KAMISCHKE: War on Poverty becoming War on Poor

Ever since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a War on Poverty, we have debated whether helping needy people trains them to be dependent or gets them on their feet. Evidence indicates that both sides have valid concerns.
Oct 4, 2013

 

But, after 40 years of debate, extremists in the conservative movement have become lost and mean-spirited, turning the War on Poverty into the War on the Poor.

Despite the U.S. being the richest country in the history of the world, House Republicans just passed a bill that reduced food stamps by $39 billion over 10 years. The bill passed with 217 Republican votes and no Democratic support. Our own representative, Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, voted with the majority.

I count 75 churches in the Tri-Cities area — and, in a Republican district, I assume that many of those church members voted for Rep. Huizenga.

We know how God would have voted if He was in Congress because He couldn’t be clearer. Here are just a few examples: "Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble!" (Isaiah 58:10) "He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor." (Prov. 22:9) “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” (Luke 3:11)

His demands are simple and unqualified.

My question is, what are the people in those 75 churches saying? If there ever was a time for the clergy to take a stand on a current, unambiguous topic, this is it. I can’t imagine how this congressional vote is one that Christians or compassionate people anywhere could tolerate or condone.

It’s not that those who support the cuts haven’t tried to explain their actions in Christian terms, mind you; they just don’t make sense. When Ken Blackwell, former politician and currently a Senior Fellow at the Family Research Council, was asked about the cut in food stamps, he said: “There’s nothing more Christian” because "through empowering others and creating self-sufficiency ... there within lies the path to (a) sense of worthiness." Mr. Blackwell wants to build character through hunger.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said on the House floor prior to the vote: "This bill is designed to give people a hand when they need it most, and most people don't choose to be on food stamps. Most people want a job. ... They want what we want." So, Rep. Cantor thinks that people who want a job don’t want to eat, and he’s happy to help.

Perhaps the trophy for hypocrisy should go to Rep. Steven Fincher, R-Tenn., who received $3.5 million over eight years in farm subsidies, yet thought it proper to cut food stamps for the poor. He said: “The role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity is to take care of each other, but not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country.” Oh, my.

So, how much are the poor getting in food stamps? Currently, the amount paid to recipients is $133 per month — that’s $4.43 a day. No one I know wants to try this diet. The Congressional Budget Office says that 3.8 million Americans now receiving food stamps will no longer be eligible as a result of these cuts.

Lest anyone think that hunger is a far-away condition, 37 percent of Grand Haven students are eligible for free or reduced lunches. That’s 2,257 children who may need assistance in getting the bare necessities right here in our fair city. We justify feeding schoolchildren because hunger cripples one’s ability to learn.

Who are these food stamp recipients? Well, 83 percent of all food stamp benefits go to households that include a child, an elderly person or a disabled person. And 91 percent of food stamps go to households living at or below the poverty level ($14,648 for a family of three).

We are faced with a question: Should we forget this vote by Rep. Huizenga because he belongs to our party or because hunger is not an issue we personally face? I hope not. I hope we are willing to say that what is taught on Sundays is good for every other day, that it’s not OK to cut assistance programs during a prolonged economic drought that has taken jobs and a living wage away from the middle and lower classes.

Republicans get very upset about any talk of tax increases on the rich; they are resolute about keeping oil-company subsidies; they insist on weapon systems the Pentagon doesn’t want; and House Republicans are nearly unanimous about not helping the poor get enough to eat.

So, when Jesus said in Matthew that a heavenly reward awaits those who give to the poor, I suggest that those who deny food to the poor should start making alternative long-term plans.

— By Richard Kamischke, Tribune community columnist

Comments

gordbzz231

WE SOUND MORE LIKE EYGPT UNDER A DICTATOR, STARVING THE POOR, THEY HAVE NO WELFARE, JUST BREAD LINES AND HAVE TO DEPEND ON FAMILY, SOME FAMILYS HAVE 8 TO 10 PEOLE IN ONE HOUSEHOLD AND ONE PERSON SUPPORTING THEM, HERE IN AMERICA WE NO LONGER CAN DEPEND FAMILY MUCH, ASK YOUR BROTHER OR SISTER IF YOU CAN MOVE IN BECAUSE YOU CANT MAKE IT ALONE, SEE WHAT KIND ANSWER YOU GET, SORRY ABOUT THE CAPS

Vladtheimp

What would Jesus say about misrepresenting (lying) about facts to promote a political agenda?

GOP Food Stamp 'Cuts' Actually Increase Spending. The food stamp bill passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives earlier this month, widely criticized for supposedly cutting the nutrition assistance program to the poor, would actually raise spending over the next decade by 57 percent, to $725 billion from the $461.7 billion that was spent on the program in the last decade.

No sooner had the House voted, 217 to 201, on September 19 to pass the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act than the usual suspects were rushing to portray the measure as stingy and coldhearted.

“House Republicans Pass Deep Cuts in Food Stamps,” was the headline in the New York Times national news section. The Republican “war on food stamps” shows that the congressmen are “mean-spirited class warriors,” wrote Nobel laureate Paul Krugman.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the House bill would spend $725 billion on food stamps over the years 2014 to 2023. The Department of Agriculture’s website offers a summary of spending on the program that reports spending totaling $461.7 billion over the years 2003 to 2012, a period that included a dramatic economic downturn.
http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront...

This column in the Trib is shameful!

Cherusker

I disagree, I think it is dead on. I don't think it really matters how much you keep repeating your Fox News style statistics and science, the problems are very obvious and you have no solutions. Your right wing style misrepresentation of actual facts is the only shameful thing out there.

