was one the few hosts at Fox News that still seemed reasonable, when I still had some respect for him. That is, until he hosted a hit piece on the poor called "The Great Food Stamp Binge" (posted here on YouTube)

And since many (if not most) Fox News viewers ONLY watch Fox News, their Fox News polls are a joke. It's like polling a handful of young men in the Aryan Brotherhood and asking them if Black people are equal to White people. Talk about unscientific and skewed poll results!

This "special investigation" by Fox News on food stamps reminded me a little of John Stossel's "special investigation" called Freeloaders --- a piece about panhandlers and a continuation of Fox News' "War on the Poor". Fox News talking heads (many who are multi-millionaires themselves) don't want to raise taxes on the ultra-rich to pay for government programs for the ultra-poor. They are against Obamacare because of the 3.8% surtax on capital gains for the mega-rich. even if it means 30 million Americans won't have access to basic healthcare.

When was the last time the Republicans sponsored and passed a bill that strictly benefited the middle-class, the working-class and/or the abject poor that didn't also greatly benefit the uber-rich much more? Never in modern history. It was the Republicans that sponsored and passed the preferential tax break on capital gains back in 1921.

Fox News (and Republican politicians in general) are notorious for using anecdotal stories to make their ideological cases when making their arguments for or against anything. Then their conservative base and the right-wing bloggers cling to these arguments as though they were absolute facts --- as though Fox News was telling the complete story, proving to me once and for all that ignorance is indeed bliss.

Either these dramatically misinformed people don't want to know the truth (and uses Fox News as their sacred fact-checker to prove their case and justify their prejudices), or they really are too ignorant to realize the truth --- and like other weak-minded people, are easily swayed by the propaganda that Fox News spews every day. Or maybe it's a combination of both --- and these people are blissfully ignorant and unreasonably biased --- and believes that poor people are "gaming the system" to get food stamps to either buy crab legs and steak, or trade them for alcohol and drugs.

"All those lazy poor people are in your pockets stealing your hard-earned money!" This has been going on for decades, and was used by Southern Dixicrats to drive the White population against African-Americans and Mexican farm workers (Funny how the GOP never complains when a big corporation is stealing your money).

Later, Nixon's Southern Strategy was a strategy for gaining political power by exploiting the greatest number of ethnic prejudices. Kevin Philips, Republican and Nixon campaign strategist, speaking about this strategy in a 1970 interview with the New York Times:

From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don't need any more than that...but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.
This strategy has been used since President Johnson and the Democrats in Congress passed the Civil Rights Act to build the Republican party. Examples of this strategy were evident as recently as 2008 and 2012 as Republicans took up their assault on Medicaid, Social Security, labor unions, and Obamacare --- programs which (though they benefited more White seniors, retirees, women and children) have been sold to many Americans as handouts to lazy, undeserving blacks and minorities.

Remember Newt Gingrich calling Obama the food stamp president? His implied reference didn't work because most of "those people" were White and most were hard-working Americans who were laid off during the Great Recession.

I once pitied people who were that ignorant (who believed bigots and liars like Newt), but because I now realize how cruel they really are, I no longer feel sorry for these mean-spirited people and sometimes wish they could walk in someone else's shoes for a change (yes, to suffer the same poverty that those on food stamps suffer.)

This particular post relates to the argument about overly generous food stamps that are being financed by "good hard-working Christian Americans with good moral character" to support "lazy low-life unpatriotic Socialist Americans with no moral fortitude at all".

In the Fox News' "special investigation" into the Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), Bret Baier asks "Shouldn't there be at least some stigma?" referring to people who accept food stamps for survival.

Fox News had interviewed a young man named Jason Greenslate who they portrayed as a rocker living the self-described "rat life" in California. The 29-year-old signed up for SNAP and received $200 dollars a month for food. They said he put it simply as, "I don’t got a paycheck coming in, so I qualify."

It always appears as though Fox News searches far and wide to find and quote the most grammatically challenged people they can find. Whereas, we don't have to look any further for a moron or an idiot than a GOP politician who occasionally appears on Fox News.

A right-wing website responded to this faux Fox News "special investigation" on "The Great Food Stamp Binge":

If you suffer from low blood pressure and would like to raise it, or if you have ever doubted that the federal government is deliberately destroying America’s moral character and enslaving the population by aggressively hooking people on free stuff paid for by others, do not miss the Fox News special on the Food Stamp explosion.

A commenter named Ronald J. Ward replied:

I’m normally don’t contribute or attempt dialog at bigoted and hostel web sites like this but sometimes the profound stupidity of your rants simply need addressing.

