Showing posts with label Food Stamps. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food Stamps. Show all posts

April 1, 2014

One Billion Increase in Nukes While Education and Food Stamps are Cuts

                                      

Move the Money from War to Education by Johnny Keane
We live in strange times, indeed. In the past few months, the U.S. Congress has failed to extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people and has passed legislation that will cut $8.6 billion in food stamps over the next 10 years, affecting 850,000 households in 1/3 of the states.

   At the same time, the 2015 budget shows a 7% increase in spending on nuclear weapons, from $18.6 billion to $19.4 billion -- almost $1 billion. While the overall amount allocated for nuclear weapons is greater than last year, the funds dedicated to nuclear nonproliferation programs — programs to reduce the numbers of available warheads or securing so-called "loose nukes" was cut, making more dollars available to either build new nuclear weapons hardware or spend billions to modernize old ones, such as the B-61 bomb.

If this budget is accepted it will show once again that our nation's priorities favor increased spending on weapons of mass destruction at the expense of programs that help people survive tough times and keep food on their tables. At a time when our economy continues to struggle and the gap between rich and poor widens, how is it that our elected officials opt to spend more money on nuclear weapons? It is the wrong time to promote additional spending on nuclear weapons when diplomacy is easing tensions between the international community and Iran, a country which once again has assured the world that it is not planning to build nuclear weapons or when another diplomatic agreement obliged Syria to destroy its chemical weapons. 



After spending $4 -- 6 trillion on war since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, the American public is war-weary and war-wise. The tremendous outpouring of opposition to a proposed military strike against Syria or war against Iran is due, in part, to an increasing number of Americans understanding the connection between these huge outlays of cash for war and a treasury drained of funds to help local communities.

 Winslow Wheeler's March 13th article titled " America's $1 Trillion National Security Budget" published by the Straus Military Reform's Project on Government Oversight, explains how the Pentagon's criticism of a proposed $495.6 billion military budget for 2015 as "austere and dangerously inadequate" is misleading. According to Wheeler, "Scarcity of money is not their problem. Pentagon costs, taken together with other known national security expenses for 2015, will exceed $1 Trillion." Included in Wheeler's analysis are:
a maximum of $79.4 billion to continue the war in Afghanistan,
$6.2 billion in "mandatory" spending for military retirement and other DOD-only programs;
the Pentagon's $26 billion dollar portion of the "Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative" characterized by some as a slush fund,  
$37.8 billion in additional money paid by the Treasury for military retirement and DOD healthcare,
$19.4 billion in nuclear weapons' costs borne by the Department of Energy,
$52.1 billion in non-DOD spending in the Department of Homeland Security,
 $161.2 billion for the human consequences of past and ongoing wars in the Department of Veterans Affairs,
 $39 billion for the activities of the Department of State and related agencies-for international security and the exercise of US power abroad; and
an equitable share of the interest on the national debt that is related to this spending.

These costs added together total $1.0095 trillion for 2015!
     Here are two ways to reduce this. Two nearly identical bills in the U.S. Congress today target nuclear weapons spending to save money. Senator Markey, D-Mass, introduced the "Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE)" Act and Rep. Blumenauer, D-Ore, introduced the "Reduce Expenditures in Nuclear Infrastructure Now (REIN-IN)" Act. According toEric Tamerlani's article "Reining in Nuke Spending the Smart Way" in the March 12th Roll Call, these bills will save taxpayers $100 billion on nuclear weapons over 10 years. The bills would reduce the number of new nuclear submarines, cap tactical nuke modernization and scrap the F-35’s nuclear mission. 

     In late April, pro-disarmament activists from around the world will gather at the United Nations to prepare nuclear disarmament proposals to present at the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. Sharon Dolev, Director of the Israeli Disarmament Movement, will participate.  She will also speak on "Cooling the Hot Spot: A Nuclear Weapons Free Middle East" at NJPA's April 27th Annual Dinner at the Regency House in Pompton Plains. Her talk will address what a nuclear weapons free Middle East means for Israel, the region, and the world, as well as obstacles within Israel to attaining that important goal. For more information and to make reservations, visit www.njpeaceaction.org.

Cooling off tensions in the Middle East and preventing another war will release funds for programs that address community needs. This is not only timely, but essential, for genuine security in our nation and the world.

