Right-wing media have seized on comments made this week by Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah, suggesting that Fattah "admit[ted]" that Democrats are expecting voters to back them in the fall in exchange for "handouts" and "protect[ing] their government-aid gravy train." These attacks are yet another example of conservative media attempting to gin up outrage over programs designed to help struggling Americans.
During a discussion on the April 24 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation about House Majority Leader John Boehner's recent comment that Democrats have a one-in-three chance of reclaiming the majority, Fattah said in part that "people who are unemployed, they're not going to be voting for the party who wants to cut their benefits, cut access to food stamps, cut job training." From PoliticsNation:
FATTAH: President Obama is right, we need to continue to invest. That's why our GDP is up, and that's why we've got 35 months of private sector job growth. We are headed in the right direction. Unemployment continues to drop, and those people who are unemployed, they're not going to be voting for the party who wants to cut their benefits, cut access to food stamps, cut job training. The idea that Republicans are trying to help those who are unemployed is nonsense. And I think on this Election Day, those who have a job can credit the administration for stabilizing our economy, and those who don't know that this administration is trying to put them to work.
The Washington Examiner picked up Fattah's comments in an April 25 blog post, claiming that Fattah said that "unemployment could actually encourage people to vote for President Obama in order to secure welfare benefits such as food stamps." The Fox Nation later republished the Examiner post under the headline, "Democrat: Unemployed Will Vote for Obama to Keep Their Welfare":
The conservative blog Gateway Pundit highlighted Fattah's comments and claimed that it's "all about the handouts," while The Blaze claimed that Fattah "openly admit[ted] that some voters are supporting President Obama because he's the most likely to protect their government-aid gravy train." And an April 26 Big Government post added:
In other words, Fattah believes Americans who've been conditioned to live on Democrat handouts will certainly continue to vote for the Democrats. The last thing they'd do is vote for those rascally Republicans who want to rein in spending and encourage people to strive, once more, for some semblance of personal responsibility.
Conservative media have repeatedly accused the Obama administration of "bribing" voters, and this latest round of echoes that theme. But the programs mentioned by Fattah -- the food stamp program, known as the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and jobs training programs -- are hardly a "gravy train" that discourages unemployed Americans from "striving" for "some semblance of personal responsibility.
Sean Hannity spent an hour on the radio today continuing to deny the many hardships faced by poor Americans -- including hunger -- by pointing in part to the prevalence of modern appliances and the abundance of cheap foods found on a health website to support his point. At one point he gave this advice to poor households, "Quit drinking soda and drink water."
This was after spending the majority of his time attacking Media Matters and MSNBC for publicizing his original comments on the issue, when he insisted that "this idea that Americans are going to bed hungry" is not true because "you can survive" off such cheap food staples as rice and beans.
Hannity stated that MSNBC and host Ed Schultz were "lazy" for relying on a Media Matters item that highlighted Hannity's comments to debunk his claim that millions of Americans aren't going to bed hungry.
Fellow conservative talk radio host Mark Levin also called in to defend Hannity from criticism by similarly attacking Schultz. Levin stated: "First of all, Mr. Ed, that you call Ed Schultz, that guy looks like he eats for about three and a half people, doesn't he?" Hannity replied: "Now, be nice. It doesn't look like he missed a meal, I'll say that."
On his MSNBC show, Schultz criticized Hannity for his comments, calling him "the most out of touch man in America." Indeed, as Schultz noted in his segment, millions of families and children in the United States suffer from food insecurity. A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on food insecurity in America released in September 2011 found that "in 2010, 17.2 million households in America had difficulty providing enough food due to a lack of resources." The report also stated:
Food insecurity rates were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the current federal poverty line ($22,350 for a family of four), households with children headed by single women or single men, and black and Hispanic households.
But Hannity ignored the facts by claiming that cheap food is readily available. He then illustrated his point by reading a list of cheap foods and their cost per serving from WebMD, a website that provides health information:
From the April 25 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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From the April 24 edition of CNN's Early Start
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From the April 23 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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A recent New York Times article highlighted two studies that the article claimed "question the pairing of food deserts and obesity" and may "raise questions about the efforts to combat the obesity epidemic simply by improving access to healthy foods." While right-wing media have seized on the article to claim that food deserts are a "make-believe" issue, food experts have called the Times article "sloppy" and have said the two studies it highlights are "definitely outliers," in the face of "over 50 studies" in the past three years finding "the opposite."
New evidence that food stamps help to drastically reduce poverty has been largely ignored by the media, even as the right pursues a campaign to bully those who face food insecurity into silence and help conservatives slash funding for successful antipoverty measures.
In a report released April 9, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that food stamps "reduced the poverty rate by nearly 8 percent in 2009." That year, USDA researchers concluded, food stamps reduced the depth of child poverty by 20.9 percent.
