The Republican Vote to Cut Food Stamps is Really a Decision to Kill the "Useless Eaters"
15 million Americans were “food insecure” in the United States during 2012. The Great Recession has increased the number of Americans who do not have sufficient food by 30 percent. The fastest growing group of people who need some assistance with obtaining sufficient food to maintain a basic standard of living is the elderly. Hunger in America is estimated to cost the U.S. economy 167 billion dollars.
Approximately 20 percent of American children live in poverty. Food insecurity and hunger leads to a long-term decline in life spans and a diminished standard of living for whole communities.
Last week, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to cut 39 billion dollars from federal food assistance programs. Their vote is more than just the next act in the ongoing politics of cruelty by the Republican Party in the Age of Obama.
It is a decision to kill poor people.
In America, discussions of poverty are linked in the public imagination to stereotypes about race, class, and gender. The face of poverty is not white (the group which in fact comprises the largest group of recipients for government aid). Instead, it is the mythical black welfare queen, or an “illegal” immigrant who is trying to pilfer the system at the expense of “hard working” white Americans.
Discussions about poverty are also easily transformed into claims about morality and virtue. Consequently, while the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is very efficient and involves very little if any fraud on the part of its participants, stereotypes about the poor can be used to legitimate the policing and harassment of Americans in need of food support through mandatory drug testing and other unnecessary programs.
Here, the long-term end goal for Republicans is revealed for what it is—a desire to make being a poor person into a crime.
Such a project serves a broader effort by conservatives to further transfer resources upward to the 1 percent from the American people. The decision by Republicans to further punish the poor, while the United States is in the midst of one of the greatest economic calamities in recent memory, also exists in the context of a Republican Party whose last presidential nominee suggested that 47 percent of the American public are human leeches and parasites.
Their vote to cut food assistance programs (as well as the social safety net more broadly) exists in a bizarre political moment when the Republican Party is possessed by a radical and destructive ideology, one that is a mix of Ayn Randian fantasies, austerity and neoliberalism run amok, and libertarianism processed through the carnivalesque freak show performance and eliminationist shtick of Right-wing talk radio.
The Republican Party’s hatred of poor people overlaps with its use of white racial resentment and symbolic racism to win over white voters in the post civil rights era.
For decades, conservatism and racism have been political intimates in the United States. The Great Recession and the rise of austerity politics have facilitated a frightening union of those forces on the American Right.
With the introduction of the “Southern Strategy” during the Nixon era, and now spurred on by the election of the country’s first black president, The Tea Party GOP has been fully transformed into what is best described as a “Herrenvolk” political organization.
“Herrenvolk”--what literally means “the Master Race” or “chosen people”--is a description of a society where citizenship is tiered and hierarchical along lines of “race”. As such, the dominant group receives the full benefits of social services, transfer payments, and other supports from the State. The out-group, marked as the Other, is viewed as not deserving of such resources.