Saturday, December 21, 2013

The War on Women

The U.S. Government began giving food stamps to the poor during the Great Depression in the 1930s. The U.S. Congress is presently debating just how severe it should cut food assistance to the 47 million Americans - one out of seven people -  who suffer from “food insecurity,” the popular euphemism for those who go hungry. On November 1, 2013, Congress cut nearly five billion dollars from SNAP and Republicans now want to cut another $40 billion dollars.

Since the recession of 2008, the food stamp programme - now called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), has doubled from $38 billion in 2008 to $78 billion in the last year. During 2012, 65 million Americans used SNAP for at least one a month, which means that one out of every five Americans became part of the swelling rolls of “needy families,” most of whom are women and children. In 2010, for example, 42 percent of single mothers relied on SNAP; and in rural areas, the rate often rose as high as one half of all single mothers.

The new debit card program, which can only be used to purchase food is being criticised by many on the right-wing as a  program rife with fraud, that its recipients (who are mostly single mothers) are lazy and shiftless, and that drastic cuts to reduce government spending are needed. Their most Dickensian argument is that if you feed the poor, they won’t want to work. Meanwhile, as poverty grows, the stock market zooms to new heights and the wealth of the 1% increases, with corporate executives continuing to get tax exemptions for business entertainment expenses, which allow corporations to deduct 50% of these costs from their annual taxes.

According to the Center for Budget Priorities, women are twice as likely to use food stamps as anyone else in the population. They are the ones who apply for the SNAP debit card, go shopping, takes buses for hours to find discounted food supplies, and try to stretch their food to last throughout the month for their children, teenagers and, less often, husbands. They are the pregnant women with older children whose infants are born malnourished, and the “Americans” who, at the end of the month, make hasty runs to relatives, food banks and even join other dumpster divers. These women are either unemployed, under-employed or service workers who don’t earn enough to feed themselves and their families. By the end of the month, they and their children frequently often skip meals or eat one meal a day until the next month’s SNAP assistant arrives.

For the most part, poor women remain invisible, even as the mothers who feed the children, teenagers, elderly and disable who live with them. They do not elicit compassion. If anything, they are ignored or regarded with contempt. The result is that poor, single mothers, who are 85% of all single parents, are turning into a newly invisible and undeserving group of recipients. The Right may view single mothers as sinful parasites who don’t deserve food assistance. But behind every hungry child, teenager and elderly person is a hungry mother who is exhausted from trying to keep her family together. Women who receive food assistance are neither invisible nor undeserving. They are working-class heroes who work hard -often at several minimal wage jobs - to keep their families nourished and together.

Adapted from this

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