One of the Reasons Republicans Hate Food Stamps? It Helps Democrats Win Elections

Lambert: Concrete material benefits for working people a proven vote-getter? Science fiction stuff!

By Michael Arria, associate editor at AlterNet and AlterNet’s labor editor. Originally published at Alternet.

Food stamp spending has declined for the last two years, with 13.7% of the population currently using the program compared to a high of 14.9% in 2013, but that hasn’t stopped the GOP from looking to cut billions from the program. Many believe that the Democrats making a robust defense of food stamps would be politically unwise, but a new paper suggests this assumption might be incorrect.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, continues to be viewed as a third-rail issue for many political observers. Since the late ’70s (in addition to advocating for cuts), Republicans have waged an ideological war against the very concept of handouts, often tapping into racial and gender stereotypes in the process. Throughout the 1980s, Ronald Reagan frequently chastised SNAP for allowing “some young fellow ahead of you to buy a T-bone steak” while “you were waiting in line to buy hamburger.” Haney-López, author of Dog Whistle Politics: How Fifty Years of Coded Racial Appeals Wrecked the Middle Class, points out that this was the toned-down version of Reagan’s original anecdote:

When he first field-tested the message in the South, that “young fellow” was more particularly described as a “strapping young buck.” The epithet “buck” has long been used to conjure the threatening image of a physically powerful black man often one who defies white authority and who lusts for white women. When Reagan used the term “strapping young buck,” his whistle shifted dangerously toward the fully audible range. “Some young fellow” was less overtly racist and so carried less risk of censure, and worked just as well to provoke a sense of white victimization.

The historian Premilla Nadasen makes a direct link between these tropes popularized by Reagan and the arguments made by the Clinton administration when it passed welfare reform in 1996. Clinton’s welfare reform bill was “rooted in a culture of poverty argument,” writes Nadasen, “evidenced by his racially coded language of dependency and people taking advantage of the system.”

The brutal legacy of Clinton’s legislation continues to be felt by the country’s poor. In 2016 over 500,000 adults lost their SNAP benefits as a direct result of the 1996 law, which dictates that unemployed individuals between the ages of 18-49 who aren’t disabled or raising minor children can only have access to the program for three months.

Some chalk up such Democratic policies as little more than realpolitik, a way to outflank the right on galvanizing issues. Even food stamp advocates often concede that the safety net can be a tough sell, and the numbers indicate they’re right. A 2013 poll showed that two-thirds of Americans supported kicking 4 million people off of food stamps. Statistics like this might suggest that a Democratic defense of food stamps would be a political liability, but a new study reaches a much different conclusion.

In his paper, “Electoral Consequences of Welfare State Expansion: The Case of the Food Stamp Program,” Ohio State professor Vladimir Kogan examines how food stamps programs impact the ballot box. His conclusions are striking and might surprise many: he discovered that Democrats gained voters in counties where the program had been implemented. Kogan’s paper shows that Democrats paid an initial electoral price when food stamp programs were first introduced, but that the negative impact quickly faded away. Kogan notes that in the decade-long rollout of the American food stamp program, Democrats gained votes as a result of new supporters.

Unsurprisingly, Kogan discovered that, “the boost delivered by the program was largest in counties with high poverty and [food stamp program] enrollment, rising to roughly 3.5 percent of the two-party vote in counties with poverty rates higher than the national median in 1960.”

Speculating on the exact reasons behind the wider bump, Kogan writes:

One possibility is that the new welfare benefit changed voting behavior among existing voters, persuading some to change their vote in response to the policy change. Alternatively, the program may have worked to mobilize latent Democratic supporters who had previously not bothered to vote (see, e.g., Pop-Eleches and Pop-Eleches 2012). Although it is impossible to disentangle these effects completely in the absence of individual-level public opinion data, the results in Table 5 appear more consistent with mobilization rather than persuasion. Overall, I find that the introduction of food stamps in each county increased the number of votes won by Democratic presidential candidates by approximately five percent.

Kogan’s findings seemingly point to yet another reason why the GOP wants to eradicate SNAP; its success negatively impacts Republicans’ chances of winning elections. It also drives home a direct point that flies in the face of some conventional wisdom: programs that benefit the most politically marginalized citizens can lead to real electoral victories.