February 18, 2014

Norquist Style Austerity Slams HIV Patients and Takes the Food Out of the mouth of the Poor

Grover Norquist (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
When austerity proponents like Grover Norquist push for more and more cuts, there are real-world effects on some of our nation’s most vulnerable populations. Following recent sequester cuts, 85 percent of AIDS organizations saw their budgets reduced even as 79 percent saw their clients increase, according to a fall survey from the AIDS Institute. Last month, Congress increased Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program funding to $70 million above sequestration levels — still $24 million below the Fiscal Year 2013 rate.
To consider how cuts – to AIDS programs, to food stamps and to unemployment — are impacting people with HIV, Salon called up Janet Weinberg, interim CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the three-decade-old prevention, care and advocacy group.
“We’re creating a cycle where people are set up to not succeed on medication,” said Weinberg. A condensed version of our conversation follows.

 How is the sequester impacting Gay Men’s Health Crisis’ ability to do your work?
“Unfortunate” would be putting it mildly… The impact really hit very, very hard in social service agencies like GMHC…
We lost, as was described, 10 percent of our federal funds… You’re talking a million plus dollars. A million dollars buys an awful lot of service, and buys an awful lot of food, and buys an awful lot of security where people who are struggling with HIV won’t have it…
That [hit] every single one of our federal programs. So that meant [post-exposure prophylaxis] programs, that meant counseling programs, that meant programs for people who are HIV-positive, that meant working with youth between the ages of 14 and upward to 29…
On top of the sequester last year, because that was enough insult to injury, we also had something called Hold Harmless… a clause in the Ryan White [Act] to protect and make sure that cities like New York, which are the hardest hit with HIV, were protected, to ensure that they got what they needed out of Ryan White. And the [Health Resources and Services Administration] stated that they made a mathematical error and… $18 million of New York State Ryan White dollars had to be repaid. And what that meant was five months into a contract, we were told that contracts were being cut.
Now we’re talking about literally taking food out of people’s mouths…
These clients who are HIV-positive don’t get food? Guess what: they can’t take their medication. We’re sabotaging ourselves with this kind of thing.
 Ryan White also covered some legal services. These are clients that face eviction.
Putting somebody out on the street is helpful? Who’s HIV-positive?
…The kinds of services that GMHC is providing are critical life services that are fundamental… and that’s what was cut…
In 2012, the federal government appropriated $3.5 billion to HIV. With sequestration, $3.5 billion was cut to $3.2 billion… Pretty radical.
For people who are served by GMHC, how do those cuts interact with the cuts we’ve seen to food stamps and to unemployment benefits?
We are seeing clients who are hearing about these SNAP cuts and coming in, saying to us they do not know how they are possibly going to survive with less food than they have…
With the interaction of HIV meds, we really need to be watching nutrition, to make sure that these folks are getting the food they need to metabolize the medication. So these SNAP cuts may really truly affect these clients from being able to take meds. That’s pretty drastic. That’s very serious…
In terms of the unemployment pieces, we’re desperately trying to help people get back to work… [But] somebody with HIV can’t afford to have a job that doesn’t really give them security. Otherwise they really need to stay on benefits. So again, we’re defeating ourselves by not giving people enough of a safety net…
A person who has HIV has got to plan for how they are going to stay on their medication without any breaks whatsoever, which means you can’t have a gap in your healthcare coverage. You must have coverage for your medication. You can’t afford a risk of losing housing.
You really can’t couch-surf and stay healthy with HIV, because you’ve got to take medication, you need a routine, and part of that is having a steady roof over your head. With HIV, you need proper nutrition. So if you were to have a job, and the job is unstable, and suddenly you find yourself out of work and unable to find work… It’s not so easy to just jump back on Social Security Disability. First of all, if you’ve worked, you’re showing that you’re capable of working. And now you’re caught in real Catch-22…
