A recent New York Times article highlighted two studies that the article claimed "question the pairing of food deserts and obesity" and may "raise questions about the efforts to combat the obesity epidemic simply by improving access to healthy foods." While right-wing media have seized on the article to claim that food deserts are a "make-believe" issue, food experts have called the Times article "sloppy" and have said the two studies it highlights are "definitely outliers," in the face of "over 50 studies" in the past three years finding "the opposite."
New evidence that food stamps help to drastically reduce poverty has been largely ignored by the media, even as the right pursues a campaign to bully those who face food insecurity into silence and help conservatives slash funding for successful antipoverty measures.
In a report released April 9, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that food stamps "reduced the poverty rate by nearly 8 percent in 2009." That year, USDA researchers concluded, food stamps reduced the depth of child poverty by 20.9 percent.
As MSNBC's Al Sharpton explained, "facts matter" in the debate over anti-poverty programs. But a Media Matters analysis shows that major broadcast news outlets completely ignored the study, even as Republicans demonize food stamps and push to slash funding for the program.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that the Republican budget plan introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan and endorsed by Mitt Romney would cut funding for food stamps by $134 billion over 10 years. As the USDA estimates show, those cuts could have a significant impact on poverty rates.
On April 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a study finding that food stamps reduced the "prevalence, depth, and severity" of poverty between 2000 and 2009 and that their effects were especially strong during the recession, thanks to the stimulus. Television news outlets have all but ignored this story-- it has been mentioned only once on broadcast and cable news programming since April 9.
Conservative media have created a furor over CNN contributor Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney, drowning out an important truth: conservative policies limit women's opportunities to succeed economically.
From the April 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox's Stuart Varney dismissed the federal food stamp program as an "entitlement" that "make[s] you feel good" and attacked an outreach program intended to ensure that people know whether they are eligible for benefits, suggesting it was being used by the Obama administration to "buy votes." But the food stamp program -- the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- is effective and necessary as the number of hungry Americans has reached elevated levels, and the SNAP outreach program goes back at least to President George W. Bush.
From the March 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Rush Limbaugh is under fire for engaging in misogyny and sexism, but in addition to that his show has been used as a venue to mock human suffering, including victims of natural disasters and those stricken with various maladies.
On March 15, 2011, Limbaugh mocked Japan's environmental policies, insinuating that it hadn't protected them from the earthquake and tsunami that killed over 15,000 people. Responding a caller who asked "If these are the people that invented the Prius, have mastered public transportation, recycling, why did Mother Earth, Gaia if you will, hit them with this disaster?" Limbaugh said:
The Japanese have done so much to save the planet. He's right. They've given us the Prius. Even now, refugees are still recycling their garbage. And yet, Gaia levels them; just wipes them out. Wipes out their nuclear plants, all kinds of radiation. What kind of payback is this? That is an excellent question. They invented the Prius.
In fact, where Gaia blew up is right where they make all these electric cars. That's where the tsunami hit. All those brand new electric cars sitting there on the lot. I like the way this guy was thinking. It's like -- it's like Gaia hit the Prius in [inaudible]. It's like they were in the crosshairs -- if we can use that word. It does. What is Gaia trying to tell us here? What is the mother of environmentalism trying to say with this hit? Great observation out there, Chris.
On January 13, 2010, Limbaugh said Haiti produces "zilch, zero, nada" while discussing the earthquake that killed over 300,000 people.
That place, Haiti, has been run by dictators and communists, and how long is it going to be -- how long is it going to be before we hear Obama and the left in this country say that what we really need to do is reinstate the communist Aristide to the leadership position down there to coordinate putting the country back together? The Haitian economy is entirely dependent on foreign aid. They produce nothing -- zilch, zero, nada. And it's been that way for the longest time.
Also on January 13, 2010, Limbaugh questioned donating relief funds for the Haitian earthquake, explaining that "the U.S. income tax" was already "donated" to Haiti.
We've already donated to Haiti. It's called the U.S. income tax.
Rush Limbaugh has lost dozens of advertisers and at least two radio stations since he made a widely-criticized series of misogynistic attacks against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke. Limbaugh's comments were in keeping with a long record of sexist comments.
But women are not the only targets of Limbaugh's abusive vitriol.
Here are 10 of the worst smears of low-income Americans that Limbaugh's advertisers have sponsored since 2006:
I refuse to believe that this is real, and that someone is actually arguing this as a serious proposal, and that said proposal was deemed serious enough for publication by a secondary party, but it seems too earnestly argued to be parody, and nowhere is it identified as such.
A columnist at the Daily Caller writes today that people receiving food stamps should be forced to shop at government-owned stores selling sub-standard food so that they can feel the "humiliation and pain in receiving government assistance."
Oh, and they should "lose the privilege of voting."
My reform measures might seem draconian to some (and the antithesis of the free market), but they would hopefully have the desired result of reducing food stamp rolls so we could eventually eliminate the program and let the states handle the issue. Before accepting food stamps, people would have to carefully consider whether they want to face the loss of voting privileges, the humiliation of shopping at government stores and using government food, the inability to smoke or do drugs and the added inconvenience of having to make two or three stops for their groceries should they choose to buy snacks with their own money. Plus, tax producers would no longer have to knowingly be face to face with people at the check-out who are on government assistance but have nicer cell phones and accessories than they do.
So, essentially, Jim Crow for the poor. He even says food stamp recipients are "slaves to the government and should be reminded of that fact."
Again, it could be parody. I dearly, dearly hope it's parody. The author, Brion McClanahan, Ph.D.(!) might be a serious person, though his bibliography contains titles such as "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers," which would suggest otherwise.
What I do know is that he's put forth an idea that is illegal, almost certainly unconstitutional, morally reprehensible, and altogether monstrous.
From the February 11 edition of Fox News' Forbes On Fox:
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From the February 1 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the January 30 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money:
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How many missed meals does it take to be poor?
It's a question at the root of the latest campaign to redefine what it means to be poor in America.
Citing U.S. Department of Agriculture data that he claims shows "just 1 percent of households have someone who is forced to miss a meal" during an average day, Washington Examiner blogger Paul Bedard took up the conservative cause of dismissing poverty by pointing to all the cool things poor people own, like VCRs:
Forget the image of Appalachia or rundown ghettos: A collection of federal household consumption surveys collected by pollster Scott Rasmussen finds that 74 percent of the poor own a car or truck, 70 percent have a VCR, 64 percent have a DVD, 63 percent have cable or satellite, 53 percent have a video game system, 50 percent have a computer, 30 percent have two or more cars and 23 percent use TiVo.
A similar campaign to downplay the scourge of poverty in 2011 was voiced perfectly by Fox's Stuart Varney, who argued:
The image we have of poor people as starving and living in squalor really is not accurate. Many of them have things, what they lack is the richness of spirit.
In fact, what they actually lack is the richness of money to pay for things like food and shelter.
Which brings us back to the question -- how many missed meals does it take before one is poor enough to rate?
Another day, another dishonest Fox News chart. This time Fox is twisting the data to support Newt Gingrich's claim that President Obama is the "food stamp president" because "more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history."
On today's edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto, Mike Huckabee agreed, saying that "what Newt says remains factual: more people have gotten on food stamps under Barack Obama as he's president than ever before. So it's true." Guest host Eric Bolling agreed, adding that "under Obama the program has increased by 45 percent in three years." During the segment, Fox amplified the point with the following chart:
This chart adds to Fox News' record of using misleading charts to deceive their viewers. It features mismatched data that does not answer the question of whether "more people have gotten on food stamps" under Obama than any under other president (spoiler alert: they haven't).