Pharos-Tribune

Columns

December 4, 2013

PARKER: Food stamps and turkey tales

If you peruse the news on any given day, the farm bill/food stamp debate produces two general impressions: Republicans are heartless turkey thieves; Democrats are spendthrift welfare caterers. If only neither were a little bit right.

As with tabloid stories, there’s always a smidgen of truth in the headlines. Yet surely, too, there is some middle ground between such harshly ideological views. But no. We have grown fond of the facile and have wandered far from any willingness to meet halfway, especially when you get more bucks for your bang with hyperbolic indictments of the other side.

The holiday season provides fresh corridors of shame. Last week, Gene Sperling, White House economic adviser, put a Thanksgiving spin on the GOP’s efforts to extract the federal food stamp funding from the farm bill. “At a time when people are about to sit around the table with their families to celebrate a meal,” Sperling intoned, “it hardly seems the right time to be pulling food off the table for millions of our neighbors.”

Mission accomplished. Imprinted on the collective mind is a craftily placed message: Republicans don’t care about poor people. Distilling further, given that Republicans are mostly white — and the welfare model is associated with the Ronald Reagan-generated, African-American “welfare queen” — the inference can be made that Republicans don’t care about non-whites. Ergo, Republicans are selfish, greedy “haters.”

Never underestimate the subliminal power of a holiday message. What better time to tap into the emotions of a turkey-induced, somnambulant populace?

While the foregoing is not really true in any significant way, Republicans are nothing if not committed to executing their party’s operating principle — cut spending at all costs — no matter the consequences or political repercussions.

Here’s the proper GOP message: “Our entire entitlement system needs reform, but now is not the time to cut food stamps. This is because people still can’t find work thanks to a sluggish economy that this administration’s policies have failed to improve and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is merely making worse.”

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