From my friend Rabbi Fred Guttman, originally posted on Facebook, via my friend John Graham:
Food Stamps – Last week, the House Agriculture Committee passed a Farm Bill which slashes $16 billion from one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in our nation, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. At the same time, the overall cost of the bill does not go down but adds an additional $9.5 billion over 10 years for an entirely new agribusiness subsidy under the guise of crop insurance. A cut of this magnitude means that at least 2 million families will lose access to the program. All told, about 1 billion fewer meals will be available to low-income families each year—meals that are a bargain for taxpayers at about a $1.60 a meal—as well as a basic responsibility for our society. 85 percent of those receiving Food Stamps are living on incomes below the federal poverty line of $23,350 for a family of four. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has calculated that each dollar of supplemental nutrition assistance benefits create $1.79 in increased economic activity. America’s “hunger bill”—the cost of avoidable illness due to poor nutrition and poor education outcomes due to hunger—is already over $165 billion.
Here in Greensboro, both Conservative and Liberal congregations support the very needed and I would say holy work of the Greensboro Urban Minsitry. The leadership at GUM is extremely concerned about such proposed cuts.
Second, I cannot see how this is not class warfare, an example of taking from the poor to give to the wealthy.
Finally, I leave you with a small piece of rabbinical teaching from the time of Jesus himself. “When you are asked in the world to come, ‘What was your work?’ and you answer: ‘I fed the hungry,’ you will be told: ‘This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry’” (Midrash to Psalm 118:17)
(Some additional context, from the News & Record.)
A presumably well-meaning but misguided friend of mine took issue with this point, suggesting that government anti-poverty efforts have been both inefficient and wasteful:
Now let me be clear, I don’t object to poor people getting help. My problem is a government throwing money at programs that clearly aren’t working. Consider this: All this welfare spending adds up to $20,610 for every poor man, woman and child in the country.
For a poor family of three, that’s nearly $62,000 dollars. The poverty line for that family is just $18,500. With this kind of spending, poverty should be wiped out – instead it’s growing.
Today, one in seven Americans is living in poverty. The most in almost two decades. All the while spending is soaring.
And, welfare spending for the last four decades — adjusted for inflation? Up, up, up. How can we spend all this money, and see so little progress? …
… we should be stopping the taxes and bloated regulations that hold back economic growth and job creation. People need work, not handouts.
Unfortunately the only solution the president sees is throwing more money at the problem. More government, instead of less. More dependency instead of empowerment.
Leaving aside for a moment the “up, up, up” argument, whether or not adjusted for inflation, and whether or not more properly calculated on a per-capita basis or as a percentage of GDP, that was an awful lot of both factual and contextual inaccuracy in just a few lines. I responded:
You know what, [friend's name]? First of all, don’t change the subject. Second of all, I can sleep a lot better at night if govt money is being wasted so that people don’t go hungry than I can if it’s being wasted blowing sh*t up in an illegal war or bailing out criminal banksters.Poverty is growing because the government hasn’t done enough direct economic stimulus to stimulate demand enough to lead businesses, which are sitting on $2 trillion in cash, to create jobs. And it hasn’t done enough because Republicans LIKE having American workers poor and desperate.
Deficits are soaring primarily because of 1) our broken health care system, the least efficient in the Western world, which the ACA at least goes some way toward fixing; 2) two wars, both of which Obama put back on budget after Bush ran them off-budget, and a defense budget unnecessarily sized at bigger than those of the next 26 largest combined, most of whom are our allies; and 3) the fact that federal taxation is at its lowest rate as a % of GDP in 60 years AND that top marginal rates on the wealthy are at their lowest rate in longer than that.
And why is that? Because of GOP obstructionism, aided and abetted by a few badly confused and/or corrupt Democrats.
You want to make excuses for screwing over poor people? Fine; go do it on your own page.