CNN's Christine Romans dismissed millions of Americans who rely exclusively on food stamps for nutrition in a segment discussing Newark Mayor Cory Booker's decision to take the food stamp challenge. Romans downplayed Booker's attempt to destigmatize this program when she claimed that food stamps aren't meant to be people's only source of food when in fact, millions need the program for that exact reason.
On Monday, Booker began taking the the food-stamp challenge, which requires him to live for one week on a food budget equal to that of a New Jersey resident on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
On Wednesday, Romans, serving as guest host for CNN's Early Start, aired a clip of Booker talking about the difficulty he has faced in taking the challenge, as well as a photo of what Booker was planning to eat for the week. Romans then stated:
ROMANS: And I'd just like to add a point here because a lot of times people try to do this to prove a point, I guess, to live on SNAP, which is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It's not meant to be your own calorie intake source. ... Supplemental is the key. The government designs it so this is on top of what little money you might have, food pantries, soup kitchens. Some people are getting meals quite frankly in schools and the like. You know, like kids are getting two meals a day in school. So it's meant for a family to be supplemental. And it's never designed to be the only thing to survive.
Then, if you're going to survive on it, then we have to discuss as a country, are we -- are taxpayers going to pay for every calorie somebody consumes. Are we going to completely support people -- it's 46 million people who are getting food stamps.
Regardless of what the SNAP program was designed for, millions of Americans do rely on the program as their sole source of food. Peter Edelman, a scholar specializing in the fields of poverty and government assistance programs, stated that "six million people have no income other than food stamps." Edelman added that SNAP benefits are so low, it's difficult to understand how people can survive without other income.
CNN anchor Carol Costello questioned Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker's efforts to raise awareness of hunger in America, asking whether his decision to take the food-stamp challenge amounted to a publicity stunt. But Costello's own reporting on food insecurity sheds light on the need for greater public awareness, even as funding for supplemental food programs faces cuts during the final weeks of 2012.
In November, Booker announced that he would take the food-stamp challenge and live for one week on a food budget equal to that of a New Jersey resident on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. That came after a Twitter user challenged the mayor over the need for federal nutrition assistance. Booker's challenge began Monday and will last a week.
On Tuesday, CNN correspondent Alina Cho reported that Booker was taking the challenge to demonstrate the need for "deeper consideration" of Americans who rely on SNAP benefits and to "reduce the stigma" that often comes with reliance on the program. Costello questioned the long-term impact of Booker's campaign and asked whether it was "helpful or a pointless exercise."
Booker's challenge comes at a critical time for SNAP funding, as House Republicans push to reduce spending on the effective antipoverty program during year-end negotiations over broader spending cuts and the federal farm bill, which includes SNAP spending. Costello herself noted the push to cut SNAP funding during a discussion of the farm bill in September.
And, as Costello herself has demonstrated, public understanding of food insecurity and federal nutrition programs is often ill informed:
In questioning the effectiveness of Booker's efforts to raise awareness of this issue, Costello opined:
I'm not saying Booker is insincere. I'm just wondering what living for just a week in someone else's shoes really proves. It's not like the food stamp challenge hasn't been done before. The mayors of Philadelphia and Phoenix, even super chef Mario Batali have done it. What will it tell us that we don't already know? The talk back question for you today: is Cory Booker's food stamp challenge helpful or a pointless exercise?
Her own reporting on what Americans don't already know about food insecurity provides an answer.
A Fox News segment highlighting the fact that more Americans are benefitting from food stamps advanced the misleading notion that the United States has become a "food stamp nation" thanks in large part to the Obama administration's supposed comfort with having more people in poverty.
But the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is an antipoverty program -- it's designed to keep people out of poverty. And it closely tracks with the economic situation: As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted, enrollment in the program "expands when the economy weakens and contracts when the economy recovers."
During a discussion about the increase in food stamp enrollment with Fox host Neil Cavuto, conservative pundit Michelle Fields said the increase "has a lot to do with eligibility. They've expanded who can get food stamps, so we're seeing so many more people on them." She added: "That's really what this administration is all about, right, is making people feel more comfortable living in poverty because that's what food stamps are."
Though Cavuto noted that the economic situation is the cause of much of the increase in SNAP enrollment, he nevertheless suggested that spending on the program would continue at current high levels.
In fact, SNAP is an antipoverty program, designed to keep people out of poverty and lessen the extent and severity of poverty and unemployment. In 2011, for example, the program kept nearly 5 million people out of poverty, more than 2 million of them children:
On the eve of Thanksgiving, Fox News pundit Andrea Tantaros mockingly dismissed the plight of hungry Americans, claiming that she would "look fabulous" if she were forced to live on a food stamp diet.
