Oklahomans Lead Charge To Deny People Food
You have to wonder why so many state Republicans just want some fellow Oklahomans to go hungry.
The propaganda ministry for the GOP here, the editorial board of The Oklahoman, published a commentary this week that not only terribly distorted what a state agency has done related to cuts in the federal food stamp program but also revived a version of the “welfare queen” story started by the late President Ronald Reagan.
The commentary also failed to mention that Oklahoma’s own U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas recently pushed through a despicable, immoral bill cutting $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, while lauding the “free-market” (i.e., ultra-conservative) concerns of the right-wing extremists at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
The gist of the editorial is that a short news release about upcoming SNAP cuts published by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is “political activism.” The cuts are not related to Lucas’ efforts to starve certain Oklahomans. That bill has not and will not be approved by the Senate or signed into law by President Barack Obama. The cuts are related to the expiration of stimulus funds that began in 2009.
The new release simply stated that beginning Nov. 1 a family of four with no income would see a $36 monthly decrease in their SNAP benefits. What bothered The Oklahoman is that the release said SNAP recipients would be “significantly impacted” and that the cuts “will have an economic impact on the state.” Both statements are entirely true by any reasonable measure, but The Oklahoman finds them to be left-wing politics.
Let’s be clear: Virtually any cut in food assistance will significantly affect those people, mostly children and the elderly, relying on the assistance, and any cut in SNAP benefits will absolutely result in less money for grocery stores.
It’s The Oklahoman that’s distorting the issue, not OKDHS.
The editorial also did a retro-take on Reagan’s infamous 1976 presidential campaign statement about a woman accused of welfare fraud. It’s become widely known as the “welfare queen” narrative in the American lexicon. This what Reagan said:
She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran's benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She's got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.
This is how The Oklahoman perpetuates the narrative in contemporary, right-wing terms:
Succentto Jackson, a 34-year-old mother of five children in Oklahoma City, is among those who will be affected. Her food stamp benefits previously totaled $659 per month. While the benefit reduction for her family of six may be larger than the cuts facing DHS's hypothetical family of four, it will hardly wipe out benefit payments.
Obviously, the newspaper is not accusing the mother of fraud, but the statement lacks context and dehumanizes six people trying to eat and stay alive. Any SNAP cuts would obviously significantly impact Jackson and her family. Of course, the cuts “would hardly wipe out benefit payments,” but the cuts will literally take food out of the mouths of children. The newspaper is simply using a specific family to generate and localize hatred among its right-wing readers, just like Reagan did in 1976. This is how Republicans get votes.
The editorial also undercuts the newspaper’s relentless anti-abortion stance. According to the logic of The Oklahoman, it’s wrong to have an abortion, but it’s also wrong when you want to feed your babies adequately. There’s no way out of that contradiction.
It’s also absurd the editorial refers to OCPA, which apparently didn’t like the news release, as a “free-market think tank.” OCPA is an ultra-conservative organization that undoubtedly favors major cuts in most government spending, especially cuts in programs that help poor people. I don’t think OCPA staff would deny that so why didn’t the editorial give us the truthful perspective?
Topping off the editorial’s absurdity is that it failed to mention how one of Oklahoma’s own Congressmen, Lucas, just pushed through a House bill that would leave millions of Americans without government food assistance. (I recently wrote about it here.) This information would give readers more perspective on the food-stamp debate here.
The OKDHS news release was informative and also, frankly, innocuous. It’s The Oklahoman and OCPA that are politicizing the issue. They have the agenda, not OKDHS, which is duty-bound to help people.