Welfare reform 2.1
I think Bob Borosage is on to something here when he calls it "welfare reform 2.0"
Why did House Republicans refuse to fund the food stamp program last month?
This is exactly the kind of rhetoric we heard for years before the Democrats finally got on board with the original welfare reform and pretty much ended it. So, I think this is probably going to be part of their strategy.
According to Rep. Steve King of Iowa, food stamps aren't about feeding hungry people; they are an administration conspiracy:
"You might have thought that America had a safety net. No, sir; it's a hammock. And this administration is promoting the expansion of them [sic] for political purposes."
Steve King isn't alone. Rep. Louie Gohmert thinks food stamp recipients feast on mountains of king crab legs. Laura Ingraham thinks anyone needing help should be shamed at the grocery store.
This is starting to look like a strategy. Last week, Fox News ran a one-hour "documentary" called "The Great Food Stamp Binge" full of similar nonsense.
But never say we aren't making progress. Sure, there are probably people of color using food stamps and just as with welfare reform, the GOP base is angry at the idea of these undeserving POCs getting something for nothing. However, I don't know that most people think the face of food stamps today is black or brown, at least not yet.
At a town hall in Welch, OK on Thursday, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) called for the outright elimination of aid programs for low-income Americans, claiming that he has witnessed food stamp fraud firsthand. Mullin said he would like to “do away with a lot of these programs” because they allow people to slack off.
I've written before about this story and this bizarre idea that people who are physically fit can't possibly be poor. But what's interesting to me about it is that it isn't a racist dogwhistle (at least that I can see.) It's maybe a "liberal elite" dogwhistle --- as if the Real Housewives of Crystal City are all scamming food stamps. But it doesn't appear to be racial.
“The food programs are designed to take care of people who can’t work, not won’t work. And we all know those people that won’t work, right?” he asked the audience. “They’re abusing the program, and we’ve got to get them off of it.”
Mullin knows for a fact that food stamps are abused, because he saw them being used by people who did not fit his idea of what poor people are supposed to look like:
So I’m in Crystal City and I’m buying my groceries…and I noticed everybody was giving that card. They had these huge baskets, and I realized it was the first of the month. But then I’m looking over, and there’s a couple beside me. This guy was built like a brick house. I mean he had muscles all over him. He was in a little tank top and pair of shorts and really nice Nike shoes. And she was standing there, and she was all in shape and she looked like she had just come from a fitness program. She was in the spandex, and you know, they were both physically fit. And they go up in front of me and they pay with that card. Fraud. Absolute 100% all it is is fraud…it’s all over the place. And there you go, to the fact that we shouldn’t be supporting those who won’t work. They’re spending their money someplace.
Now I happen to think this is all just a cover for the essentially racist nature of right wing opposition to government programs. But still, it's a little bit of progress. When you think about the way they used to do this with the "welfare queens in Cadillacs" spew, you can't help but see it as an improvement. Maybe someday, they'll go so far that their resentment filled base will even be able to see themselves in that scenario.