Fox's Steve Doocy today complained that congressional Republicans are "demonized" over attempts to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - formerly known as food stamps - "a little bit." But the GOP has attempted to cut SNAP several times and put essential benefits for millions of low-income families at risk as a result.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed "there are times when people do need help, but some have suggested 'I'm sure there's some scamming going on out there.' " Doocy went on to point out that "the number of people who are on food stamps has dramatically increased" and complained "remember, we told a story, I think, about two weeks ago about how a Republican senator was trying to just scale it back just a little bit. And he was demonized. You can't touch the food stamp money they said."
Doocy is significantly downplaying efforts to cut the program. Congressional Republicans have tried over and over to slash the program, including plans to slash billions from the program which experts have noted would take benefits away from millions of low-income families.
Fox News and its counter-parts in right-wing media pounced on Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett for pointing out that Fox News has a long history of using "class warfare" to attack President Obama. But despite the attacks from the right-wing media, Jarrett is right that Fox has a long history of resorting to charges of "class warfare" to attack President Obama while waging war itself against struggling Americans.
During a July 1 appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival, former Time editor Walter Issacson asked Jarrett about the notion held by "so many business men and others" that Obama is "attacking the rich, attacking people who make a profit, people who make jobs." Jarrett responded by noting that the class warfare narrative may be emanating from a "particular" network, one that isn't CNN and presumably not MSNBC.
Fox News, and other right wing media outlets attacked Jarrett's comments. Fox News host Greta Van Susteren in a July 6 tweet and blog post asked, "is she drinking?" Fox Nation and Breitbart.com, both highlighted Jarrett's comments. Newsbusters, a conservative media blog, in a July 6 post went a step further, accusing Jarrett of "reflexively bash[ing] Fox News" and "relentlessly shovel[ing] all the Obama talking points."
But despite the right-wing media's complaints, Fox News has made itself the home of "class warfare," both in their willingness to use the label to attack President Obama, and in their attacks on both the poor and policies designed to alleviate poverty.
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.
Fox News attacked the food stamp program for its increasing enrollment and costs, accused the program of facilitating fraud, and expressed astonishment that states are rewarded for increasing enrollment. However, enrollment in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased due to the recession; there are only about 1 percent of cases that are found to be fraudulent, and the state awards for enrollment date back to the Bush administration.
Economists agree that austerity measures in a weak economy lead to less growth and fewer jobs, and the condition of Wisconsin's jobs market, which is lagging much of the rest of the country, is consistent with that fact. Nevertheless, Fox News figures are spinning Gov. Scott Walker's recall win as proof that budget cuts "will help our nation as a whole with the economic woes that we face."
A great deal of Fox News' on-air resources are devoted to insulating the wealthy from the ignominy of criticism. Watch a few hours of Fox and you'll see reports on how the rich -- or "so-called rich," per the hilarious network parlance -- are an incorruptible force for good who suffer mightily under the onerous burden of the lowest tax rates since Reagan.
The real villains in Fox News' economic calculus are the poor. In the Murdoch network's view, the economically disadvantaged lack shame and "the richness of spirit." They're "ruining the economy" with their "entitlement mindset" and "laziness," and have no reason to complain given that they own microwaves. This morning the networked teased John Stossel's appearance on The O'Reilly Factor tonight, during which the mustachioed glibertarian prop comic will explain how the American poor are "living the good life."
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."
Fox & Friends aired a video attacking President Obama by resurrecting dishonest and misleading attacks on his economic record. The video, which was produced in the style of a campaign ad against Obama, furthers Fox News' role as the communications and campaign arm of the GOP.
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.
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.
In a recent report previewing the Economic Policy Institute's upcoming State of Working America analysis, EPI president Lawrence Mishel explained how American workers have been cut out of sharing in economic prosperity during the past 30 years, citing a divergence of pay and productivity as a key driver of growing income inequality in the United States.
Mishel noted that although American workers' productivity has steadily increased, their pay has remained largely stagnant over the past three decades. Mishel explained that "[t]his divergence of pay and productivity has meant that many workers were not benefitting from productivity growth -- the economy could afford higher pay but it was not providing it."
Here's more from Mishel:
A key to understanding this growth of income inequality -- and the disappointing increases in workers' wages and compensation and middle-class incomes -- is understanding the divergence of pay and productivity. Productivity growth has risen substantially over the last few decades but the hourly compensation of the typical worker has seen much more modest growth, especially in the last 10 years or so. The gap between productivity and the compensation growth for the typical worker has been larger in the "lost decade" since the early 2000s than at any point in the post-World War II period. In contrast, productivity and the compensation of the typical worker grew in tandem over the early postwar period until the 1970s.
Productivity growth, which is the growth of the output of goods and services per hour worked, provides the basis for the growth of living standards. However, the experience of the vast majority of workers in recent decades has been that productivity growth actually provides only the potential for rising living standards: Recent history, especially since 2000, has shown that wages and compensation for the typical worker and income growth for the typical family have lagged tremendously behind the nation's fast productivity growth.
Mishel included a chart further illustrating this pay and productivity gap:
From the May 17 edition of MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell:
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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?
Right-wing media have responded to criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan's GOP budget plan by trying to reframe the plan as not actually calling for spending "cuts," but that it simply limits the rate of an increase in spending. But experts agree that Ryan's plan would indeed reduce funding to programs that assist millions of low- and middle-income Americans; as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has noted, Ryan's plan includes reductions in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding that alone would "necessitate ending assistance for millions of low-income families."