Politics & Policy

Food-Stamps Folly

Donna Brazile says Republicans’ proposed cuts are “cruel,” but who’s really heartless?

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile recently penned a column for CNN about food stamps and it went positively viral, generating lots of buzz and more than 5,000 comments to date. For voting to slow the growth of food stamps over ten years and increase oversight to prevent fraud, Brazile called House Republicans “pure and simple heartless” and equated their vote with lacing up “some combat boots with rough, crushing soles to kick and kick again the 48 million Americans who count on food stamps.”

In typical liberal fashion, Brazile turns notions of compassion and dignity on their head, casting big government and its devotees as the righteous defenders of the poor and calling anyone who challenges the efficacy of government anti-poverty programs, or who even dares to suggest we reinstate commonsense work requirements that Obama gutted, heartless monsters who kick poor people while they are down. 

#ad#Here are the facts: Over the last ten years, the number of people on SNAP has more than doubled, from 21 million to 47 million recipients. However, the total amount of benefits paid has nearly quadrupled, from $21 billion to $75 billion. Republican measures would decrease SNAP funding by 5 percent over ten years — a rate much lower than the rate by which it has increased over the past decade. In addition, Republican reforms will help ensure that the program is sustainable by limiting it to only those who truly need it, and ending SNAP benefits for traditional college students and lottery winners.

Brazile defends rising food-stamp usage by citing stubbornly high unemployment rates, the drop in median incomes, and the fact that half of Americans now live near or below the national poverty line. 

She’s right. Life is tougher for Americans — especially for those who voted by the highest percentages for President Obama’s promise of hope and change. Perhaps the greatest irony of the election of America’s first minority president is that Obama’s most enthusiastic supporters — minorities, single women, and young people — are the groups doing the worst under the Obama economy. Today, two and a half million more Hispanics are living in poverty than when Obama first took office. In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, economist Stephen Moore points out that the incomes of black families have fallen by $4,000 per family between June 2009 and June 2013 and female-headed households have seen their incomes fall by $2,300. These are also the same groups facing the highest unemployment rates. Today, record numbers of young people are moving into their parents’ basement, paying off college loans on Starbucks salaries.

Astonishingly, Brazile goes on to tell the heart-wrenching stories of working-class folks who hold two or three jobs, but she conveniently leaves out the reason America has turned into a “part-time” nation: Obamacare. Indeed, 80 percent of all jobs created last year were part-time jobs. Why? Because ever since this new entitlement was passed by Democrats and upheld by the Supreme Court, employers have been preparing to evade the mandated costs of this legislation by limiting their work force to fewer than 50 employees and converting millions of full-time jobs into part-time jobs that do not require employers to provide health insurance. Too many small businesses have already gone under due to the prolonged bad economy. The ones that are still standing know that accepting the enormous costs of complying with Obamacare will sink them. No one has been more affected by this predictable phenomenon than America’s poor, single women, and minorities.

A few months ago while in South America, Pope Francis, a person whose heart and love for the poor cannot be challenged, spoke of the dignity that comes from work and “earning one’s bread.” As a member of a minority group, I am deeply suspicious of elites (minorities or otherwise) who patronize America’s working poor with messages of victimhood and dependency. Instead of flicking us more crumbs off the government table, how about making it easier for us to enter the ranks of the middle class? When Hispanics start businesses at two times the rate of the average population, it seems to me that fewer regulations and dictates from Washington will do more to encourage start-ups, hiring, and progress up the economic ladder. Nancy Pelosi famously said, “If you want to create jobs, the quickest way to do it is to provide more funding for food stamps.” When Obama and the Democrats’ entitlement philosophy and spread-the-wealth economy have had such dismal results — especially for the very people they purport to help — it’s time that we, especially fellow concerned minorities, confront these supposed do-gooders with the misery and stagnation they are deepening.

Should Americans take care of their brothers and sisters? Absolutely. We all have an obligation as individuals to care for the poor. And, yes, there is a role for government and even food stamps in this equation. But more food stamps are not the answer to our “new economic normal.” Jobs, opportunity, and economic liberty are. As Ronald Reagan once said, “the best social program is a job.” And full-time American dreams require full-time jobs — especially for our most vulnerable and hard-working citizens.

— Rachel Campos-Duffy is an author, pundit, and mother of six. She is the national spokesperson for The LIBRE Initiative, an organization that promotes economic liberty, empowerment, and opportunity for Hispanics.

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