We’re creating a cycle where people are set up to not succeed on medication.
If someone doesn’t have sufficient food, what happens to their medication?
There are certain meds that really have to be taken with food… It’s not just any food – it’s specific foods that you need…
These meds are very hard on the digestive system, and so it’s nutrition that allows metabolism of these meds. Without nutrition, you’re not triggering your whole metabolic system to digest and to ingest the meds properly so that you get the best effect from them.
Who do you blame for this new set of challenges?
Congress. I really, really blame the House…
At the [2010] International AIDS Conference, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came and spoke, and for the first time used the language that we could have a next generation that was AIDS-free. So you can see, the framework is being put in place, but the funding is not…
In the country, only about 25 percent of all people who have HIV and AIDS are what’s called virally suppressed, which means that they’re getting their medication at an optimal level… So then you scratch your head and say: in the United States, why [are] 75 percent not able to obtain that goal? So GMHC has been wrestling with that.
We started a program with Mount Sinai hospital two years ago, where every single person who tests positive in our testing center is basically… triaged into an emergency room kind of situation…When asked if they would like us to make them an appointment immediately, and walk them over to a doctor today, we have had basically 100 percent compliance – people want to go to the doctor if they find out they’re HIV-positive. But they need help getting there… We start giving them wraparound services, finding out who they are, how they might have gotten infected, what we can do to work with them, and help them get healthy, get stable again.
In that program, over the last two years that we’ve been running it, we have a 90 percent suppression rate, compared to the country’s 25 percent suppression rate.
I think we can resolve this HIV issue… [The issue is] the political will.
Is there a tension between a focus on research into preventing HIV and a focus on treatment? Are those in competition?
Yup. And the pendulum swings back and forth…
The early years of HIV, the only thing we had was prevention. Then we got antiretroviral therapy, and all the focus went to treatment. And [now] prevention among people who are HIV-positive has become the talk of the town – it’s called test-and-treat. So as soon as you test, you get on medication.
What we are neglecting is that there are actually [more] tools for prevention now, besides condoms and besides latex, there’s now pre-exposure prophylaxis, which gets a fair amount of attention. But [for] all that attention, there’s only 1,600 people in the U.S. on pre-exposure prophylaxis. We can do better.
The other is that we have post-exposure prophylaxis, so in the event that somebody is subjected to HIV for whatever reason… you’ve got a 72-hour window to get on post-exposure prophylaxis and decrease their rate of actually getting HIV by about 96 percent…
We have tools that aren’t being used. We’re not doing good enough with preventing people from getting HIV… The medications are expensive. I could keep them negative for a whole lot less money.
The relationship, in politics and in media and culture in the U.S., between HIV and the LGBT movement — has that shifted, and to what extent has that been good or bad in terms of efforts to address HIV?
The community seems to put all their eggs in one basket. So in the ’80s it was all about HIV and nothing else. And now, in the second decade of the 21st century, we seem to put all of our eggs into the marriage basket. And nothing wrong with that — we consider that to be an HIV intervention. But HIV really is not on even… the Top Five agenda for LGBT folks.
Yet when we look at the numbers… The top numbers for new infection, and the only area that new infection is occurring more rapidly than anywhere else, is young black or people of color MSM [men who have sex with men]… LGBT should be incorporating it…
The only other thing I would press on this is… if you look at how much money is going into HIV today, with inflation, it equals the same amount of money as 1991. And yet we have so many more tools, and so much more we can do with HIV. This is not the time to be not addressing inflation, and not addressing cost of living with an HIV budget.
GMHC and other organizations are truly ready to end the AIDS epidemic. We can get below epidemic levels. We have the tools, we have the knowledge, we have the skills. We don’t have the money.
This post comes from salon.com and posted by 