Kogan’s entire paper is available for download.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Marco

    Just anecdotal support for the article’s thesis but a close friend receiving SNAP in Florida was very motivated to vote this last election. And their main fear now is Trump will take it away.

    1. Damian

      “Democrats gained votes as a result of new supporters.”

      Food stamps should be eliminated “everywhere” other than NY / CA / Ill – so the vote is migrated and concentrated in the millions

      1. diptherio

        You win the baffling comment of the day award. No idea where you’re going with this…it has to be snark, right? But I’m missing the point.

        How about we expand the program to include everybody, everywhere? That way more people could buy more and better food and grocery store owners could hire more cashiers and maybe I wouldn’t have to stand in line so long every time I go to the Fresh Market.

  2. polistra

    After reading the actual paper, I don’t think it’s worth drawing any general conclusions. The author makes it clear that IN GENERAL pure welfare programs have negative effects on voting. (I tried to examine this correlation once and found the same thing…. Presidents who increased jobs got re-elected, while Presidents who increased welfare lost.)

    Author also mentions that the Food Stamp program often caused decreases in actual food transfers because it was replacing an earlier commodity program; and says that the positive effect was only in inner cities that were already solid D.

    So this isn’t a recipe for altering party patterns, it’s just a marginal way to increase D where D is already dominant.

  3. craazyman

    Young buck isnn’t a racist code word. I’ve heard it my whole life applied to energetic young dudes of any race. (I appreciiate the post author was only citing another authhor there, just to be clear).

    But still progressives really should stop the race bait dogwhistles and innuendos and argue policy on facts and results! Killing food stamp programs may indeed be sadistic from a human perspective — when there’s no jawbs to be had — and bad policy. No argument.

    Young bucks want jobs and careers, not hand outs from the govermint. And they sure as hell don’t want pity from white lvy leage lilberulls. Or even liberulls who are people of color, whatever that’s supposed to mean. If it means anything useful. There! Thats my dog whistle. LOL.

    Stop the “Republicans are racists” nonsense. It’s so odious and counterproductive. That’s the problem with “democrats” and maybe politics. They start with “what do we need to say to win?”

    Notice that Bernie Sanders didn’t play that game, and he pretty much did win. But they took it from him. The same people who lost, that is.

    1. Enquiring Mind

      I was a young buck, and a hungry one. The saying was never a dog whistle to me. I agree about the race bait aspect as a phrase or idiomatic expression is not necessarily built on an ulterior motive. Southern regional delicacies don’t all necessarily translate to a national palate, as much as there are many to be savored.

  4. ambrit

    craazyman, you ever spend any “quality time” Down South? Hereabouts, “strapping young buck” is most definitely a racist phrase aimed at young black men. Here, where white anxiety about “multiculturalism” supplanting white supremacism is a definite undercurrent in the ‘culture,’ such “dog whistles” are still potent. I could launch into a full fledged screed about how such ‘dog whistles’ help perpetuate the rule by the elites, but you’re intelligent enough to already know that.
    If that phrase no longer resonates with Northeners, well, more power to you all. Here, the Southern Strategy still lives.
    I agree with your last two sentences.

    1. craazyman

      I respect your integrity and point of view. I’m going on my own personal experience growing up in a northern Virginia DC suburbs & college in Virginia then New Yawk at a very young age.

      I heard the phrase occassionally but I never heard it — in my life — used in any context other than the one I referenced.

      But I’ve never been to New Orleans, evah! Or anywhere down THERE in the deep south. You guys seem like a bunch of dope-smoking, Nascar watching, Lynnrd Skynnrd Budweiser drinking rednecks to me — why would anybody want to go down there unless they were recruiting inmates for an insane asylum! LOL. Just ribbin ya.. OK, I had family who lived in rural mountains of NC. Went there too. But they were too hard and insular people to be racist — the communities, not my immediate family. I think that region actually was Unionist during the Civil War.

