Oklahoma Republican Party Compares Welfare Laws To Park Animal Feeding Policy

Dear Oklahoma Republican Party,

Imagine the look on my face when I woke up to this yesterday morning:

OKGOP

No. Just, no. 24 hours after you published it, you retracted your statement with a very brief (read: half-assed) apology but that’s a little too little, a little too late. You see, most of us know better, even if a few staunch supporters defended your incredibly disturbing comparison, claiming you were actually comparing programs, not people. Please.

This has been a long-standing GOP tradition and, frankly, we’re done with it. According to articles written by Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Huffington Post, and, especially this great piece by Tara Culp-Ressler over at ThinkProgress:

Opponents of maintaining state and federal funding for social safety net programs have a long history of making comparisons between government beneficiaries and animals, which is widely considered to be a racially coded insult.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich once said that the current welfare system is “turning children into young animals and they are killing each other.” A GOP congressional candidate in Texas, meanwhile, compared welfare beneficiaries to donkeys.

The “don’t feed the animals” meme in particular is popular among GOP candidates. In 2012, a Minnesota state representative made nearly the exact same comparison while making the case that less money should be allocated to food stamps. In 2010, a Republican candidate for governor in South Carolina criticized food stamps by saying his grandmother “told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals” because “they breed.” Both later apologized.

Really! Well, let me tell you something, Oklahoma Republican Party (and the rest of the GOP)…

According to the non-partisan group, The Center on Budget and Policy, more than 80% of food stamp recipients work (and that statistic increases to nearly 90% if we’re talking about families with children). The remaining recipients are primarily elderly and/or disabled.

As a single mom, I was a food stamp participant and I received child care assistance while I worked full-time and attended university. I graduated with a 3.78 GPA, thanks in no small part to the assistance I received. And here’s a fun fact: I’m not “the exception.” Most recipients work hard to get themselves into a position in which they no longer need to be on the program. Why? Frankly, the stigma attached to being on public assistance is humiliating. But, while we need it, the overwhelming majority of us are quietly grateful for the help.

I realise “successful government program assists millions in getting back on their feet,” isn’t as exciting as comparing us to animals though. STOP buying into the myth that the food stamp program encourages laziness. And shame on anyone who compares struggling humans to stray or wild animals (even if it’s supposedly under the pretense of comparing two programs, not people)!

Dear, Oklahoma Republican Party (and the rest of the GOP who buy into the drivel you’ve been fed over the years), shame on you!

Sincerely,

A former program participant who is grateful for the help she received and now has no problem paying it forward

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  • Another outrage (Yawn).

    To those working schlubs in line a the grocery store, paying their hard-earned cash for substandard grub, see the well-trained food stamp users buying what they can't afford, that message speaks to them. Sorry. It does. It really, really does.

    You can paint it anyway you like, but the abuse in the food stamp program is rife, and it is gamed every which way to Sunday. Just once, I'd like the lady buying the great cut of steak to turn around and say, "Thanks" to the young couple scarping by with Hamburger Helper. Yeah, right.

    Did you bother to pay the money back that you accepted from foodstamps once you got better situated? What exactly does "paying it forward" mean? Do you race up and pay for the foodstamp groceries of the person in front of you with your private money, saving the taxpayer? Somehow, I think not.

    Paying the money you took back to the US Treasury would be a good start, if you're into "fairness". After all, many of your cohorts did not take any taxpayer money, and either didn't eat or ate Hamburger Helper sans the hamburger.

    You owe them.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Richard,

    Your "well-trained food stamp users" are, by a landslide, the exception, not the rule. Most of us - myself included - use/d food stamps to buy frivolous things like the generic version of hamburger helper and the big log of "76% lean" ground beef to try and stretch our food budget.

    There was no program to pay back the money I accepted from food stamps, once I was better situated. If you're asking whether or not I now pay taxes, thus paying into the program, the answer is "yes." - as I have every year, even when I was on the program, actually.

    Do I race up and pay for the food stamp groceries of the person in front of me with my private money, saving the taxpayer? The system doesn't work that way. Program participants use a SNAP card that looks like any other debit card so, unless I'm exceptionally nosy, I'd never even know who is using a SNAP card and who isn't.

    Since you asked what "paying it forward" means, I'll tell you. I have an outreach. Each week, I do spend my own private money to buy food to make meals for the homeless here in Chicago. I buy them clean socks in the winter and I sit and share coffee and conversation with them. I buy them toiletries, hand warmers, hats and gloves. All with my own money. Occasionally, other good-hearted people donate socks and gloves but, for the most part, I don't rely on anyone else. Additionally, I use my own money to help homeless women purchase feminine hygiene products. I also donate time and money to various programs around my city when I'm not working. And yes, while I don't have any way of knowing who in the grocery line is on the government food assistance program, I do pay the extra buck or five when someone has less money than they thought. You see, I know how utterly shitty it feels to struggle and I'm more than happy to help others who are going through a rough patch, partly because I'm grateful for the help I received and partly because it's simply the right thing to do.