Josh Eidelson

December 1, 2013

What is wrong with this Pic? In NYC Food Pantries Are Bursting

NYC 2013 Hunger Aurvey
Slideshow
NYC 2013 Hunger Aurvey

After she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Jackie Williams says she had a stark choice to make.


"I had to choose between working and getting treatment," said Williams, 49, who worked in the entertainment industry and just underwent a mastectomy.
On. Nov. 1, the benefits she receives from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, were cut as part of a $5 billion reduction to the program, dealing Williams another cruel blow. To make up the difference, she gets food from the New York Common Pantry on East 109th Street in East Harlem.
"I don't know how I was getting by with the little I received before the cut," Williams said Tuesday outside the pantry where she picked up a turkey and all the fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner. "This means a lot to me."
The pantry is seeing thousands more people like Williams who, thanks to benefit cuts, the economic downturn and lingering difficulties from Hurricane Sandy, are stretching the city's food pantries to the limit despite an improving economy, according to an annual survey released Tuesday by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.
Up to 1.4 million New Yorkers lived in households without enough food in 2012, including one in five of the city's children. One in eight residents suffered food insecurity (the possibility of running out of food) from 2010 to 2012 a 40 percent increase from 2000 to 2002. In the Bronx, about 49 percent of children lived in food insecure households from 2010 to 2012, an increase of 44 percent from 2006 to 2008.
And the city's pantries, a last resort food resource for millions of New Yorkers, face an increased demand of 10 percent this year, on top of increases of 5 to 29 percent from 2010 to 2012, according to the survey.
As the SNAP program and other federal benefits are cut, many of these saw an almost 57 percent drop in government and private funding in 2013. About 45 percent of the pantries said they did not have the means to meet the demand they were facing and almost 46 percent had to turn people away or reduce the amount of food distributed.
"The good news is there are public policy answers," said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.
Restoring cuts to the SNAP program, increasing the minimum wage and universal pre-K are all things that would help limit the amount of people experiencing hunger, he said.
"We can do better. We must rise together," said Berg.
Stephen Grimaldi, executive director of the New York Common Pantry, said his organization was serving 1.4 million meals when he took the helm five years ago. For this fiscal year, he expects to serve at least 3 million meals.
This November saw a 27 percent increase in the number of people served by New York Common Pantry versus November 2012, meaning the effects of the SNAP cuts have been immediate. The cuts mean an average of 21 less meals per month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced $4.5 million in grants Monday to help 2,600 emergency food providers throughout the state.
Rose Brito, 47, of East Harlem, who is disabled, said going to food pantries is her only option at this point. It was already hard to feed her two daughters when $40 was cut from her SNAP benefits.
"I go to three or four different pantries," said Brito as she picked up a Thanksgiving meal. "I don't want to be out here but for my kids i do what I have to do."
Christopher Wallace, 51, of Chelsea, said the $11 cut to his $200 per month SNAP benefits has hurt efforts to keep his grandson and wife fed.
"The food used to last the whole month. Now, it's more like 24 days of food," said Wallace. "We are the richest city in the world. We shouldn’t have hungry people."

 Jeff Mays

November 3, 2013

Congress Got together In a bipartisan Crime to Cut Over 47 Million People Out of Food Stamps

Food stamps cut
Jennifer Donald, whose family receives money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program also known as food stamps, takes a box of taco seasoning from her daughter Jayla, 10, in Philadelphia. Families already buffeted by difficult economic times saw their food stamps benefits drop Friday. (Matt Rourke / Associated Press / October 8, 2013)

