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“The Right’s Ugly Food-Stamp Obsession Is Back!”: Why Lying Dog-Whistle Politics Returned

“Welcome to Obama’s America,” Fox’s Eric Bolling told his audience Tuesday – a dystopia where people now use food stamps to patronize “strip clubs, liquor stores, pot dispensaries.” Following up on its rubbishy August 2013 faux-exposé “The Great Food Stamp Binge,” Fox again profiled “surfing freeloader” Jason Greenslate, who is allegedly “livin’ large” in San Diego, thanks to the SNAP program, commonly known as food stamps. After Bill O’Reilly’s errand boy Jesse Watters caught up with Greenslate again Monday night, “The Five” used the lazy surfer as “the representative of literally millions of Americans,” in Bolling’s words. It was epic.

“He’s playing the system, he’s stretching the rules to their limits,” Bolling told Fox’s angry, fearful, mostly elderly viewers. “But what would you expect with a $105 billion program that’s almost tripled under Obamanomics? That’s what you would expect, right there, take a look at it. But what’s next? Strip clubs, liquor stores, pot dispensaries? Oh, that’s already going on, folks. Welcome to Obama’s America.”

Bolling’s rant came a day after Dick Cheney visited Fox and attacked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s military cuts, telling Sean Hannity, bizarrely, that Obama “would much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops.”

The right just can’t leave that old dog-whistle alone. It’s 2012 all over again – Newt Gingrich will be reviving his claim that Obama’s “the food stamp president” any minute now. In “Obama’s America,” the right is determined to make the president the tribune of a moocher-rewarding, ever-expanding welfare state, even if they have to lie to do so.

Of course in Obama’s America (and everyone else’s) SNAP regulations prohibit buying alcohol or tobacco with food stamps, let alone drugs, and they can’t be used at restaurants or bars, let alone strip clubs. But Bolling wants Fox viewers in a perpetual state of moral panic, and the notion that slackers like Greenslate are “livin’ large” – Fox’s term — on the public dime just works, the facts be damned.

Cheney’s rant was in some ways more offensive. Charging that the cuts proposed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are “really devastating,” Cheney went on: “It does enormous long-term damage to our military. They act as though it is like highway spending and you can turn it on and off. The fact of the matter is he is having a huge impact on the ability of future presidents to deal with future crises that are bound to arise.”

Of course, as Think Progress noted back when Cheney began lobbying against defense cuts in 2012, the former vice president himself presided over a 25 percent cut to the defense budget back when he was defense secretary under George H.W. Bush. The fighting force was reduced by 500,000 active-duty soldiers, a move that was blessed by Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Colin Powell.

That was then. These cuts are the work of Obama’s team. So not only must they be attacked as dangerous, they’ve got to be framed as something the corrupt Chicago “gangster” is doing to reward his coalition of slackers, moochers and lazy white surfers.

Now, maybe it’s progress that Fox is making a white surfer the poster boy for food stamp abuse – but it’s the link to “Obama’s America” that updates Reagan’s old imagery about Cadillac-driving welfare queens and “young bucks” using food stamps to buy “T-bone steaks.”

In fact only 1 percent of SNAP funds are wasted in fraud. Three-quarters of SNAP households include an elderly or disabled person or a child, and fully 42 percent of adult recipients are also working, but making too little to feed themselves and their families. Among the nation’s food stamp recipients are almost a million military veterans, who were slurred by Cheney, and thousands of active duty military too. Military families spent $100 million in food stamp funds at military grocery stores in 2013.

Fox and Cheney don’t want you to think about the veteran or the soldier or the single mother or the disabled senior on food stamps. They don’t want Fox viewers to ask why 42 percent of recipients make such low wages that they qualify for food assistance, or why so many veterans and even active-duty soldiers need help. To distract from an economy that’s increasingly hoarding rewards at the top, they point to a cartoonish moocher and blame Obama.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, February 26, 2014

 

March 2, 2014 Posted by | Fox News, SNAP | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Truly Essential Government Services”: Military Death Benefits, The Shutdown And The Importance Of Government

It gives a tragic new meaning to the term “death tax.” Families whose sons, daughters, husbands, wives and parents lost their lives in Afghanistan are now being denied the benefits traditionally given to defray the cost of funerals and travel costs to retrieve the remains. The funding cutoff, first reported by NBC News, is due to the government shutdown, which has stopped all but “essential” government services.

The House is set to pass a special bill restoring that cash. It’s unclear what the Senate will do. While expenditures involving the troops – especially fallen troops – are sacrosanct to lawmakers in both parties, Democrats have been loath to approve what they view as a GOP policy of releasing one hostage at a time while politicians fight over whether and how to reopen the government.

But the gut-wrenching impact on military families does serve one purpose. It reminds people of what their government does.

The understandable discontent with Washington has ballooned into a disgust with government of any kind, and a rejection of anything that has the word “government” attached to it. And it’s easy to point to government programs that may be bloated or outdated, or regulations that may do more harm than good.