Tri-cities realist

Vlad shows sourced data, and you respond with? I know it is inconvenient that the spending actually INCREASES, when you really want to believe the mean GOP wants to starve people. Turn off MSNBC and maybe you'll learn something.

Cherusker

You guys crack me up. "Sourced data" ... or lets say that this is the part of data that you actually like to repeat. And your source is Newsmax ... the great right hope.

"In March 2009, Forbes ran a feature on Newsmax describing it as a "media empire" and the "great right hope" of the Republican Party.

Tri-cities realist

I was referring to CBO and dept of Ag, as the cited sources.

Vladtheimp

Of course you disagree - when you place your hands over your ears and chant Nah Nah Nah to avoid hearing the truth, it's easy to stick with the opinions force fed to you by the politicians and their enablers in the mainstream media.

If you can show me that the House actually reduced spending for food stamps from what we are spending today by $39 Billion over 10 years - prove it - otherwise revel in your ignorance.

Wingmaster

One pesky little part of the bill is it would require adults between 18 and 50 without minor children to find a job or to enroll in a work-training program in order to receive benefits. Why is trying to help someone get job skills training a shameful thing?

Its shameful that these people are being used as political chess pieces and not actually helped.

No one is going to be left without food like the left media and Democrats like to puff about. That is just an absurd position used by the left to hype and scare people.

Tri-cities realist

I see 2 choices in how to help the poor: voluntarily giving through churches or other charitable organizations, or the govt taking your money through taxation, and determining how the govt wants to spend it. I choose the former. The overhead is lower (many run by volunteers), so more money goes to help the poor. The alternative is to waste a large portion of the money by bureaucratic govt overhead, no thanks.

Wingmaster

Can't do that TCR, you can't use the program to get the votes if churches or charitable organizations are helping people.

"If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy." --Thomas Jefferson

Lanivan

There seems to be lots of misinformation floating around about SNAP.

As the number of unemployed increased by 94% in the years 2007-2011, SNAP experienced an increase in participation by 70%. The Recession of 2007-2009 was a direct cause in large part of the increase in participation (but it's more self-serving to shift the spotlight off the disastrous Bush years to "Obama - the food stamp president").

In addition, we have had a surge of returning military in the last few years. In 2012, military families received about $100 million in SNAP benefits.

TRI - "The alternative is to waste a large portion of the money by bureaucratic govt overhead, no thanks." Sure backs up your argument, but isn't accurate. SNAP administrative expenses equal less than 4.5% of the overall federal SNAP costs.

http://feedingamerica.org/how-we...

West Michigan is very generous in voluntary giving, both through churches and other organizations. But the need increased dramatically since 2007-2012, and contributions just couldn't keep up with it. Often, the food pantries are not sufficiently stocked.

The Republican move to cut $40 billion from the SNAP program wouldn't be so hard to swallow if they would have passed even one jobs proposal in the last 3 years. Working hard to cook up a jobs initiative that would help reduce the number of those living in poverty that qualify for SNAP benefits - especially in this stagnant economy, in conjunction with tightening up areas of waste within the SNAP program, would indicate a sincere, honest attempt to meet the budget challenge that Vlad highlights.

Otherwise, the House, including Rep Bill Huizenga, considering they both expanded and increased Agri-Business subsidies as well as making them permanent, had best take Richard Kamischke's advice and begin doing some soul-searching.

Vladtheimp

Puleaze, turn off the fog machine and "show me that the House actually reduced spending for food stamps from what we are spending today by $39 Billion over 10 years."

Tri-cities realist

Lanny, local volunteer programs cost $0 in overhead. 4.5% on $1 Billion = $45,000,000 that doesn't help those in need. Tens of millions of dollars is large to me, sorry you don't agree.

Lanivan

"Working hard to cook up a jobs initiative that would help reduce the number of those living in poverty that qualify for SNAP benefits - especially in this stagnant economy, in conjunction with tightening up areas of waste within the SNAP program, would indicate a sincere, honest attempt to meet the budget challenge that Vlad highlights."

What's this - chopped liver? What more do you want? Sorry - I really don't have time to play mind games with word salads. Fog machine? You mean facts and statistics that show causation and clarify misconceptions?

But your response does indicate to me that you have very little ammunition in your arsenal of conservative talking points to justify expanding, increasing and making permanent most generous Agri-Business federal subsidies, all the while crying "We're doing this for the debt".

Vladtheimp

I provided statistics that demonstrated the House actually increased funding for SNAP and simply asked for facts and statistics proving what I provided was wrong. What I got was fog - in both replies.

Vladtheimp

I provided statistics that demonstrated the House actually increased funding for SNAP and simply asked for facts and statistics proving what I provided was wrong. What I got was fog - in both replies.

Tri-cities realist

"mind games with word salads". Thank you for that, it is exactly how I would describe the practice of calling an increase, a "cut".

Lanivan

VLAD: It's awesome that in addition to all your other talents, you are able to turn a pig into sausage. How valuable are statistics when they are taken out of context, are cherry-picked, and are selectively crafted to show a deliberately limited scenario.

But as Rummy said, "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you want/wish you had".

TRI: You know what would be nice? If just once in a while you actually came up with an opinion with some depth, or possibly relevancy, with links and other bells and whistles, rather than put out one-line streams of consciousness. I know - you're busy.

Vladtheimp

Puleaze, turn off the fog machine and "show me that the House actually reduced spending for food stamps from what we are spending today by $39 Billion over 10 years."

ggravish

So from what I can tell this Kamishke dude was hired to write columns, that, regardless of subject matter, always come down to bashing local churches? I don't go to church, most Christians make me want to throw up, but c'mon, man, the transparency of your "arguments" is laughable.

 

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