 This cut on food stamp was a bi-partisan crime from Congress. They could not get together on the budget but cutting a life line for the poor and unemployed, that they could do. Now another lifeline usually used in conjunction with food stamps is the food banks and community pantries. Now there would be less for all. 
People that don’t qualify for food stamps sometimes can make their end kinda meet with food banks. Now there would be less or none for them and the new influx of people coming in because they have been thrown to the wolf’s. 
Does the average american cares wether their neighbors or the people downtown have enough food? Apparently not because when the news broke out about the food stamps cut there were no quantified amount of people resisting the cuts. Not even the supermarkets and bodegas, grocery stores which will have less customers as a result. When you make a cut like this it tends to hurt everyone.  The people that use the service and the people employed making the service available. Even the economy.
Marisol Bello at usatoday wrote the following observations:
Food banks across the country, stretched thin in the aftermath of the recession, are bracing for more people coming through their doors in the wake of cuts to the federal food stamp program.
Food stamp benefits to 47 million Americans were cut starting Friday as a temporary boost to the federal program comes to an end without new funding from a deadlocked Congress.
Under the program, known formally as the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, or SNAP, a family of four that gets $668 per month in benefits will find that amount cut by $36.
"It may not sound like a lot but to a person like me, it is," says Annie Crisp, 30, a single mother of two girls in Lancaster, Ohio. "It's not just a number."
She says she received a little less than $550 a month in food stamps and now will receive $497. Crisp, a babysitter who brings home about $830 a month, says the food stamps help her buy her family fresh fruits, vegetables and meat.
Crisp worries now that she may end up trying to supplement her family's groceries by going to a food bank or cutting into her electric or gas money for the month. The cut, she says, also means she will have to buy more canned fruits and vegetables, forgoing her daughters' favorite fruit, kiwi, and buying packaged meat.
Food banks served 37 million Americans in 2010, up from 25 million in 2006, according to the most recent numbers from Feeding America, an umbrella organization for 200 food banks nationwide.
"Our network is already overburdened with a a tremendous increase in need," says Maura Daly, a Feeding America spokeswoman.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, says the cuts will hurt more than 1.8 million Ohioans. "This is taking food off the plate and out of the mouths of our most vulnerable friends and neighbors," she says.
She says seniors, children, people with disabilities and veterans will be among the groups hardest hit by the cuts because they are the groups most reliant on food stamps.
The saving grace, she says, is that the holiday season is approaching in November and December, the time of year when most food banks receive more than half of their donations during the year. The flip side is that more people turn to food banks for help during that time.
Michael Flood, CEO of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, says the full impact is still too soon to tell, but he says the cuts are immediate, which means that the 656 agencies that run pantries and soup kitchens in his county may start to see more people in the next few weeks. The problem, he says, is that food banks will not have sufficient food to meet a great demand.
He says agencies will do one of two things when their food supply runs low: They will serve a set number of people and cut off the line when they run out of food baskets or they will put less food in the baskets so they can make more of them.
Diana Stanley, CEO of the Lord's Place, which runs job and housing programs for the homeless in West Palm Beach, Fla., says the clients her agency work with do not have any discretionary income. Even the smallest cuts can cause major upheaval in their lives, she says.
"The food stamps help as our families move into independence," she says. "So these cuts are scary for us." She says more than 80% of the 250 people a day the agency works with receive food stamps.
SNAP, which benefits one in seven Americans, is administered by the Department of Agriculture and is authorized in a five-year omnibus farm bill covering all agricultural programs. Congress is currently debating the bill, which has additional cuts to the program totaling up to $40 billion. A cut that size, say advocates, such as Hamler-Fugitt and Flood, would be devastating.
Adam Gonzalez

