So, in the face of this ongoing and systematic theft from the poor, why is a Senate Democrat agreeing to another $8 billion in food stamp cuts?
On the same day that President Obama beautifully described his happytalk-talk vision of "an economy defined by economic mobility and opportunity for all," his minion, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow was busy cutting a deal with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas to slice another $8 to $9 billion from food stamps, now called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
"One study shows that more than half of Americans will experience poverty at some point during their adult lives," said President Obama. "Think about that. This is not an isolated situation." That's why we have nutrition assistance or the program known as SNAP, because it makes a difference for a mother who's working, but is just having a hard time putting food on the table for her kids."
The United States has the second-highest rate of childhood poverty in the developed world, according to a new report from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), which concluded that nations with comprehensive government programs designed to protect vulnerable children had the lowest rates of child poverty and deprivation. Out of the 35 wealthiest countries analyzed by UNICEF, only one, Romania, had a child poverty rate above the 23% rate recorded in the U.S.
There are currently 47 million Americans who turn to food stamps to help make ends meet.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nearly 72% are in families with children and one-quarter of SNAP participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities. Further, 91% of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes below the poverty line and 55% to households receiving less than half of the income at the poverty line (i.e. about $9,500 annually for a family of three).
Despite the fact that the Institute of Medicine demonstrated the inadequacy of the SNAP benefit allotment and that a child's access to food stamps has a positive impact on adult outcomes, the program was just cut by $5 billion on November 1. The average benefit then dropped from $1.50 to $1.40 per meal. (The Senate Agriculture Committee's previous proposal to cut yet another $4 billion from SNAP would have led to 500,000 losing $90 per month in benefits, the equivalent of one week's worth of meals.)
"That was the first time in history that a Democratic-controlled Senate had even proposed cutting the SNAP (food stamp) program," said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. "The willingness of some Senate Democrats to double new cuts to the program"is unthinkable."
How Wall Street always gets its way, always at our expense
After almost 30 years in Washington, Bart Chilton is quitting in disgust. For more than 6 years, he has been an outspoken member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), one of the financial industry's most important regulators.
Chilton leaves behind a sobering message: As we long suspected, Wall Street continues to use every trick in its playbook to do whatever it can to eviscerate numerous post-financial-crisis rules. The arsenal includes: High-powered lobbyists who outnumber lawmakers 10-to-1; $1,000-an-hour letter-writing lawyers who gain strength (and fat paychecks) from endlessly negotiating over arcana; and the occasional hoodwinking of a president whose knowledge of the ways of finance are close to nil.
In a recent interview, Chilton says that, despite years of hard work by financial regulators to put the Dodd-Frank law into force -- witness the 882 pages required to explain a 71-page Volcker Rule -- their efforts will be futile in the face of Wall Street's money and power.
"The financial sector is so powerful that they will inevitably roll things back over time," Chilton says. "Wall Street firms have tremendous influence, and they can impact policy to a greater degree than any one regulator or a small group of regulators can."
Over the years, Chilton has come to understand Wall Street's four-pronged strategy, or what he has dubbed the "D.C. Quadra-Kill," used to get its way. He says the first thing Wall Street's army tries to do is kill outright any legislation that it finds onerous or distasteful. If that fails, Wall Street pushes to defund the legislation or the agency enforcing the rules, and that includes the CFTC and SEC.
In fiscal 2013, for example, the CFTC (Commodity Futures Trading Commission) requested funding of $308 million and got only $195 million ($10 million less than the previous year) despite many new responsibilities. "There are crooks getting away with crimes because we don't have the resources to go after them," Chilton says. The SEC has a similar discrepancy between its appropriations and what it needs to fulfill its legal mandates.