Monday, September 23, 2013

Still Makes No $

Earlier this morning, we were reminded of the latest and greatest manufactured crisis to hit Capitol Hill. Never mind we still have over a month until Halloween, politicians and media pundits are already spooked. Even the high and mighty at the Federal Reserve and Wall Street are feeling the fright.

Even as we're seeing real crises develop around the world, The Beltway Pundit Class continues to obsess over the manufactured crisis that's ripping the Republican Party apart while causing jitters among economists. As we've discussed here many times before, it doesn't have to be this way. Yet for some reason, Congressional Republicans keep pushing us to the brink.

Last night, Desert Beacon had to debunk the spin coming from Rep. Mark Amodei's (R-Drama) office regarding his vote for fiscal insani-TEA. Of course, he claims he just helped the House "do its job". If he defines "do its job" as cause unnecessary drama, then he may be right. Funny enough, Rep. Amodei was the one claiming he was "tired of the drama" earlier this year.

This actually isn't the only fit of drama coming from Nevada Republicans. Over the weekend, Rep. Joe Heck's (R-TEA Curious) office sent a letter to constituents who asked about his vote to force millions of Americans to starve. Since July, he and other House Republicans have been on a mission to slash and burn the SNAP program that provides a critical lifeline to millions of food insecure Americans and our nation's economy. And once again, Rep. Heck is claiming his vote was to "reform" SNAP. He even claimed the bill provides $333 million more for soup kitchens!

OK, so what's so bad about that? Can't those pesky poor people go to soup kitchens? Nope, since soup kitchens and other private charities are already stretched beyond capacity due to post-Great Recession poverty and unemployment. An extra $333 million over ten years, or less than $670,000 per state per year, won't nearly be enough to take care of this. After all, House Republicans voted to slash $40 billion (!!!) from SNAP and throw them to already overextended private charities.

Rep. Heck also cited "fraud" as a reason to vote to gut SNAP, but the "fraud" claims he and other House Republicans cite have already been debunked. So why do they keep threatening the lives of so many Americans? Maybe Paul Krugman can explain.

[... L]ast year, average food stamp benefits were $4.45 a day. Also, about those “able-bodied people”: almost two-thirds of SNAP beneficiaries are children, the elderly or the disabled, and most of the rest are adults with children.

Beyond that, however, you might think that ensuring adequate nutrition for children, which is a large part of what SNAP does, actually makes it less, not more likely that those children will be poor and need public assistance when they grow up. And that’s what the evidence shows. The economists Hilary Hoynes and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach have studied the impact of the food stamp program in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was gradually rolled out across the country. They found that children who received early assistance grew up, on average, to be healthier and more productive adults than those who didn’t — and they were also, it turns out, less likely to turn to the safety net for help.

SNAP, in short, is public policy at its best. It not only helps those in need; it helps them help themselves. And it has done yeoman work in the economic crisis, mitigating suffering and protecting jobs at a time when all too many policy makers seem determined to do the opposite. So it tells you something that conservatives have singled out this of all programs for special ire.

Even some conservative pundits worry that the war on food stamps, especially combined with the vote to increase farm subsidies, is bad for the G.O.P., because it makes Republicans look like meanspirited class warriors. Indeed it does. And that’s because they are.

And even worse, Reps. Heck & Amodei have been voting to continue subsidies for several of their House Republican colleagues. So "welfare" is good for Republicans with "family farms", but not for poor people in actual need?

To make matters even worse, the House G-O-TEA budget plan offers even more painful austerity. It denies chemotherapy to cancer patients, preschool to children, housing to families, and help to domestic violence victims. Oh, and did I mention it (further) threatens economic recovery?

So now, we must ask this: Why are Joe Heck, Mark Amodei, and other House Republicans threatening the lives of so many Americans? And why do they persist in pursuing the same old economy busting austerity policies? Their prescription for economic ruin makes no sense.

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