Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to slash nearly $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP—the program formerly known as food stamps).
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would deprive about 3.8 million people of their SNAP benefits in 2014 alone. Over ten years, the bill would reduce the average number of monthly SNAP recipients by 29 percent.
This is not a matter of simply forcing able-bodied people to go find jobs in order to buy food. The largest chunk of savings (approximately $19 billion) comes from eliminating benefits for childless adults who live in areas in which jobs are scarce.
Yes, you read that right. Republicans want to eliminate a provision explicitly aimed at reducing food costs for people who live in areas of extremely high unemployment—that is, precisely in the areas where it would do the most good.
Here’s House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor speaking in support of the bill:
“The truth is anyone subjected to the work requirements under this bill, who are able-bodied under 50, will not be denied benefits if only they are willing to sign up for the opportunity for work. There is no requirement that jobs exist. There are workfare programs, there are options under the bill for community service. This bill is a bill that points to the dignity of a job—to help people when they need it most with what they want most, which is a job.”
Now, where have we heard something like this before? Oh, that’s right. It’s this:
”At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
”Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.
”Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
”And the Union workhouses.” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
”They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”
”I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”
”Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
”If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
Plenty of progressives turn to A Christmas Carol to mock conservatives’ complete indifference to poverty. This is the first time I can recall seeing the Republican leadership actively embrace an argument that is literally Scroogian.
It’s a new low for a movement that continues to embrace views so extreme that Victorians recognized them as parody 150 years ago.