      1. ambrit

        Differences in word and phrase usage looks like a divergence of cultural backgrounds.
        As for Southron deplorables, you forgot the Meth smoking Sothrons. Randy Newman’s song, “Rednecks” does kind of say it all.The entire album that song comes from, “Good Old Boys” is worth taking a listen to.
        Yep about the Unionist pockets in the Confederacy during the War Between the States.
        The Free State of Jones was a real place just north of where I live today. Matthew McConaughey’s film tells the story. There was an earlier film version of the story, back in the fifties I think.
        Curious this, that we in general are still arguing about slavery and it’s aftereffects a hundred and fifty years after its official abolition.
        New Orleans isn’t the same after Katrina. If you ever do get sentenced to visit Nawlins, do take the time to do the drive up River Road from N.O. to Baton Rouge. There’s the real historic Louisiana.

        1. craazyboy

          Yeah, well. What to do. Must Northerners and Westerners learn Southern Dog Whistle so we can erase all usage when conversing in “polite” company? Where would this thinking leave the Urban Dictionary? We’d have to decide whether it was vile, politically incorrect blasphemy (possibly even “predatory” “hate” speech) or merely a minor source a amusement and a chuckle now and then.

          Not that it isn’t kinda fun to explore ethnic and racial stereotypes and labels. It’s what made The Melting Pot Great.

          So maybe lightening up and a slightly thicker skin rather than thinner skin would be the way to go.

          The real problem is when racism is ingrained in the system. Then it has real power. I think they call that structural racism sometimes.

          So getting back to SNAP, just to square this tangent, (funny how this subject always diverts?) the politicians then try to figure out who gets more food stamps – blacks or rednecks – and what position should they take to maximize the available vote.

          Or stated differently, if you get 48% of the food stamps in ‘Ole Mississippi, you might be a redneck!

          But that’s also why politicians invented the dog whistle and political correctness. So I decided to lay that problem back on the politicians where it belongs, and let the comedians handle ethic and racial jokes.

      2. Mel

        It’d be no use as a dog whistle phrase if it couldn’t be differently understood. It’s got to provide some cover.

    2. Carolinian

      “Strapping young buck” is more of a historical bit of phraseology–the sort of thing Scarlett O’Hara might say. Can’t recall anyone saying it in real life although it’s common in movies about the antebellum South and always referring to AA. Since Reagan got most of his ideas from old movie scripts he was undoubtedly talking about, or would have been talking about, blacks. What you can say is that most of the people of his generation had the same set of attitudes.

    3. cocomaan

      I’d argue that the term has lost a lot of meaning given that there’s a Memphis born rapper named Young Buck in the G-Unit rap group, which is centered around 50 Cent, who is of NYC origins. So as a pejorative among southerners, it’s probably not even that powerful.

  5. jgordon

    It feels good to provide for the needy. But where is the awareness that our good deeds might not be all rainbows and unicorns for the recipients? An example of unintended consequences: as a result of the government’s generous benefits to the poor, there is little need for families or communities to stay together or work together. The result is an atomized society of weak and apathetic individuals.

    If a grand chest master with a multi-decade time horizon wanted to implement a totalitarian, Fascist society then I believe one of his early steps would be to start these sorts of programs. Indeed we saw the destruction of minority communities and the rise of urban ghettos immediately after they took effect. Not a coincidence.

    I’ll acknowledge that we’re not going to cold turkey these people anymore, but on the other hand this kind of social deformity does lead to a discontinuity in the system. I don’t know how it’ll shake out, but I can say that the more dependent on the central state people are, the more rapidly the population will fall when there’s a bump.

    Related topic, nearly everyone in my extended family is on food stamps or benefits of some sort. I’m fully aware that there isn’t much hope of them making it when things go south. I’ve bought many fruit trees from local nurseries and planted moringa everywhere I could I think of for them, and it’s all I can do to keep them from killing these plants, and that makes sense. Why would they want to spend time pruning and cultivating a moringa tree that produces bitter, though highly nutritious, leaves when they could be sitting on the ratty old couch eating EBT provided cheese puffs and watching soap operas instead? No point really. Ergo, as I see it, these government benefits schemes must be the successful first phase of a larger plan to destroy those receiving them. Just my perspective.

    1. cwaltz

      You act as if every family unit, dysfunctional or not, should be forced to stay together and work together. It’s been my experience that the outcomes for kids in those instances are ALSO less than optimal. The reality is that if you have one individual in a family unit that refuses to get help or be helped the whole unit suffers, not just that one individual.

