A USA Today editorial is downplaying poverty and food insecurity in America, and using Fox News talking points to justify a push to cut vital and effective anti-poverty programs.
In June the Senate voted to reduce spending on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, by $4.5 billion. Conservatives in the House are pushing for deeper cuts to the program, despite the fact that food stamps reduced the poverty rate by 8 percent during the depths of the recession.
In championing those cuts, USA Today offered a shockingly uninformed dismissal of the problem of food insecurity -- a term researchers say is more accurate than hunger. Pointing to increased use of food stamps in recent years, the editors opined:
These numbers are not driven by a rise in hunger. Indeed they have come about at a time when Americans -- particularly those on the lower-income rungs -- are struggling with obesity.
This analysis is nonsense. As Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger told The New York Times: "Hunger and obesity are often flip sides to the same malnutrition coin." The Food Research and Action Center explains: "food insecure and low-income people are especially vulnerable to obesity due to the additional risk factors associated with poverty." Minnesota Public Radio further detailed the interaction between food insecurity and obesity in a January 27, 2012, report:
Recent research from the University of Minnesota finds parents who struggle to get enough food eat fewer fruits and vegetables and drink more sugar-sweetened beverages than other parents. That is largely due to poor access, said Mary Story, a dietician in the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health.
"What we know is that fruits and vegetables cost more, whole grains cost more," Story said. "And many low-income people live in neighborhoods or communities that lack access to a supermarket."
USA Today's apparent ignorance of the connection between obesity and food insecurity casts doubt on its call to "nudge the numbers back toward where they were in the mid-'90s."
But their embrace of Fox News' bullying tactics underscores the pernicious aspect of the campaign to demonize and cut food stamps.
After detailing efforts over the past decade to expand SNAP eligibility, the editorial argued:
Adding to the growth, the Agriculture Department has begun advertising the program more aggressively, and it has removed many of its inconveniences (and its stigmas at the cash register) by replacing coupons with cards that look and function much like debit cards.
This type of poverty-shaming has been a constant drum beat on the right. In June, New York Post columnist and Fox News regular Michael Goodwin discussed increased SNAP enrollment and lamented: "The sense of shame is gone." Goodwin's commentary echoed other Fox figures who have castigated SNAP beneficiaries for lacking an appropriate level of shame.
Perhaps tomorrow USA Today will explain how easy it is to feed a family on a diet of rice and beans.
Right-wing media are attacking a program designed to increase awareness of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) among the elderly, saying they hope the effort "come[s] to a quick end." But SNAP outreach programs have been crafted and employed by previous administrations, hunger is increasing among all groups, including the elderly, and the elderly are under enrolled in SNAP.
Right-wing media have once again attacked the federal food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), this time by misleadingly citing a projection that the program will cost $770 billion over the next decade. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that both food stamp enrollment and costs will decline during that period as the economy improves.
Fox is helping the GOP eviscerate vital antipoverty programs by characterizing the poor "as actually living the good life." In fact, as incomes have stagnated and income disparity between the rich and working class have grown, such drastic cuts would mean "ending assistance for millions of low-income families."
Right-wing media are hyping discredited conservative activist Lila Rose's latest Planned Parenthood smear video which purports to implicate the organization in a rampant problem with sex-selective abortion in the United States. But the facts debunk Rose's latest attack on Planned Parenthood, and Rose and her group have repeatedly whittled away any credibility with previous smear campaigns against Planned Parenthood.
Fox's John Stossel claimed that it's a "myth" that "the poor are getting poorer" and that they are actually getting "richer." In fact, incomes for the bottom fifth have shown almost no growth in recent decades, and the numbers Stossel used to support his argument were cherry-picked.
From the May 25 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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In strikingly one-sided reports, Fox News assailed an anticipated regulation protecting streams from mountaintop coal mining waste. Among other misleading claims, Fox accused the Obama administration of punishing a contractor who said the rule would kill jobs, when in fact, extensive evidence indicates the contract was halted simply because the firm did shoddy work.
Following the Obama campaign's ad highlighting Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital, right-wing media are hysterically calling the ad an attack on private equity and even "an attack on capitalism" itself. But the ad clearly and specifically targets Romney's own work at Bain Capital -- which Romney and his campaign have repeatedly touted as crucial experience for dealing with the economy -- not private equity or capitalism as a whole.
Right-wing media have attacked a contract between the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and a public relations firm to raise awareness of health and preventive care opportunities as a "propaganda piece" for the health care law that "violates many of the procurement laws." But PR campaigns like this are nothing new; in fact, the Bush administration spent $1.6 billion dollars over a 30-month span promoting its policies.
In 2010, 48.8 million Americans lived in food-insecure households, including 16.2 million children. The worst economic downturn since the Great Depression has swelled the numbers of Americans receiving SNAP benefits (commonly referred to as food stamps) to more than 46 million people.
But according to Fox contributor and New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin, the problem that struggling Americans receiving SNAP benefits have isn't really hunger or poverty. It's that they're not ashamed enough about taking the help.
Plugging his latest Post column on this morning's Fox & Friends, Goodwin lamented that the "sense of shame is gone" in receiving government assistance.