I suppose that since the right wing Trayvon bash fest has slowed down and August is always a slow news month, why not stand behind Fox News on their latest deadbeat SNAP recipient snake oil sales pitch.

Yeah, people are indeed greedy and regardless of how well you fine tune or even police a program, there will always be those that can figure out how to game the system (albeit in this case the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service found that SNAP fraud and waste is around 1%). It’s within the realm of reasonable intellect to look at the program, justify the need, consider the abuse, and then conclude if the program needs to be corrected or eliminated.

The arguments coming from the corporate loyalist, right wing hack sites, and Fox News seems to follow the norm of being fraudulent and ignorant (or hopefully to sway the ignorant) while pretending that the abuse is overwhelming and that the need of the program doesn’t exist.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) is crying "100% wide spread abuse" because he saw a couple using SNAP that he deemed "physically fit" and wonders why aren’t they out working. The Daily Caller chastises a guy because he "avoids a job to hang out on the beach, sing and chase women". And there seems to be an orchestrated effort from the right to portray SNAP users as willfully dependent, intentionally dishonest, and down right lazy in order get free money to party with.

As always with today’s GOP leaders, when you take a closer look, the motive’s always the same. This snake oil push comes at a time when they want to take billions from SNAP in order to divide it out among wealthy farming businessmen. Look a little deeper and you find that many of those GOP leaders will be (and have been for years) the very wealthy farming businessmen recipients of those funds as they’ve invested in farms that these $billions from SNAP will go to. Nice little gig they got going!

But what Fox, the GOP, right-wing hack sites, and the corporate loyalist don’t want to include in their argument is that USDA 1% abuse findings. Again, it’s hard to fine tune a program to make it fool proof . They also don’t like to mention that 76% of SNAP recipients are children in poverty, the elderly, and the disabled. 41% have jobs.

It should also be noted that the big SNAP increase is a direct result of the 2008 great recession, brought to us by the very GOP that’s now wanting to line their own pockets and their fellow contributors with that very money. And it’s that GOP that has sabotaged the economy with an admission of attempting to unseat Obama. It is that GOP that refused a meager minimum wage increase which leaves workers like me actually paying for food for Walmart worker’s families because they live in poverty. It is that GOP that denied the American Jobs Act which would have created around 2 million jobs.

The SNAP deadbeat argument becomes more specious as it seems based on a perception of the recipient. It’s as if they’re groomed and well dressed, they shouldn’t qualify. If they’re buying food that some consider too expensive, they shouldn’t qualify. If they have a nice car or live in a nice home, unqualified. If they appear healthy, not qualified. Of course, it’s nothing new for Fox, the GOP, and hack sites to base their arguments and sheer prejudice and ignorant selling points.

It’s always interesting to see the Obama haters wanting both sides of the argument. On one hand, they bash Obama for the poor employment numbers and low wages (which is a direct result of GOP policy) while claiming that those in need "should just get a job". It reminds me of Newt who constantly bashed Obama on his job performance yet his answer of solving the Occupier’s issue was to "Go get a job right after you take a bath". You can attack Obama because there are no jobs yet your answer to those in poverty is to 'go get a job'. But then, a coherent and constructive argument from today’s so called conservatives has indeed become a tall order.

One commenter responded to Ronald J. Ward's comment:

You seem to think we are all in the GOP fan club. I embrace neither party but truly can’t stand arrogant pricks such as yourself who troll "right wing hack sites" with your same ridiculous GOP bashing while humping your communist leader on the leg.

I see rampant fraud on a daily basis where I live and it’s not "starving kids and the elderly". No, it’s adults who wear gold bracelets up to their elbow, drive around with brand new lifted $50k trucks, and get drunk all day (not to mention the drugs). I see them in line with the finest cuts of meat and all sorts of junk food. When they get to the check out they pull out a stack of EBT cards because they are given more than enough each month.

Do I need to tell you their multiple children are being raised by their grandparents because these bred dependents of the government from birth cannot even take care of themselves. So rather than spit your republican hate explain to me just why I’m supposed to support this shit!

Am I the only one who reads obvious and blissful ignorance (and bias) in that last comment? These are common (not anecdotal) responses from the blissfully ignorant and /or unreasonably biased followers of Fox News. They always repeat the same type of tripe. They either don't know any better, or they use these types of "special reports" from Fox News to justify their own willful spite and prejudiced opinions against the poor. Not only is it mean-spirited, inhumane, and borderline evil, it's the type of attitude that will get these so-called "good hard-working Christians" sent straight to Hell for disparaging those that are less fortunate than them. Why bully the poor? Why kick someone when they're down? Why heap harm on others who are already hurting? Because 1% of them might be lazy and gaming the system? If so, arrest them and lock them up for fraud. Don't bad-mouth the other 99%.