      It’s interesting that you seem to note the impact on the adults in your extended family. However, the numbers on food stamps suggest that the program primarily goes to households with children or with disabled individuals. 44% of the program recipients are children. 67% of households that receive them go to households with children. The number goes up to 75% when you consider the household to containing individuals that have a disability. Over half the households that receive food stamps, additionally aren’t just sitting on the couch eating Cheetos, they have JOBS, 52% according to the 2014 report on it’s impact and where the money is going. Anecdotes are nice, however statistical evidence is relevant.

      1. jrs

        and then he argues there isn’t much he can do for his family anyway except plant fruit trees, ok that may be case, but so much for staying together …

        I don’t really see jgorden volunteering to support his birth family if the government didn’t. And should he? I don’t know, I’m not the one arguing families should stick together instead of have social programs afterall!

        “The reality is that if you have one individual in a family unit that refuses to get help or be helped the whole unit suffers, not just that one individual. ”


    2. Adamski

      Food stamps didn’t create ghettoes and soup kitchens didn’t create the Great Depression.

      There is a neat (maybe too neat) theory that the postwar crime wave was caused by lead emissions. That would help explain the crime part of urban hell.

      Detroit lost 134 000 manufacturing jobs from 1948-63. Industry was relocating and of course the South became a new home of manufacturing thanks to union busting and cheap labour. Intimidating blacks (break windows, arson) out of white neighbourhoods created ghettoes. Discrimination by real estate agents created ghettoes. Funding education using local property tax means racial disparity in school quality, which creates ghettoes. White flight created ghettoes.

      Hyman Minsky made a good point that the War on Poverty was less useful than the Keynesian full employment policy. Full employment reduces the rug being pulled out from under the poor with each business cycle. Allows them to accumulate wealth, for one thing. Black Americans on average haven’t got any wealth (creating ghettoes again).

      As for fascism getting started, we have a real-world comparison. The US moved left during the Depression and created a welfare state even if it was late by European standards and didn’t include healthcare (which Germany got at the end of the 19th C under Bismarck). The US even government job schemes. Germany had austerity instead and tried to balance the budget no matter the unemployment rate. The US avoided fascists, Germany was taken over by them.

      Unemployment insurance doesn’t create unemployment either. It prevents ppl sleeping on your couch, committing burglary or joining fascists.

      1. perpetualWAR

        Don’t forget that Obama allowed Wall Street to steal the small amount of black wealth accumulated in their homes. I still can’t believe how “the first black President” had so little concern for his own people!

        1. Allegorio

          The first “black” president was raised by a “white” family in Hawaii, whose mother worked for the Ford foundation. How black is that? Again the single drop of black blood racism rearing its ugly nappy head. Obama is a white man with a black face, which explains his trying to “out white” his Harvard “bruthas” The ridiculousness of identity politics is all too apparent “How a black president presided over the looting of black wealth by Wall Street” What black president? Appearance means nothing! We have yet to have a black president. Post racial Amerika indeed!

    3. Wyoming


      “If a grand chest master with a multi-decade time horizon wanted to implement a totalitarian, Fascist society then I believe one of his early steps would be to start these sorts of programs. Indeed we saw the destruction of minority communities and the rise of urban ghettos immediately after they took effect. Not a coincidence.”

      Correlation is not causation. One of the most common mistakes in attempting to be logical. Just saying.

      1. Yalt

        The notion that urban ghettos did not exist before Johnson’s great society programs–or maybe it’s the New Deal that he’s blaming, it’s not clear what he means by “these programs”–seems an even more fundamental flaw in the argument than any correlation/causation confusion.

    4. ambrit

      The problem with such a critique of State sponsored assistance is that these programs were a response to people actually starving to death because they could not find enough work to support themselves and their families.
      America is not designed for subsistence farm families any more. There are too many “taxes” imposed from above. Examples of such being, transportation costs, whether public or private, land taxes only payable in “legal tender,” mandated water and sewer systems, mandated connection to the power grid, and a myriad of taxes imposed to “fund” local “services,” whether one needs them or not.
      In speaking to people who went through the early welfare system, I got the distinct impression that fathers would leave their families often for economic reasons. Many welfare systems imposed work and finance responsibilities on present fathers in lieu of assistance, even when work was not available or sufficient. It made financial sense for daddy to duck out of sight when the welfare inspector came around.
      Finally, I believe that the short sighted individuals who play politicians on TV for our entertainment are really determined to try and “cold turkey” the ‘downtrodden masses’ in the near future. The results have never been good whenever this was tried in the past. I don’t expect things to be ant different now.