October 30, 2013

Food Stamps To Be Cut This Week $5 Billion

The U.S. food-stamp program is set to shrink in the months ahead. The only real question is by how much.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) currently costs about $80 billion per year and provides food aid to 14 percent of all U.S. households — some 47 million people. Those numbers swelled dramatically during the recession.
A farmers market in Roseville, Calif. advertises its acceptance of EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards, which are used for food stamps. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)
A farmers market in Roseville, Calif. advertises its acceptance of EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards, which are used for food stamps. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)
But the food-stamp program is now set to downsize in the weeks ahead. There's a big automatic cut scheduled for Nov. 1, as a temporary boost from the 2009 stimulus bill expires. That change will trim about $5 billion from federal food-stamp spending over the coming year.
And that's not all: The number of Americans on food stamps could drop even further in the months ahead, as Congress and various states contemplate further changes to the program. Here's a rundown:
1) The end of the stimulus boost. First up is a big automatic cut to SNAP scheduled for Nov. 1. This is happening because the food-stamp program was temporarily expanded in 2009 as part of the Recovery Act. That bill spent $45.2 billion to increase monthly benefit levels to around $133, on average.
That bump will end on Friday, and benefits will shrink by around 5 percent on average. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a short report calculating what this will mean for individual households:
10-24-13fa-f1-infocus
So, for instance: The maximum monthly benefit for a family of four will drop from $668 per month down to $632. The maximum monthly benefit for an individual will drop from $200 per month to $189. ("The cut is equivalent to about 16 meals a month for a family of three based on the cost of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s 'Thrifty Food Plan,' notes CBPP)
Those snips add up: The end of the stimulus program will reduce federal food-stamp spending by $5 billion in 2014. Every state will be affected: California, for instance, will see a $457 million drop in spending over the upcoming year, while Texas will lose $411 million as a result.
2) Congress could cut food stamps even further. The stimulus lapse isn't the only cut on the horizon. This week, the House and Senate will resume their haggling over a five-year farm bill. The main point of contention, as before, is over how much to pare back the food-stamp program.
The Senate approved a farm bill that would make only minor changes to the food-stamp program, saving $4.5 billion over 10 years (compared with current law).
House Republicans, meanwhile, went even further, voting on a bill that would cut $39 billion from the program over 10 years, largely by tightening restrictions on who could qualify for food stamps:
The House bill would remove 3.8 million people from the food-stamp rolls over the upcoming year by making two big changes:
-- First, it would reinstate limits on benefits for able-bodied, childless adults aged 18 to 50. These recipients would only be able to collect limited benefits — up to three months over a three-year period — unless they worked more than 20 hours per week or enrolled in job-training programs. (States are currently able to waive these latter requirements when unemployment is high.)
Conservatives have argued that reinstating the work requirements will encourage adults to find jobs more quickly. Liberal critics have countered that employment opportunities are still scarce in many parts of the country — many Americans will simply lose their food aid without finding work. This change would remove an estimated 1.7 million people from the food-stamp rolls.
-- The second big change is that the House bill would restrict states' abilities to determine a person's eligibility for food stamps based in part on whether they qualify for other low-income benefits. This is known as "categorical eligibility" and has generally allowed families just above the poverty line to receive food stamps if they have unusually high housing costs or are facing other hardships.
This second change would take another 2.1 million people off food stamps in 2014 and then remove an additional 1.8 million people per year for the next decade.
It's unclear how many of these cuts will actually get passed into law, however, since the House and Senate still have to figure out how to reconcile their two bills.
3) New state restrictions. Even if Congress doesn't pass further cuts to the program, some states could act on their own to restrict eligibility.
In 2013, 44 states qualified for federal waivers that would allow more able-bodied adults to receive food stamps if unemployment in the area was particularly high. House Republicans want to curtail those waivers as part of their farm bill. But even if the House GOP doesn't get its way, some states are planning to stop asking for waivers anyway.
Kansas already let its waiver expire at the start of October, a change that could affectsome 20,000 residents. The Oklahoma state legislature passed a bill to add a similar work requirement to its food-stamp program. Ohio is planning to enact similar restrictions starting Jan. 1, and Wisconsin will follow suit next July.
So even if the cuts in the House bill fail, many states could act on their own to shrink the number of food-stamp recipients.
-------------------------------------
Further reading: 
-- Why are 47 million Americans on food stamps? It’s the recession — mostly. Note that the Congressional Budget Office expects the number of food-stamp recipients to decline by 14 million in the next 10 years as the economy improves. That's without any further policy changes.
-- Here's some research showing that food stamps are effective at stabilizing the economy during a downturn. And here's a paper finding that children's access to food stamps can bolster their health and economic prospects as adults:
-- For those wondering about abuse or fraud in the program, here's a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report (pdf) on "trafficking" in the food-stamp program. Between 2009 and 2011, about $858 million worth of food stamps, or just 1.3 percent of all benefits, were traded at a discount for cash.
-- Here's an in-depth narrative look by Eli Saslow at the town of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where one-third of the population is on food stamps.
Brad Plumer
Brad Plumer covers energy and environmental issues, which ends up including just about everything from climate change to agriculture to urban policy and transportation. Follow him on Twitter at @bradplumer. Email him here.

September 24, 2013

The Food Stamps Cuts Are Cruel } These Men Are HuNgRy for Something


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    (Carolyn Kaster/ Associated Press ) - House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walks vote on the House floor on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 in Washington. House Republican leaders scrambled Thursday to line up support in advance of a late-afternoon vote on legislation that would cut nearly $4 billion a year from the food stamp program, now used by 1 in 7 Americans.
    •  We are in the middle of a fight to preserve the dignity and grace that makes all of us Americans. We have big hearts and great souls. I know. I have seen them, felt them and watched them in wonder when my family was lost and unreachable in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
    • I cried, worrying for those I loved, heartbroken by what happened to our beloved Louisiana. And in the middle of that tough moment, the decency of people shone through in e-mails, phone calls and in person. Everybody was saying the same thing: "How can I help?"
    • This is what we do in times of struggle. We offer our hand and our love to pull someone up who's been knocked down by hard times and despair. It's just a fundamental rule in life and in any fight; you don't kick people when they're down.
    • But for some reason, this principle has been lost on the 217 members of the House of Representatives who decided to lace up some combat boots with rough, crushing soles to kick and kick again the 48 million Americans who count on food stamps.
    • I am not going to mince words. When the House voted to cut $40 billion to the food stamp program over the next 10 years, that wasn't an example of government tightening its belt or making tough choices. That vote wasn't a philosophy or an ideology about governing. Pure and simple, it was a heartless act. It was cruel. It was kicking millions of our families, neighbors and friends when they are down. And the people who work for a living in this country are down.
    • Let's take a walk through the facts of what's happened to them during the Great Recession and this nonrecovery of the economy.
    • The median family net worth dropped from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010, according to the Federal Reserve. It gets worse. Median family income fell from $49,600 in 2007 to $45,800 in 2010. (These are the latest available figures).
    • "The Fed (Federal Reserve) found that middle-class families had sustained the largest percentage losses in both wealth and income during the crisis, limiting their ability and willingness to spend," according to The New York Times.
    • For 30 years, wages have flat-lined or declined for most workers, particularly in the past 10 years, as low-paying jobs replace middle-income paying jobs. In 2009, only half of the country had any assets, and those numbers have gotten worse during the last three years. And here's the kicker.
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    • Scared little boy eating