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): Are too many Americans avoiding work to collect welfare? Well, check this out. Just last year, 45 million Americans received food stamps. That's a 70 percent increase since President Obama took office. So you have to wonder: Are entitlements the new American dream. Joining me now, Michael Goodwin, Fox News contributor and columnist for the New York Post. You know, I almost get a stomach ache saying that because when you think of the American dream, you certainly don't think about handouts, but is that what we're becoming?
GOODWIN: Well, it's interesting. The thing I write about in here is the idea that shame used to be part of this. In other words, people didn't want to accept a handout because they were ashamed to do it. There was a kind of social contract that said you don't do it. You're independent, you're reliant. That was part of the American founding virtue, as Charles Murray calls them.
And yet now we look at them, we see this explosion of entitlements. The sense of shame is gone. So I focus this week on food stamps, which I think is a real cultural issue, because it's now 47 million people in the country are on food stamps.
Goodwin is upset that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently proposed regulations that would prohibit New York City from fingerprinting food stamp applicants. In his Post column, Goodwin calls this opposition to the city's policy part of the "left's war on shame."
But Cuomo and advocates for the hungry say that the city's policy causes some people who are eligible not to apply for assistance because of the stigma associated with fingerprinting. The New York Times quoted Albany Bishop Howard J. Hubbard as saying, "Poverty and hunger are not crimes."
According to Jennifer March-Joly Further, executive director of the Citizens' Committee for Children, "The finger-imaging requirement has long deterred thousands upon thousands of potentially eligible applicants from applying for food stamps."
Goodwin joins the growing list of Fox News figures who have demonized those who receive food stamps and minimized the struggles of poor Americans. Charles Payne once castigated the poor for not being sufficiently ashamed of their poverty. Stuart Varney dismissed "the image we have of poor people as starving and living in squalor," claiming that "many of them have things -- what they lack is the richness of spirit." Sean Hannity recently urged people struggling with food insecurity to make pots of beans and rice "for relatively negligible amounts of money," claiming that the "idea Americans are going to bed hungry" isn't true.
Nearly 50 million Americans are struggling with food insecurity. Fox News wants them to pass a shame test before they can get help to buy food.
From the May 17 edition of MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell:
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Fox News is decrying the inclusion of needed provisions in the Violence Against Women Act that would protect immigrants, Native Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals from domestic abuse. Critics contend that not extending these protections would render victims more vulnerable to domestic violence.
Fox News and Fox Business star in the coal industry's newest ad attacking the Obama administration. Relying heavily on footage from Fox, the ad promotes the Fox narrative that EPA is waging a "war on coal" and forcing coal plants to close. Like Fox, the ad fails to mention that the EPA is simply following its legal obligations under the Clean Air Act to set limits on pollution and that many of the coal plant closures are actually due to competition with cheap natural gas plants.
The ad also mirrors Fox's recent attempt to blur the lines between potential technology that would capture and bury carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants (so-called "clean coal") and the same old coal that continues to emit more carbon dioxide than any other fuel, not to mention mercury and other toxic pollutants. The ad purports to show "Candidate Obama vs. President Obama on Clean Coal" but it really shows candidate Obama on "clean coal" vs. President Obama on dirty coal. Fox Business' Lou Dobbs helped fuel the misinformation by obscuring this distinction in a segment on Obama's coal policies.
Fox & Friends later piled on saying that Obama wants you to "buy into the fact that he's buying into clean coal." But the Obama administration has supported "clean coal" technology -- the stimulus bill allocated $3.4 billion for carbon capture and sequestration research and development.
While Dobbs and the ad tout how "affordable" coal is in order to argue against EPA regulations, a study by centrist economists concluded that coal may be "underregulated" since the price we pay for coal-fired power doesn't account for the costs imposed on society by air pollution.
Not content to shame food stamps recipients and bully them into silence, Fox News is now targeting efforts to raise awareness of poverty and food insecurity.
The latest front in the Fox News war on anti-poverty measures takes aim at chef Mario Batali as he highlights the difficulties of living on food stamps -- problems that are routinely dismissed on Fox while the network pushes for drastic cuts to nutritional aid and other anti-poverty measures. Batali, who sits on the board at the New York City food pantry, is trying to live on a $31 food budget for a week in order to illustrate the struggles families face trying to survive on a food stamp budget, even as the right looks to cut funding for the program:
For one week, the acclaimed chef Mario Batali is challenging Americans to "walk in someone else's shoes" by eating only what they would be able to buy with food stamps.
Batali, the star of ABC's "The Chew," partnered with the New York City Food Bank to raise awareness about potential cuts to the food stamp program, which helps feed 46 million Americans.
Discussing Batali's role in the food stamp challenge, Red Eye host Greg Gutfeld asked, "Does this make you want to slap him around?"
Gutfeld's dismissive mocking of Batali's efforts comes amid an exhaustive campaign by Fox to demonize those who receive food stamps while simultaneously minimizing their struggles. Fox's Charles Payne once castigated the poor for not being sufficiently ashamed of their poverty. Fox host Stuart Varney dismissed "the image we have of poor people as starving and living in squalor," opining, "many of them have things -- what they lack is the richness of spirit."
The campaign of dismissive scorn reached its Marie Antoinette moment when Fox's Sean Hannity urged folks struggling with food insecurity to make large pots of beans and rice "for relatively negligible amounts of money."
Which raises a question: When will Hannity, Varney, and Gutfeld take the food stamp challenge and show how much food they can buy with the richness of spirit and the appropriate helping of shame?