      1. John Parks

        You are pretty close. I was a case worker in the early 70’s in AFDC. (Aid to Families with Dependent Children)
        A mother could not get any benefits, such as they were, for the children if the father was present in the household or providing support to the family. There’s your “family values”! and that little bit of policy was instrumental in the breaking up of families and perpetuating the welfare state. A mother on her own had little chance to escape or improve her situation. The benefits varied from state to state but in Texas (Baja Oklahoma) a mother with one child was entitled to 86.00 in AFDC financial aid, plus food stamps which she had to pay for depending on eligibility requirements. (A mother with two children could get 116.00 per month cash assistance)

        1. ambrit

          A friend of my Dad’s was a motorcycle copper in Florida back in the sixties. He told of being assigned to the “Welfare Squad” occasionally. He was a big man, and would be stationed out back of the place the welfare inspectors were raiding that day. His job was to catch the fathers who tried to duck out of the rear of the house or apartment. He said that one clue as to identity was to look for the pale ring where the wedding ring had been taken off of the finger. Many of the men he caught were actually trying to help support the family on the sly. They would remove the wedding ring to lessen suspicion that they were connected to any woman formally.
          Were the benefits you managed sufficient? I keep reading conflicting accounts of this.
          Thanks for posting this.

          1. Katharine

            I have never heard anyone make a serious case for the benefits being sufficient. Back in the early seventies rent might have been under $100, depending on where you were, but food was already getting past my mother’s old estimate of $1 per person per day, food stamps could be used on junk food but not multivitamins, and there were still all the other expenses to be met–heat, utilities, transportation, clothes, doctors….

            Thanks, John and ambrit both. Reports of real people’s recollections add something valuable to the record.

        2. Enquiring Mind

          Didn’t Patrick Moynihan try to get people to discuss the impact on families? So much of the social destruction in American life could have been prevented, or certainly mitigated, by a more honest, forthright discussion of facts.

          1. John Parks

            Yes, Moynihan did address the creation of what he called the Maternal Family and the effects it was having on our society. That was before I got out of undergrad school and I recall a discussion getting shut down when I brought it up in a cultural anthropology class. After class, the prof explained that he thought it was too sensitive of a topic to discuss in class because of having been a mixed race class. I think that was more of a reflection of his fear of being able to handle the discussion and his isolation from the real world.

    5. reslez

      The weakening of extended families and communities is the result of 300 years of modernism, not 50 year old programs that prevent the poor from starving to death. The declines you decry are the result of class warfare and the immiseration of the working class to benefit the wealthy.

      In the United States, the differences between kin based traditionalist networks and individualistic, modernist ones tend to be strongly associated with class…. What Brooks doesn’t tell you is that the real crisis in contemporary American society is the weakening of the institutions that serve those on the losing end of the American economic ladder. One of the startling observations in the Moynihan Report of the mid-sixties was his finding that as jobs disappeared from rustbelt inner cities so, too, did church attendance.

    6. Vatch

      Indeed we saw the destruction of minority communities and the rise of urban ghettos immediately after they took effect.

      No, tenements and slums have existed for millennia. They existed in the Hellenistic period prior to the Roman Empire, and they existed in the United States prior to the 20th Century.

      Slums were common in the United States and Europe before the early 20th century. London’s East End is generally considered the locale where the term originated in the 19th century, where massive and rapid urbanisation of the dockside and industrial areas of led to intensive overcrowding in a warren of post-medieval streetscape. The suffering of the poor was described in popular fiction by moralist authors such as Charles Dickens
      . . . . .
      New York City is believed to have created America’s first slum, named the Five Points in 1825, as it evolved into a large urban settlement.

      All of these predated the New Deal and the Great Society social programs.

      1. craazyboy

        But France donated the Statue of Liberty to Five Points, which was both Europe’s welfare program and an act of charity.