But government programs are not just the big things – Social Security and national defense, for example – or even the smaller, but more controversial things, such as foreign aid or food stamps. It’s stuff like death benefits for families who have lost loved ones in conflicts they had nothing to do with authorizing. It’s things like payment for the Women, Infants and Children program – something that may be a budget item for those lucky enough not to need it, but which represents a life necessity for poor pregnant women and mothers.

We don’t all benefit directly from every single government program. They’re there because they represent  who we are – a nation that cares for its own, whether it’s hungry people or a family who needs to bury a servicemember.

Lawmakers can certainly debate the structure or funding level of such programs; that is, of course, their job. But it’s important to remember that much of what government does seems invisible – not because it’s not working, but because it is working.

Give LIHEAP assistance to low-income people who can’t afford to heat their homes, and it can appear to a hardline fiscal conservative like the aid is not doing any good. But take it away, and have an elderly person freeze to death in her home, and suddenly, the program seems useful. The National Transportation Safety Board might seem like just another government bureaucracy. But when a deadly bus crash occurred in Tennessee, and a Metro worker was killed while doing repair work over the weekend in Washington, D.C., the absence of a functioning NTSB becomes more evident. Sometimes, the value of government programs is the absence of disaster and pain. Military families are just one casualty of trying to function with almost no government at all.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, October 9, 2013

October 10, 2013 Posted by | Federal Government, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In Memoriam”: Joe Biden Recalling Dark Days After Losing Family, “It Can And Will Get Better”

Vice President Joe Biden, in a moving speech to families of fallen troops on Friday, recounted the dark days following the tragic deaths of his wife and daughter and talked about understanding thoughts of suicide.

“It was the first time in my career, in my life, I realized someone could go out – and I probably shouldn’t say this with the press here, but no, but it’s more important, you’re more important. For the first time in my life, I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide,” he said. ”Not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts, because they had been to the top of the mountain, and they just knew in their heart they would never get there again.”

Biden said he would sometimes call family just to hear someone say that he could get through it, that he could make it through the grief. He recalled the day he got the news in 1972, a few weeks after he had been elected to the U.S. Senate for the first time at the age of 29.

“I was down in Washington hiring my staff and I got a phone call, saying that my family had been in an accident,” he said. “And just like you guys know by the tone of the phone call, you just knew. You knew when they walked up the path. You knew when the call came. You knew. You just felt it in your bones: Something bad happened. And I knew — I don’t know how I knew, but the caller said my wife is dead. My daughter is dead. And I wasn’t sure how my sons were going to make it. They were Christmas shopping and a tractor trailer broadsided them.

“In one instant, killed two of them and, well…” Biden said, his voice trailing off before finishing the thought.

He was angry, he said, angry they were gone, angry at God, and he recalled walking through the rotunda at the Capitol, on his way home to identify the bodies.

“And I remember looking up and saying, ‘God,’ I was, as if I was talking to God myself, ‘You can’t be good, how can you be good?’”

Biden said he was lucky to have the support of his family, but as the days and weeks unfolded, it sometimes wasn’t enough.

“There was still something gigantic missing,” he said. “And just when you think, ‘Maybe I’m going to make it,’ you’re riding down the road and you pass a field, and you see a flower and it reminds you. Or you hear a tune on the radio. Or you just look up in the night. You know, you think, ‘Maybe I’m not going to make it, man.’ Because you feel at that moment the way you felt the day you got the news.”

And he said well-wishers would express their condolences and often tell him that they knew how he felt, something he resented.

“You knew they were genuine. But you knew they didn’t have any damn idea, right?” Biden told attendees at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp in Arlington, Va.. “That black hole you feel in your chest like you’re being sucked back into it.”

He said a phone call finally jolted him out of despair. It didn’t take away his grief but showed him a path through it. Biden didn’t identify the caller by name but said he was a former New Jersey governor whose wife had also died suddenly. The caller told Biden to start marking in a calendar each day how he felt, and that, after a few months, he would find that he still had dark days but that they would grow fewer and further apart.

“He said, ‘That’s when you know you’re going to make it,’’” Biden said.

Biden concluded his remarks with some advice: to keep in mind what late loved ones would have wanted and that loved ones who are alive still need you.

“Folks, it can and will get better,” Biden said. “There will come a day – I promise you, and your parents as well – when the thought of your son or daughter, or your husband or wife, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen.”

 

By: Donovan Slack, Politico, May 25, 2012

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Family Values | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Banks May Have Illegally Foreclosed On 5,000 Members Of The Military

For months, major banks have been dealing with the fallout of the “robo-signing” scandal, following reports that the banks were improperly foreclosing on homeowners and, in many instances, falsifying paperwork that they were submitting to courts. Banks have been forced to go back and re-examine foreclosures to ensure that homeowners did not lose their homes unlawfully.

