26 members of Congress, all Democrats, have pledged to live off of food stamps for a week in protest of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cuts made by House Republicans.
The 2013 farm bill, that has recently passed a Senate vote, is expected to cut over $20 billion from the SNAP program over the next 10 years should it be passed. This bill has outraged many Democrats in both the House and Senate, prompting the quasi-hunger strike among the 26 Congress members.
The protest is a ground-level attestation made by politicians to illustrate how direly important access to food stamps is to low-income families. Senators like Chris Murphy (D-CT) went a week living on less than five dollars a day. Speaking about his experience, he said “Well, I’m hungry. I’m hungry for five days. . . I got on the scale and found out that I lost six pounds in four days. It’s been eye-opening.”
Some Republicans would argue that people on food stamps are lazy, and have alluded to that. Last month, Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) cited the Bible to justify his stance on cutting billions from the food stamp fund. Fincher pulled from 2 Thessalonians 3:10 saying “For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” Fincher seems to be alluding to the idea that people on food stamps just flat out don’t want to work. He couldn’t be more off the mark.
According to a report released by the Department of Agriculture, nearly all of the people receiving food stamps were, in fact, working or were unable to work (the elderly or beneficiaries under age 18). These findings in the report are a clear indicator that contradicts the representative’s assertion that those on food stamps were “unwilling to work.”
A record 15 percent of Americans are now on food stamps with nearly half of them working, but Republicans are wanting to strip needy citizens of their literal meal tickets amid a still recovering economy. Meanwhile, politicians like Fincher have been receiving millions of dollars in farm subsidies. And while the food-stamp play by Democratic politicians may be little more than political threater, the cuts proposed by Republicans and the potential damage of those cuts are very real.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.