          1. craazyboy

            Well, I was sorta kidding. Actually, I don’t think France specified where we should put the Statue of Liberty, or our slums for that matter. They were mainly interested in keeping the flow of immigrants going.

            I’m just remembering the scene from Scorsese’s Gangs of New York where the immigrants (mostly Irish in his movie) came streaming thru the gates of Ellis Island and straight to an Union Army recruitment table, somewhere in the general vicinity of Five Points, and eagerly signed up for their first paying job in the New World. But I suspect Scorsese used some artistic license there and shrunk the geography so it would fit in the camera shot.

            Been a long time since I’ve visited NYC. It wasn’t a very comprehensive tour either. Mostly spent in meeting rooms. I remember Central Park, The World Trade Center, The Copacabana, and La Guardia Airport. Also Grumman. I think that was Longa Island. Also lots of bridges. One ended in New Joisey.

            1. Vatch

              You’re often kidding, which I enjoy, but sometimes you’re serious. I guess I was confused.

              Scorsese must have used artistic license; I don’t think Ellis Island was used for immigrant evaluation until the 1890s. Prior to that, Castle Garden was used.

              Chris Christie probably wishes that New Joisey bridge would go away!

              1. craazyboy

                That’s the risk I take when I post. Sometimes it isn’t clear enough.

                Castle Garden? OK, I guess when I saw the scene, my high school history class kicked in and I thought Ellis Island. So that is probably my mistake and Martin really was shooting Castle Garden, which explains why I didn’t see any water in the shot.

                I did read years ago that someone in NYC government cut the bridge maintenance budget and stopped painting(rust proofing) the bridge supports and now all of NYC’s bridges are slowly rusting away.

                More decaying infrastructure?

    7. RUKidding

      A lot of other good and cogent comments to what jgordon said. I’d just add a little tidbit, which is: in our present day and age of Ayn Rand worship, one prevailing meme is “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and don’t depend on anyone – family, friends, community, church, whatever – to help you out. Be totally self-sufficient and self-reliant. Otherwise, you’re a lousy lazy feckless freeloader who’s worthless.

      I mention this bc I feel that this meme is also used to push forward the notion of how food stamps and other welfare programs “cause” people to become lazy, worthless and all the other adjectives currently in use to demonize the poor for being poor.

      This specious Ayn Rand bunk is worshipped throughout the rentier class and their courtiers in Congress as a touchstone for exonerating them from their greedy grifting nasty ways. Citizens are routinely adjured to just figure it out and get on with it. That’s nice, except when there simply aren’t enough good paying jobs to go around, then what? Oh yeah: you’re a lazy freeloader.

      Slums and the poor have existed for all time and certainly way pre-date any of the USA’s programs. It’s not because of welfare that people are poor, but boy, that’s sure what our Oligarchs want us to believe.

      1. John Parks

        Adherents to that argument have always seemed a bit myopic to me. They seem unwilling to apply the same standards to business interests. If they wanted to be consistent they would press to eliminate any tax breaks for corporations from the county through the state and federal levels.

        This would make the corporations more flexible, responsible, and innovative too!

  6. cocomaan

    Piven and Cloward’s book Regulating the Poor resonates today because it took the thesis of this article one step further: that welfare programs of all stripes were devised to quell rebellion.

    1. Art Eclectic

      welfare programs of all stripes were devised to quell rebellion

      That’s been my argument for a long time. History is very instructive as to what happens to the oligarchy when the populace becomes too poor and too desperate.

      The ever expanding social safety net that Republicans so despise is what keeps the current power structure intact and what will continue to keep the power structure intact as technology eats more and more jobs that didn’t get offshored. Republicans shred that net at their own peril unless they actually come up with a job guarantee plan, which I don’t see happening since such plan is massively at odds with the needs of their profit-driven donor base.

      The 2016 was a striking example of how fast voters can turn away from corporatist rentiers, the GOP base rejected a whole slew of business as usual candidates to send Trump to the White House. It Trump doesn’t deliver on a jobs plan the entire edifice is toast.

      1. cocomaan

        You’d love this book, because it takes the long view on the practice. Basically, they show each period of social unrest (great depression, race relations n the 60’s, etc) and then plot over that the welfare increases.