In the latest episode of this mess, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has found that banks — including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup — may have improperly foreclosed on up to 5,000 active members of the military:

Ten leading US lenders may have unlawfully foreclosed on the mortgages of nearly 5,000 active-duty members of the US military in recent years, according to data released by a federal regulator. […]

The data released by the OCC are based on estimates prepared by lenders and their consultants. BofA said it is reviewing 2,400 foreclosures involving active-duty military families to see if they were conducted properly. Wells Fargo is reviewing 870 foreclosures and Citigroup is looking at 700 cases.

Also under review are 575 foreclosures at OneWest, formerly known as IndyMac; 87 at HSBC; 80 at US Bancorp; 56 at Aurora, formerly known as Lehman Brothers Bank; 25 at MetLife; six at Sovereign; and three at EverBank.

Back in April, JPMorgan Chase, which was not one of the 10 banks that the OCC examined, agreed to a $56 million settlement over allegations that it had overcharged members of the military on their mortgages. Chase Bank has even auctioned off the home of a military member the very day that he returned from Iraq. Two other mortgage servicers agreed in May to settle charges of improperly foreclosing on servicemembers.

Even without the banks illegally foreclosing, military members have been hard hit by the foreclosure crisis. Last year alone, 20,000 members of the military faced foreclosure, a 32 percent increase over 2008. The newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is tasked with ensuring that military members are treated fairly by financial services companies — a job that is obviously necessary — but Republicans in Congress have, so far, refused to confirm a director for the agency, leaving it unable to fulfill all of its responsibilities.

By: Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, November 29, 2011

November 30, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Republicans | , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Debt Impasse, GOP Full Of Contradictions

Sen. Mitch McConnell has a clever plan to resolve the federal debt impasse. Congressional Republicans would invite President Barack Obama to raise the debt ceiling on his own, and then they would excoriate him for doing so.

Hmm. Just a bit contradictory?

Meanwhile, the impasse arose because congressional Republicans thunder against government red ink, yet refuse to raise revenue by ending tax breaks that help Warren Buffett pay a lower tax rate than his receptionist (which he agrees is preposterous). Another contradiction? Of course.

McConnell’s plan – a pragmatic way to avert a catastrophic default – may be torpedoed by more extremist House Republicans, such as Michele Bachmann. They seem to fear that ending tax loopholes for billionaire fund managers would damage a fragile economy. Yet they seem to think that this invalid of an economy would be unperturbed by the risk of a default on our debts.

A contra- . . . yes, you got it!

What about this one? Republicans have historically been more focused on national security threats than Democrats. Yet what would do more damage to America’s national security than a default that might halt paychecks for American military families?

This game of “spot the contradiction” is just too easy with extremist Republicans; it’s like spotting snowflakes in a blizzard. Congressional Republicans have taken a sensible and important concern – alarm about long-term debt levels, a genuine problem – and turned it into a brittle and urgent ideology.

Politicians in both parties have historically been irresponsible with money, but President Bill Clinton changed that. He imposed a stunning fiscal discipline and set the United States on a course of budget surpluses, job growth and diminishing federal debt – until the Republicans took over in 2001.

In the Bush years, Republicans proved themselves reckless both on the spending side (unfunded wars and a prescription drug benefit) and on the revenue side (the Bush tax cuts). Their view then was, as former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill quoted Vice President Dick Cheney as saying, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

It may seem odd that Republicans were so blithe about debt in the Bush years, yet now insist on addressing the problem in the middle of a downturn – even though basic economics dictates that a downturn is the one time when red ink is advisable. Well, just another of those contradictions.

Then there’s the rise of health care costs, a huge burden on our economy. It’s pretty clear what doesn’t work: the existing, dysfunctional system. A forthcoming book on health care by Paul Starr, “Remedy and Reaction,” notes that in 1970 the United States spent a smaller fraction of income on health care than Denmark and the same share as Canada.

Today, in dollar terms, we spend 21/2 times the average per capita of other rich countries.

When congressional Republicans do talk about health care, they have one useful suggestion – tort reform – and it was foolish for Democrats (in bed with trial lawyers) to stiff them on it. But research suggests that curbing malpractice suits, while helpful, would reduce health costs only modestly.

Beyond that, the serious Republican idea is to dismantle Medicare in its present form. That would indeed reduce government spending but would increase private spending by even more, according to the CBO.

The Obama health care plan could have done better on cost control, but it does promote evidence-based medicine, so that less money is squandered on expensive procedures that don’t work. And the Independent Payment Advisory Board will recommend steps to curb excess spending in Medicare.

Yet congressional Republicans are trying to kill the Obama health plan. Yes, of course: another contradiction.

A final puzzle concerns not just the Republican Party but us as a nation. For all their flaws, congressional Republicans have been stunningly successful in framing the national debate. Instead of discussing a jobs program to deal with the worst downturn in 70 years, we’re debating spending cuts – and most voters say in polls that they’re against raising the debt ceiling. I fear that instead of banishing contradictions, we as a nation may be embracing them.

By: Nicholas Kristof, Columnist, The New York Times, Published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 14, 2011

July 18, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Health Care Costs, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Medicare, Middle Class, National Security, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Loopholes, Taxes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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