Saturday, November 23, 2013

America's White poor - Republicans in Name Only

The number of Americans who are poor enough to qualify for food stamps has increased by a disturbing 30 million in the last 13 years. In 2000, 17 million Americans were receiving food stamps; in 2013, the number is 47 million. Hoping to stir up racial tensions, far-right AM radio talk show hosts and Fox News wingnuts try to paint food stamp recipients as strictly or mostly people of color. But the facts don’t bear that out. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly half of food stamp recipients are non-Hispanic whites (in Ohio, it’s around 65%). So when Republicans vote to cut food stamps, many of the people they are hurting are white. On September 19, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to slash billions of dollars from the U.S. food stamp program during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Tough words today in Salon, especially since SNAP- more commonly referred to as Food Stamps - has long been viewed by Republican politicians as a coded way to talk about minorities in America.  Ronald Reagan affirmed that association during his political life by discussing the plight of the "Welfare Queen" and successive conservatives have only exacerbated the problem.

Yet since the beginning of the Great Recession, whites have NOT been spared the horror of slipping into poverty.  With American unemployment at 7.3% at the end of October , many of those same white folks are now several years into using a program of federal financial assistance (or dare I say it - welfare) that many of them never thought they'd need, but without which many of them will have a hard time surviving.

Monthly unemployment Rates January 20013 through October 2004
And while we are nowhere near the high (but not historic high) unemployment Rates we saw in 2009 and 2010, it is becoming clear that we are not yet at "full employment" and may never be.

So, in the end, many of the Congressman (and a few Senators) who have voted to cut SNAP - and are pursuing drastic reductions to Medicare, Medicaid, the ACA mandates, and even Social Security, are cutting the very federal programs keeping their constituents alive.  I hope that when these recipients go to get their checks, and see the reductions they get angry and demand their elected officials do something.  I fear those same officials will manage to frame the issues in a way that shifts blame from the politicians to somewhere, anywhere, else.  That shifting will have tragic consequences, but it will be America's economic margins - and so it will go unreported, unnoticed, and uncorrected.  America the exceptional indeed.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering President Kennedy: The Quote we SHOULD all carry with us.

"Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future." —John F. Kennedy