    Again, there isn't a "pay it back" program but I certainly did pay into the program for many years as a full-time employee (including while I was working, going to school, and receiving benefits. Fun fact: low income families still pay taxes) and I continue to pay in now.

    My debt is paid. But even so, I'll keep helping others because, as I already mentioned, it's the right thing to do. By the way, you know what ISN'T right? Comparing poor people to animals.

  • I know of elderly people who are denied food stamp assistance because they have too many assets....what sort of asset might you ask? In the specific case of my mother, it was the fact that she owned the grave my father was buried in as well as the one alongside it for herself when the time came..... Another elderly person of my acquaintance was denied assistance because she owned her home, sort of (the full value of the home was exhausted due to a reverse mortgage, which meant upon her death, it would revert to the reverse mortgage holder). How about the disabled lady who cannot leave her apartment without assistance due to wheel chair and oxygen tank? Why would she not qualify for assistance....she certainly cannot hold a job, and she is alone in the world, paying full freight for an apartment, plus utilities, plus untold medical expenses. Then you have the example, courtesy of my teen daughter.....a mother of 8 children, no two children having the same father, living in a lovely home-5 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths. All of her children get free breakfast and lunch at school in addition to her receiving food stamps and WIC coupons....If she is receiving food stamps and WIC, why can she not send her kids to school with a sandwich and apple as the rest of us do? She also gets money from the assorted fathers of her children, so while my daughter's classmate receives free meals at school, that same child always has $10-20 in her purse, always has the newest and nicest clothing, always has the most current iphone. If I were to give my daughter $10-20 per week, I would have no money in my purse at all.....and even though I do not give her an allowance, there are many weeks between paychecks where I have no money in my purse either.

    Before you get completely upset. I spend a good part of my time engaged in supporting our local food pantries, assisting with food drives, donating extra items when I am fortunate enough to come upon a sale or coupons or both. I do believe in helping others, but there is not rhyme or reason to the manner in which the assistance is distributed. I have met one too many folks that are in true and dire need, who have been turned away on ridiculous rationales or technicalities. If you are desperate enough to need the assistance, you certainly do not have the money for an attorney to advocate that you have been unfairly treated by the system. 46 million Americans receiving aid from food stamp programs, and yet estimates indicate that there are 90 million who are shut out of the work force without job, and that number is larger when you take into account those forced into retirement by age and physical disability....There are people who experience "rough patches" as you put it, most definitely. And they probably do feel horribly about needing the assistance. The difference is between the person who is trying to get back on their feet, and those who have made a lifestyle career out of the social safety network, those who will assert that it is not worth their while to accept work, because they will earn less than if they stay on welfare. We have generational poverty in this country, in which children are raised in a welfare culture and then, in turn, have children and raise them in the same welfare culture. Multiple generations, often living under the same roof, and none of them engaged in either education or gainful employment. We have men who father literally dozens of children and yet have no financial responsibility for those children. These are not folks having a rough patch, fallen on hard times, or trying, but falling short of needs.

    I can remember a natural disaster-Hurricane Katrina-and everyone wanting to help, as did I.....I went to my local Pastor who was also on the National Relief committee. These people had lost homes, everything in those homes, and in some cases, family members. The needs were great, but when I offered to put together packages with just common sense items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, deodorant etc for personal care while they sought housing, or determined if they could get back into their old homes, I was told that those efforts would not be welcome and that I should just give gift cards or send cash.......Putting myself in their situation (and I was flooded out of my home), I would have been thrilled with personal hygiene items and perhaps a clean towel and washcloth, so I could put my best foot forward trying to put the pieces of life back together. I would be thankful, and I certainly wouldn't be telling people how they should help me......Excuse me, please, but I would rather you give me $50 or a gift card???? I am sorry, as we don't seem to live in the same world. We have created a culture of dependency, and it is grossly unfair to those who are trapped within it. It is based upon the mentality of giving them just enough, but in reality, just enough keeps getting larger and larger as time goes along.

    I have recently read statistics that indicate in urban areas such as Chicago, a family of four on the full gamut of social safety net programs is earning the equivalent of $48K per year when all the various programs and benefits are taken into account. Do you realize that exceeds the notion that we should be jacking minimum wage to $15/hr (which only equates out to $30K per year)? And that even at the new and improved minimum wage, we still wouldn't be moving people out of poverty? In fact, all we have succeeded in doing is making more people feel that they live in poverty, basically any family not making $48K per year. The upward spiral has to stop, and at some point we must acknowledge that our definition of poverty has become distorted.

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