Tantaros' vapid commentary came in response to Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker's pledge to accept the food-stamp challenge and try to subsist on $133 for food per month for an extended period of time, just as food stamp recipients in New Jersey do.
After Fox Business panelists speculated whether Booker's pledge is an effort at "positioning himself for a run for the presidency as a man of the people," Tantaros quipped: "I should try it because, do you know how fabulous I'd look. I'd be so skinny. I mean, the camera adds ten pounds."
Tantaros' comments are appalling and uninformed. While most of us feast on turkey and yams, stuffing and cranberries, on Thursday, millions of Americans will go hungry, just as they do every day. The food stamp challenge exists to demonstrate the struggles that food insecure families face trying to live on their monthly allotment of food.
Despite the difficulty in subsisting on food stamps, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), which was formerly known as food stamps, helped keep millions of families out of poverty in 2011.
From the November 7 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox News and conservative blogs are hyping a dishonest chart that shows employment decreasing while the numbers of people receiving government aid increasing since the end of 2008. However, an honest look at these figures would show that employment is on an upswing and enrollment in government aid programs has been increasing for decades.
The Weekly Standard and Fox Nation both put the chart, which is sourced to Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, on their websites. And Fox News aired the chart as well. The Standard said that the chart "details the alarming fact that enrollment in federal social welfare programs like Food Stamps, Medicaid, and Disability have far outpaced job growth over the last four years."
But this chart is incredibly dishonest. The chart uses December 2008 as its starting point, a date in the middle of a very deep recession. Employment began decreasing at the beginning of 2008 soon after the U.S. economy went into recession and was still decreasing in December 2008. But jobs have been increasing since in early 2010, resulting in the addition of more than 4 million jobs:
Furthermore, the increase in people receiving Social Security Disability benefits is not new. The number has been surging since the 1990s:
Fox News repeated the conservative myth that there is an emerging "culture of dependency" and a "culture of entitlement" because of the supposed notion that people would rather collect food stamp benefits than work. In fact, most beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are working-class Americans who already have jobs, and most leave the program after one year.
From the October 1 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the September 18 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta van Susteren:
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The right-wing media's assault on struggling Americans found its way in to GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's recently revealed remarks disparaging 47 percent of Americans "who pay no income tax" to a group of wealthy donors, once again demonstrating the conservative media's central role in the GOP.
Right-wing media figures are heaping praise on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget plan, with one Fox host calling Ryan "Mr. Budget." In fact, Ryan's budget plan would harm many Americans: It increases taxes on the poor while cutting them for the wealthy, drastically cuts Medicaid and other needed safety net programs, and would cost millions of jobs by reducing federal spending during a still-weak economy.
Rush Limbaugh defended a Romney campaign ad that attacks President Obama for giving states more flexibility in overseeing federal welfare-to-work programs. But this policy change was reportedly sought by 29 Republican governors, including Romney.
In July, as the New York Times reported, the Obama administration announced "that it would grant states waivers to experiment with how they administer the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which distributes aid to the poorest Americans while they look for work." The Times continued: "The directive results from a broader effort by the Obama administration to peel back unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and allow states to spend federal money more efficiently."
The article went on to state:
Of the five states that have so far expressed interest in receiving waivers, two of them, Utah and Nevada, have Republican governors. The other states are California, Connecticut and Minnesota, according to the Health and Human Services Department.
State support of waivers is not a new phenomenon. In 2005, 29 Republican governors, including Mr. Romney and Mr. Huckabee, asked Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, for more "flexibility to manage their TANF programs and effectively serve low-income populations."
"Increased waiver authority, allowable work activities, availability of partial work credit and the ability to coordinate state programs are all important aspects of moving recipients from welfare to work," the letter read.
Today, the Romney campaign released a television ad condemning the Obama administration's decision. The ad claims that Obama "quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements" and promises, "Mitt Romney will restore the work requirement because it works."
But the New York Times pointed out:
Seven years ago, Mitt Romney joined other governors to urge the federal government to grant "increased waiver authority" to states to experiment with implementation of the federal welfare-to-work program.
But as he runs for president, Mr. Romney and his Republican allies are now accusing President Obama of "gutting" the welfare program by saying it will consider waivers to states.
From the July 30 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the July 24 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Amid reports of rising poverty, two Fox News contributors claimed that anti-poverty programs have done nothing to alleviate poverty. In fact, federal government programs such as food stamps, Social Security, and other measures created or boosted by the stimulus billhave kept millions out of poverty and lowered the poverty rate.