As MSNBC's Al Sharpton explained, "facts matter" in the debate over anti-poverty programs. But a Media Matters analysis shows that major broadcast news outlets completely ignored the study, even as Republicans demonize food stamps and push to slash funding for the program.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that the Republican budget plan introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan and endorsed by Mitt Romney would cut funding for food stamps by $134 billion over 10 years. As the USDA estimates show, those cuts could have a significant impact on poverty rates.
On April 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a study finding that food stamps reduced the "prevalence, depth, and severity" of poverty between 2000 and 2009 and that their effects were especially strong during the recession, thanks to the stimulus. Television news outlets have all but ignored this story-- it has been mentioned only once on broadcast and cable news programming since April 9.
Conservative media have created a furor over CNN contributor Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney, drowning out an important truth: conservative policies limit women's opportunities to succeed economically.
From the April 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox's Stuart Varney dismissed the federal food stamp program as an "entitlement" that "make[s] you feel good" and attacked an outreach program intended to ensure that people know whether they are eligible for benefits, suggesting it was being used by the Obama administration to "buy votes." But the food stamp program -- the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- is effective and necessary as the number of hungry Americans has reached elevated levels, and the SNAP outreach program goes back at least to President George W. Bush.
From the March 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Rush Limbaugh is under fire for engaging in misogyny and sexism, but in addition to that his show has been used as a venue to mock human suffering, including victims of natural disasters and those stricken with various maladies.
On March 15, 2011, Limbaugh mocked Japan's environmental policies, insinuating that it hadn't protected them from the earthquake and tsunami that killed over 15,000 people. Responding a caller who asked "If these are the people that invented the Prius, have mastered public transportation, recycling, why did Mother Earth, Gaia if you will, hit them with this disaster?" Limbaugh said:
The Japanese have done so much to save the planet. He's right. They've given us the Prius. Even now, refugees are still recycling their garbage. And yet, Gaia levels them; just wipes them out. Wipes out their nuclear plants, all kinds of radiation. What kind of payback is this? That is an excellent question. They invented the Prius.
In fact, where Gaia blew up is right where they make all these electric cars. That's where the tsunami hit. All those brand new electric cars sitting there on the lot. I like the way this guy was thinking. It's like -- it's like Gaia hit the Prius in [inaudible]. It's like they were in the crosshairs -- if we can use that word. It does. What is Gaia trying to tell us here? What is the mother of environmentalism trying to say with this hit? Great observation out there, Chris.
On January 13, 2010, Limbaugh said Haiti produces "zilch, zero, nada" while discussing the earthquake that killed over 300,000 people.
That place, Haiti, has been run by dictators and communists, and how long is it going to be -- how long is it going to be before we hear Obama and the left in this country say that what we really need to do is reinstate the communist Aristide to the leadership position down there to coordinate putting the country back together? The Haitian economy is entirely dependent on foreign aid. They produce nothing -- zilch, zero, nada. And it's been that way for the longest time.
Also on January 13, 2010, Limbaugh questioned donating relief funds for the Haitian earthquake, explaining that "the U.S. income tax" was already "donated" to Haiti.
We've already donated to Haiti. It's called the U.S. income tax.
Rush Limbaugh has lost dozens of advertisers and at least two radio stations since he made a widely-criticized series of misogynistic attacks against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke. Limbaugh's comments were in keeping with a long record of sexist comments.
But women are not the only targets of Limbaugh's abusive vitriol.
Here are 10 of the worst smears of low-income Americans that Limbaugh's advertisers have sponsored since 2006:
I refuse to believe that this is real, and that someone is actually arguing this as a serious proposal, and that said proposal was deemed serious enough for publication by a secondary party, but it seems too earnestly argued to be parody, and nowhere is it identified as such.
A columnist at the Daily Caller writes today that people receiving food stamps should be forced to shop at government-owned stores selling sub-standard food so that they can feel the "humiliation and pain in receiving government assistance."
Oh, and they should "lose the privilege of voting."
My reform measures might seem draconian to some (and the antithesis of the free market), but they would hopefully have the desired result of reducing food stamp rolls so we could eventually eliminate the program and let the states handle the issue. Before accepting food stamps, people would have to carefully consider whether they want to face the loss of voting privileges, the humiliation of shopping at government stores and using government food, the inability to smoke or do drugs and the added inconvenience of having to make two or three stops for their groceries should they choose to buy snacks with their own money. Plus, tax producers would no longer have to knowingly be face to face with people at the check-out who are on government assistance but have nicer cell phones and accessories than they do.
So, essentially, Jim Crow for the poor. He even says food stamp recipients are "slaves to the government and should be reminded of that fact."
Again, it could be parody. I dearly, dearly hope it's parody. The author, Brion McClanahan, Ph.D.(!) might be a serious person, though his bibliography contains titles such as "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers," which would suggest otherwise.
What I do know is that he's put forth an idea that is illegal, almost certainly unconstitutional, morally reprehensible, and altogether monstrous.