        Most importantly, I think, is that it’s irrespective of party, too. The GOP knows that they can’t, say, trash entitlements. Bush handed out stimulus checks in 2008, no less.

        1. Art Eclectic

          It used to puzzle me why the GOP was so incensed over welfare and other social programs. The Dems at least got that if they were going to look the other way while jobs were offshored and be noticeably absent while American corporations were replacing their IT departments with HB1 workers that they better toss out some coin to subdue the discontented populace.

          I could never figure out why the GOP didn’t wise up until I remembered ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.’ Once I followed the money, it was obvious that the GOP objection had to do with lowering wages. Government support allows people to keep eating without having to take jobs at the wages business would like to pay.

          So, what we have currently is two parties who’ve sold out the country, one of which replaced jobs with government support and the other of which is trying to force the population to work for much, much lower wages (an effort thwarted by the availability of cheap labor coming in over the border).

          Both parties on the payroll of corporate donors we get the shaft either way. One party wants to keep people fed so they don’t burn the place down, the other wants to drive out the lower wage labor. Neither one wants to do anything about the jobs and or wages problem because that’s not in the interests of their donors.

      2. animalogic

        Elites are so clever. Cut down on welfare so the State can spend billions MORE on prisons. Funny how Elites rarely complain about the cost of incarceration: they know they are getting “value for money”
        The motivations & intentions behind Clinton’s attacks on welfare are the same ones behind his expansions of the “Incarceration State”.
        Two sides of the same coin.

  7. Pat

    I have often wondered how and why there is such a war on Food Stamps. It is a form of corporate welfare that has wide reaching benefits for large number of corporate players, and does it relatively cheaply. This isn’t like Medicaid where it is limited and costly. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not ignoring how these are good and right things in our incredibly stingy society, I’m just looking at them from a point of view of level of vilification AND who secretly wins from these policies. Medicaid while vilified does not have the same level of personal vilification that is showered on food stamps and its recipients.
    Call it wild and crazy, but I think there are two factors here – one it is easier for Medicaid recipients to be discreet about it, your neighbors may not know. That is I think extremely important. But at the same time a whole lot of people who would normally be ‘I don’t want to pay for someone else’ have had some experience with the program. Think elderly parents, and disabled children (yours, your siblings, your friends). These are deserving people who got help. AND because most of those consider this to be extraordinary circumstances, it is easier to ignore the connection between inadequate compensation and benefits for hardworking people, not to mention the support this gives to big players in the political influence game (big pharma especially).

    Democrats and Republicans hate Food Stamps despite all the information out there that they are extremely stimulative, are beneficial to both groceries and farmers, and that almost a quarter of our children live in households with inadequate income (and this in a society that radically underestimates what a poverty level income is). Just ignoring the fact that there are not enough jobs out there, for everyone of those adults kicked off food stamps for not working there many more adults working long hours many times with multiple jobs and still not making enough to feed themselves and their families. And I do believe that that is part of the war on Food Stamps. What says that our wages are inadequate more than huge numbers of people WITH jobs unable to feed their families? And that to me is the real reason our political class has been directed to get rid of them, and to call people lazy and unemployed to do it. We can’t have the obvious be obvious.

    Mind you, I think they are losing that war because they have the largely won the battle to make most people work for wages inadequate to house and feed themselves and their families. If the people who own the politicians were smart they would change course of this and have lots of food stamps (and housing support, but that is a whole other issue). So far they have managed to juggle the people who can be selected to these offices to protect themselves, but the pressures are growing. Hungry, scared people are not a good thing, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the real owners of America don’t understand history at all.

    IF Democrats were interested in winning elections OR doing right by their voters, we would have many things that are off limits. The only reasonable explanation for their choices and their actions is they only want to win enough elections to keep raking in a reasonable share of the grift.

    1. RUKidding

      Good comment, and I agree. The unending push to get rid of Food Stamps makes no sense on many levels.

      1. Art Eclectic

        The corporations hate the underclass. The don’t have the skills or education to be cog in the giant profit machine and thus they are liability. The underclass is a financial burden that takes valuable resources that could be accruing back to shareholders. They take up housing that could be used for productive workers, they clog up the works for the productive at every level.