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    • Today -- based on wage levels -- half of Americans live in poverty or near poverty. The gap between the well-to-do and everybody else is widening alarmingly.
    • Probably everyone reading this knows someone who is striving mightily, working two jobs and cutting expenses to the bone while barely making ends meet.
    • To be considered poor by federal standards, a family of four must make less than $23,550 a year. A person must make less than $11,490. For the unemployed and the millions who have been looking for work for six months or more, the struggle is many times harder and uglier.
    • Ask any worker at Starbucks, Cosi, McDonald's or Walmart, "How many jobs do you have?" and likely he or she will tell you: "Two." I know colleagues who've had breakfast at one store, and gone to lunch in another, only to find the same person waiting on them.
    • One young woman I heard about gets up at 4 a.m. for her first job and ends her day at 10 p.m. at her second job. The average allotment of food stamps is $133 a person a month. Let me tell you something I can pretty much bet my house on -- that woman is not using her food stamp card to buy lobsters and caviar. She's quietly going to the food pantry, checking the sales in the grocery store, spending some time at the kitchen table clipping coupons and making a serious plan to turn that box of pasta, pound of beef, and if she's lucky, some fresh fruits and vegetables, into a meal plan truly worthy of a Gucci belt.
    • Is there fraud? Yes. Is there some waste? Yes. But today, the food stamp program has an error rate of only 3% -- and those errors were mostly committed by the government in underpayments as well as overpayments and payments to ineligible families.
    • Fraud is a piece of grain compared with the millions of families who manage to put food on the table because of this program. And those few bad apples who do commit fraud are no excuse to kick the unemployed and the poor when they are engaged in a mighty battle to get themselves and their families back on their feet.
    • So shame on this Congress for fighting dirty during working people's hour of struggle.
    • Polls show Americans haven't approved much of Congress lately. But there is a way to gain favor. If this Congress wants to make cuts, why not look at the Pentagon, notorious for waste? Or check out the Department of Agriculture, which made about $28 million in inappropriate farm assistance payments, according to a compilation of government waste reported in Business Insider.
    • Or perhaps lawmakers could start with themselves? Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, tried to shame her colleagues into cutting less from the food stamp program (called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP).
    • Speaking of representatives who would vote to take food from America's tables, she said, "Some of these same members travel to foreign countries under the guise of official business. They dine at lavish restaurants, eating steak, vodka and even caviar."
    • Speier talked about 20 members of Congress who traveled to Ireland and got a daily food allowance of $166. The average amount a family member gets on food stamps is less than $4 a day.
    • And The Des Moines Register reported that Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, received $3,588 in taxpayer funds for both food and lodging during a six-day trip to Russia. The Register urged King to try the "SNAP Challenge" and live on $4 a day. He could even try it in Russia.
    • Yet our representatives, one after the other, mostly Republicans, stepped onto the House floor to speak and vote in the name of saving money for the taxpayer. They went after the poor, the unemployed, the single mom, the single dad, the grandparents -- all those people who are trying to make it work.
    • Well, they didn't just do wrong; they are wrong. I urge the Senate to restore every single dime to the food stamp program. I applaud the president for saying that he'll veto these cuts.
    • We're lacing up our shoes, too, but we're going to fight these merciless cuts with the golden rule. You know why? "Do unto others" trumps "kick 'em when they're down" every time. The American people are decent and fair. It's time to stand tall for this essential program for millions. It's time and our might will make this right.Partly Written by Donna Brazile , CNN

    • ( Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pot in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.)

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