"There, but for the grace of God, go I."

Fox News' Bret Baier wanted to know: "Shouldn't there be at least some stigma?" Yes, there is a lot of stigma for most people (though not much in the anecdotal examples that Fox News likes to cite); but if you want to group 47 million Americans as free-living beach bums who spend all day surfing in California, then admit're just jealous.

If you can't afford to buy crab legs, blame yourself, not the poor. If you can't afford to drive around in a "brand new lifted $50k truck", blame yourself, not the poor. If you can't afford to wear gold bracelets "up to your elbows", blame yourself, not the poor. If you can't get drunk all day and do drugs, don't blame the poor, blame yourself.

But whatever you do, don't blame the corporations that offshored all the good-paying jobs, only hire part-time or temporary help, and spend millions to lobby Congress against raising the minimum wage so that all these people wouldn't need food stamps in the first place.

And as far as crab legs go, here's my own anecdotal story:

A divorced and long-term unemployed father was receiving $200 a month in food stamps. He got to see his two children twice a month for visitation. He usually buys a lot of generic brand junk food with his food stamps to keep his belly full until the end of the month, because food prices keeps going up, and good food costs too much.

One day it was his son's birthday, so he invited his children over to celebrate with a home-cooked dinner --- and the father had bought crab legs --- his son's favorite. But because crab legs were so expensive, the father had to eat macaroni and cheese out of the box for the remainder of the month, until his next allotment of food stamps. But to him, the sacrifice was well worth the effort to provide his children with a decent dinner on this special occasion when they had visited him (The father would have been too ashamed to serve his children SPAM).

* Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) once claimed "a hardworking constituent" had been in line behind someone using food stamps to buy crab legs and was "heartbroken" because his tax dollars were being used to pay for king crab legs when he himself couldn't afford them. 54 percent of Americans think people should not be allowed to use food stamps to buy expensive items such as crab legs, rather than using them to buy junk food, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll. By contrast, forty-five percent said they should be allowed to buy junk food, like potato chips, candy and soda.

The unemployed father didn't have "a stack of EBT cards", he only had ONE. He didn't own a "brand new lifted $50k truck" --- he had no vehicle at all because it had been repossessed several months earlier after he had been laid off from his job. He doesn't own any gold at all because he always felt most jewelry was frivolous. He doesn't surf (but has been known to play gin rummy), and he doesn't live in California (he lives in Nevada).

And the unemployed father is very ashamed of his circumstances (yes Bret Baier, there is "stigma", but the father also has to eat). And he's not a bum...he's a proud man who worked hard and paid taxes for 35 years before being laid off. No one will hire him because he's over 50 and just because he's unemployed. He has applied for everything, from a McDonald's counter helper to a Walmart stock-person on the graveyard shift (even though he's a college graduate). He only wants to eat. The churches and charities were overwhelmed by the Great Recession, as well as the food banks. He needs food stamps. The Republicans don't want him to have food stamps...or government healthcare insurance, or unemployment benefits, or Social Security, or anything else.

"Work or Die" should be the GOP's motto, even though they know very well that there are only 3.8 million job postings for 11.7 million unemployed Americans (not counting the additional 8.2 million who work part-time but want and need full-time work).

The commenter who doesn't want to provide food stamps for the father I mentioned could every well be in the same exact position the father was in...because it can happen to anyone, at any time, and in any place. Maybe the commenter might one day lose his livelihood too and feel the "stigma" --- and reap the abuse and dogma that he's been sowing. I wish it upon him --- to make him more humble, to make him more humane, no make him a more decent person. Then maybe he wouldn't be throwing rocks from his glass house.

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." ~ John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961

1 comment:

  1. The Fox News segment reinforced all the worst and most inaccurate stereotypes about those living in poverty and was a declaration of war against the poor. For years, various right-wing pundits have demonized the poor as a collection of "welfare queens" and lazy moochers. This is far from the truth. In reality, over 75% of SNAP recipients live in households with children, elderly, or disabled members that struggle to put food on the table. Fox News made clear that if they had their way, those living in poverty should starve to death rather than receive assistance. With the income gap increasing and millions of families devastated by the recession, Fox News has turned to blaming the most disadvantaged for our country's problems, diverting attention from those who are truly to blame. Tell Fox News to renounce this "investigative report" and stop attacking those struggling to feed their families by signing a petition: