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.
Fox hosts attacked President Obama for his opposition to Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's Small Business Tax Cut Act, claiming the bill would give "the middle class a tax break" and "creates thousands of jobs." In fact, Obama has threatened to veto Cantor's bill specifically because it does not target the middle class; as experts have said, Cantor's bill would disproportionately benefit the wealthy and create few to no new jobs.
From the April 11 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox Business host Stuart Varney, also known as Fox's "very clearly partisan" economic analyst, has two major platforms: anything benefitting the rich is good; anything benefitting the poor is bad. Not only does he rail against programs intended to alleviate poverty, he often criticizes the poor themselves, once even going so far as to claim that what poor people really "lack is the richness of spirit." On yesterday's Fox & Friends, Varney used his regular segment, titled, "Who's Ruining The Economy?" to again attack the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a program designed to raise low-income, working families out of poverty:
VARNEY: OK. You work, you don't pay much in tax, if anything. You don't earn much money. But bingo, you get into this program, and you will get a check from the government early in the year. It's a refund of the tax that you didn't pay in the first place -- 26,800,000 people got those checks last year, averaging $2,240 each. The government shelled out a total of $59-and-a-half-billion to those 26 million people last year. It's free money. Literally pennies from heaven. And now you have the government saying, hey, you may qualify. Come on in. We got a check for you.
Later in the segment, Varney repeated a claim he made previously about the EITC -- that it is "one of the most corrupt systems there is." As evidence, he claimed that poor people, like those "drug dealing," could game the system by not declaring the money they make in their income tax.
But, of course, the program doesn't benefit drug dealers; it benefits low-income, working Americans.
From the April 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the March 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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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 16 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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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:
Rush Limbaugh has lost dozens of advertisers since a series of misogynistic attacks against Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke that has brought widespread criticism to the radio host, causing at least two radio stations to reportedly drop his show. Even his apology has been criticized.
But these comments are not the first time Limbaugh has used demeaning vitriol on air.
Here are 15 of the worst things Limbaugh's advertisers have sponsored since 2004:
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.
The re-emerging right-wing myth that low-income Americans aren't paying their "fair share" in taxes relies on flawed data: a report from the Heritage Foundation highlighting the fact that nearly half of Americans pay no federal income tax. In fact, while nearly half of Americans pay little to no federal income tax, nearly three-quarters pay other federal taxes, and nearly all pay state and local taxes; Americans who pay neither income nor payroll taxes are seniors, students, people with disabilities, and others who are not part of the working population.
Rush Limbaugh again dismissed poverty in America, downplaying the role high medical costs play in personal bankruptcies and blaming poverty on poor people.
Limbaugh expressed outrage that President Obama said Americans shouldn't expect to go bankrupt from medical bills and questioned whether medical bankruptcy occurs.
According to a study published in The American Journal of Medicine in 2009, medical problems contributed to at least 46 percent of all bankruptcy filings in 2007, and up to 62 percent of bankruptcy filings included a medical cause. Three-quarters of those filers had health insurance. CNN reported:
On average, medically bankrupt families had $17,943 in out-of-pocket expenses, including $26,971 for those who lacked insurance and $17,749 who had insurance at some point.
Limbaugh eventually acknowledged that medical costs do contribute to personal bankruptcies, but his comments downplaying medical bankruptcies were part of a larger critique of the social safety net. Responding to comments Obama made earlier in the day about rebuilding the American economy, Limbaugh chastised the president for saying we should not "settle for a country where a few people are doing very well and everybody else is having to just struggle to get by." Limbaugh downplayed concerns over inequality, saying, "It's not just a few people who do very well in this country." He added:
And in many cases, speaking bluntly, the people that don't do well only have themselves to blame. And those who have no control over themselves are the ones we help.
Limbaugh's dismissiveness is nothing new. In August 2009, he told a caller concerned about the cost of treating his broken wrist: "Well, you shouldn't have broken your wrist." In February 2010, Limbaugh suggested the uninsured eat applesauce if they couldn't afford dentures. He also advised people to pay for their doctor visits in cash instead of using insurance.