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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Of Food Assistance and Rightwing Lunatics

Food stamps accepted
I was going to write about the Supreme Court and "Obamacare," but I have to agree with Ezra Klein -- we don't know jack and we won't until the ruling comes down. "Wait and see" isn't a very satisfying bit of punditry, but it is responsible. So wait and see.

Instead of some crystal ball gazing, let's look at an issue that has the rightwing blogosphere up in arms; the fact that the government wants to make sure you get what you're entitled to.


More than one in seven Americans are on food stamps, but the federal government wants even more people to sign up for the safety net program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been running radio ads for the past four months encouraging those eligible to enroll. The campaign is targeted at the elderly, working poor, the unemployed and Hispanics.


The department is spending between $2.5 million and $3 million on paid spots, and free public service announcements are also airing. The campaign can be heard in California, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, and the New York metro area.

"Research has shown that many people -- particularly underserved seniors, working poor, and legal immigrants -- do not understand the requirements of the program," said Kevin Concannon, a USDA under secretary.

Of course, this is the worst thing ever!

It occurs to me that this is the best demonstration of the difference between liberals and conservatives these days; liberals worry that someone, somewhere isn't getting along very well, while conservatives worry that someone, somewhere is getting away with something. Better that a innocent person be executed than a guilty one go free, better that thousands be disenfranchised rather than one commit voter fraud, better that millions of families starve rather than one get a "free ride." Conservatives believe the very worst of their fellow citizens, which in turn makes them the very worst of Americans.

And of course, there's that whole stimulative nature of food assistance. When the economy is bad and a lot of people are in need, food stamps are an automatic stimulus program. No congressional action is needed, no endless debates and hostage negotiations with clowns like Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell. More people need, so more people get -- like unemployment benefits -- and when the crisis has passed, the stimulus automatically ends. Consumer demand is propped up in an incredibly efficient manner. A study by Moody's in 2008 found that for every dollar spent on food stamps, "$1.73 is generated throughout the economy."

So here's the rightwing blogosphere, booing the White House for making an investment with a historic return of 173%. What a waste of taxpayer money, huh? Boo socialism! Boo!

But it all goes back to the fear -- seemingly a deep, deep dread almost like a phobia -- that someone, somewhere is getting away with something. For them, one bad apple does spoil the whole bushel and if someone is getting a dime fraudulently, the whole program should be shut down forever. It's not enough that fraud be illegal, it has to be made impossible to commit.

I lost all respect for the wingnut blogosphere and rightwing talk radio a long, long time ago. If the bloggers and radio hosts on the right are serious and not just shameless demagogues, they are quite literally mentally ill. I know their audience is. You can't take any of this stuff seriously without being deeply paranoid. For them, helping other Americans is something to sneer at, because maybe a dozen of those millions being helped might possibly be getting something they don't deserve.

For them, shipwrecks are just excuses to hand out free life preservers to shiftless bums too lazy to dog paddle. Sink or swim, comrades. And if you sink, at least some crook didn't get a life raft to sell on eBay.


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