Politics and Poverty

  • Food stamp recipients to critics: Walk in our shoes, By Jesse Washington (AP), January 20, 2012, Charlotte Observer: “Some have advanced degrees and remember middle-class lives. Some work selling lingerie or building websites. They are white, black and Hispanic; young and old; homeowners and homeless. What they have in common: They’re all on food stamps. As the food stamp program has become an issue in the Republican presidential primary, with candidates seeking to tie President Barack Obama to the program’s record numbers, The Associated Press interviewed recipients across the country and found many who wished critics would spend some time in their shoes. Most said they never expected to need food stamps, but the Great Recession, which wiped out millions of jobs, left them no choice. Some struggled with the idea of taking a handout; others saw it as their due, earned through years of working steady jobs. They yearn to get back to receiving a paycheck that will make food stamps unnecessary…”
  • The Americans no one wants to talk about, By Michael Gerson, January 19, 2012, Washington Post: “It is an achievement of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements to have raised large issues of economic freedom and economic inequality. It is a paradox that their arguments have generally been vague, ideological and unhelpful. Elements on the right reject the whole ideal of distributive justice – opposing most taxation as theft and embracing a utopian project involving the abolition of the modern state. Elements on the left seek a substitute for capitalism – a utopian project that has been tried and found frightening. The political debates on free markets or the privileges of the 1 percent seldom touch on the actual struggles of citizens – say, living in the shadow of foreclosure, or attending a failing school, or surviving in a gang-occupied neighborhood. Ideology is abstract. Hardship is lived concretely. I like a good political philosophic debate as much as the next columnist. Give me a soy latte and a libertarian, and I’m set for the night. Ideas do have consequences. But many Americans are being overlooked in this bipartisan conspiracy of economic abstraction. A significant and growing portion of the population lives in poverty…”
  • GOP presidential candidates wade into politically tricky territory of food stamp spending, By Associated Press, January 9, 2012, Washington Post: “Politicians normally shy away from saying they want to cut food stamps, but this year’s Republican presidential candidates are using domestic food aid as an example of a welfare state gone awry. Supporters of the program say it is one of the most reliable safety nets for families who suddenly find themselves unable to pay for food, and politically the program has proved almost untouchable over many decades. More than 45 million people received the benefit last year at a $75 billion cost to the government, a record number as the economy has flailed. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and fellow contender Rick Santorum, both heavily involved in congressional welfare reform efforts in the mid-1990s, say the government should stop promoting a welfare-like state and convert food stamp spending to block grants to states, a move that could freeze spending and cut the benefit to many who now receive it. A spokesperson for Republican Mitt Romney says the former Massachusetts governor also supports turning the nation’s food stamp program into state block grants, though he rarely mentions it…”

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