        The underclass is unprofitable for most of corporate America (Walmart and fast food being the exception) and they’re in the way.

        1. craazyboy

          Yes, cognitive dissonance is deafening, and fattening.

          Had laugh when I read McDs lobbyists were pushing to get fast food added to the SNAP approved food items. The employees gotta eat!

        2. animalogic

          Not sure if I totally agree. What you say is true, but the “underclass” does serve a purpose: they are the reserve army of the unemployed. Their existence is a constant drag on wage increases, & all forms of empowerment for workers. The underclass are also a useful “example” for uppity workers etc : “look, THAT’S what will happen to YOU if you don’t toe the line”

    2. Altandmain

      I do not believe that the Democratic Party actually wants to do any good. They just want to keep up appearances and get half the loot from the donor class.

      That is the only logical explanation for their actions.

      To be sure, the left in the Democratic Party wants to do good, but they are a marginalized minority with very little real influence. That may be changing and hopefully it does.

  8. dbk

    This discussion has been going on for, like, forever, or at least as long as I can recall, and that’s a long time now.

    I find it hard to believe that the Republicans will cut off SNAP benefits entirely (or their sister programs, for school meals and the disabled), given that nutritional assistance and Medicaid are key factors in major retailers’ payment of near- or below-minimum wages. Wal-Mart employees account for nearly 20% of SNAP benefits and are the largest single group of employed persons (and their dependents) eligible for Medicaid in many states.

    It doesn’t look to me like our brilliant neoliberal economists have figured out what all the millions of displaced and redundant workers in the U.S. are going to do for a living in future – after all, the whole point of technology is to get rid of jobs once done by humans and replace them with machines; the whole point of offshoring is to produce at a fraction of the cost what was once made in unionized regions (aka, the “Rust Belt”). Those jobs aren’t coming back.

    As for the inadequacy of benefits: for sure. My hometown church runs a Saturday soup kitchen called, appropriately enough, Loaves ‘n Fishes. The last week before the SNAP benefits are credited for the following month, attendance doubles – every single month.

    My personal belief is that we (and I include myself, I’m a constituent of the new Minority Whip) need to start harping on the lack of decent-paying jobs (as in “pays enough so you don’t have to go on SNAP/Medicaid”), and force our reps to respond honestly, not with obfuscations and vague promises about the benefits of “re-training”.

    I think the President-Elect is capable of understanding this, though whether he – or anybody – can do anything about it is another matter entirely.

    1. Waldenpond

      Didn’t the UK punish people for having a spare bedroom? There’s a new marketing opportunity…. don’t give to the food bank, give up a room and feed someone at home. Show you really, really care.

  9. blert

    Republicans in farm states LOVE the Food Stamp program.

    It started life as a Department of Agriculture operation, IIRC.

    SNAP is a magnet for anger because the $$$ is too often NOT spent on food.

    That’s its ‘break point.’

    All of this clamor will go no further than tightening up on SNAP cheating… of which there is plenty.

    The primary object of such audits — cheating retailers.

    From time to time, this or that establishment gets nailed for cheating. The facts of the case are normally quite astounding — to the point of the absurd.

    There is no chance that SNAP// Food Stamps will be cut back. Food inflation means that expenditures can only go up.

    No farm state Republican will ever vote against it. His constituents would plow him under.

  10. D

    SNAP: yet another policy on which that filthy Hillary Clinton was no different from Donald Trump. Probably worse. Thank god we didn’t get her.

  11. Dave

    Just an FYI, I spent 20 years as a manager in the grocery store business. Some of those years were in stores in low income neighborhoods. I can attest to the people buying expensive cuts of meat while I bought ground beef. The meat dept manager would have to up his orders of the finer cuts of beef each month in relation to the benefits being dispersed. T bones, porterhouses, rib eyes and filet would fly out of the store. Big honking family packs of expensive steaks while I bought family packs of chicken thighs and ground beef.

    And yes it did piss me off, as I was struggling to pay my bills working 6 days a week and could not afford any of what they bought.

    I saw this same behavior play out month after month year after year.

    It always annoys me when the truth is trampled on. Is it racist for me to point the facts on the ground out?

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