Donald Trump is sending his vice president out to stoke as much division in America as possible before Election Day, by advocating the cruelest of measures: letting poor men, women and children go hungry.
The story Politico Playbook says is “driving the day” is that Mike Pence will lead “a public push for Congress to pass a farm bill with work requirements for food stamps.”
Food stamps (technically the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) help 43 million low-income Americans afford a nutritionally adequate diet.
As Alexia Fernández Campbell recently wrote for Vox, “Very few Americans enrolled in these programs don’t work because they don’t want to (an estimated 1.1 percent of Medicaid users and 0.3 percent of SNAP recipients). Instead, they don’t work because they are elderly, disabled, caring for relatives, or recently lost their job.”
Nevertheless, Trump wants to make a massive push in the next few weeks for what the Huffington Post’s Arthur Delaney, who has been tracking attacks on the poor for nearly a decade (bless his heart), correctly labels “a moralistic time limit on benefits that cuts people off even if no suitable work is available.”
Why? Because Trump is sick of being buffeted by story lines that, for a change, are not of his own making. And while he’s been out and about stoking his base at tent-revival style rallies, his most winning tactic has always been to divide Americans against each other: “us” against “them”; working tax payers against alleged “takers”; white against brown.
This move is clearly intended to bolster the mythical stereotype (really, more of a conspiracy theory) that Washington is taking money away from working-class white Americans and giving it to someone brown who doesn’t deserve it.
The House version of the farm bill, which contains the SNAP work requirement “would eliminate or reduce food assistance for more than 1 million low-income households with more than 2 million people,” writes Robert Greenstein, president of the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Among those likely to lose food assistance are a considerable number of working people — including parents and older workers — who have low-wage jobs such as home health aides or cashiers and often face fluctuating hours and bouts of temporary unemployment that could put their SNAP benefits at risk. In addition, substantial numbers of people with serious physical or mental health conditions, as well as many caregivers, may struggle either to meet the monthly work-hours requirement or to provide sufficient documentation to prove they qualify for an exemption — and, consequently, may be at risk of losing nutrition assistance.
And many of the households that lose benefits would do so primarily because they simply couldn’t master the paperwork.
In June, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan farm bill that mostly maintains the status quo, while the House passed its bill — with a two-vote margin, and with no support from Democrats – with the work requirements Trump seeks.
Food stamps benefit one out of eight Americans. They are the most effective way of keeping Americans from going hungry. And Trump is playing the worst kind of politics with their food.
Some background on SNAP: