The GOP’s Food Stamp Hypocrisy

We have a serious corporate welfare problem in this country, but Republicans would apparently rather spend their time trying to stop poor people from eating spaghetti sauce than do anything about it. Seriously, I’m not kidding.

Right now, the Wisconsin legislature is considering a bill that would ban food stamp recipients in the Badger State from buying any kind of shellfish. Introduced by Republican state representative Robert Brooks, this bill would also make it harder for poor families on food stamps to buy everyday household items like spices, nuts, and, you guessed, spaghetti sauce.

Brooks’ proposal is actually less extreme than some of the other food stamp clampdown bills floating around red state legislatures these days -- it doesn't, for example, ban the purchase of all seafood, just shellfish -- but it’s still terrible public policy.

Although they were unable to get an exact number, analysts with the Wisconsin Department of Administration estimate that it could cost the state upwards of “several million dollars” to so aggressively micromanage the food buying habits of the working poor.

This comes, of course, as Wisconsin faces $2 billion budget shortfall thanks, in large part, to Governor Scott Walker’s tax cuts for the rich.

In other words, Wisconsin Republicans are willing to bankrupt their state even more just so they can stop poor people from making shrimp scampi with red sauce. And that’s not even the worst of it.

At the same time as Wisconsin Republicans are clamping down on the apparent plague of lobster-eating poor people that’s ravaging their state, they’re also happily promoting a failed Scott Walker corporate welfare scheme that’s already wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, and is set to waste even more.

Back in 2011 after he was first elected governor, Walker started something called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation or WEDC, which funnels public funds to companies that claim they will create jobs for Badger State residents.

While that certainly sounds good in theory, a new report from Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau has found that the WEDC hasn’t done a good job of even bothering to checking up on the corporations to which it was passing out millions of dollars.

In fact, according to that report, the WEDC has basically no idea which of the companies it has given taxpayer dollars to have actually created jobs, and has also forgiven millions of dollars of loans that were supposed to be paid back to the state.

So much for fiscal responsibility, right?

The hypocrisy here would be hilarious if it weren't so depressing and so utterly unsurprising. Welfare for the rich and austerity for working people is the name of the game for the Republican Party, whether it’s at the state level in places in Wisconsin or at the federal level here in Washington, D.C.

Consider, for example, the fossil fuel industry. It gets $21 billion in handouts every year from the government to do nothing more than continue to pollute the planet -- and yet thanks to Republicans, it’s vital programs like food stamps that get slashed in budget after budget, year after year. But that’s only part of the story.

It’s not just that Republicans are willing to subsidize the rich and slash programs for working people all at the same time -- everybody knows that. It’s also the fact they’re willing to actually waste more money if that means demonizing poor people or criminalizing them for being poor. That’s the big takeaway from what’s going on in Wisconsin right now.

It’s actually more expensive to stop poor people from eating shellfish than to just let the food stamp program go on as normal, but Republicans are all on board because it punishes and stigmatizes low-income people.

We saw the exact same thing happen in Florida when Rick Scott forced welfare recipients to take drug tests. The plan cost his state a small fortune, but because it made poor people look like criminals, he was fine with expanding government and paying the costs.

Remember that the next time you hear some Republican go on and one about how bad government spending is. Because not only are Republicans totally fine with wasting taxpayer dollars to prop up rich corporations, they’re also totally fine with spending them to demonize poor people.

So much for compassionate conservatism in the Republican Party. It was a lie and an oxymoron when George W. Bush promoted the phrase, and it's still a lie today.


Willie W's picture
Willie W 9 years 6 weeks ago

They try so hard to look busy. Addressing the needs of the poor who must be taught to fend for themselves. Tending to the needs of the rich who must not be punished for being successful, and of course, lowering the minimum wage to promote job creation. It all makes perfect sense if you're an ass hole.

ChristopehrCurrie's picture
ChristopehrCurrie 9 years 6 weeks ago

This Wisconsin example is just another example of the efforts of our nation's "Reverse Robin Hood Republicans." Republicans have used the name "Tax and Spend Democrats" quite effectively over the years. We SHOULD be referring to them as "Reverse Robin Hood Republicans" accordinlgy, because as you have pointed out, the justification for such a description of their policies is overwhelmingly valid.

tomcalwriter1's picture
tomcalwriter1 9 years 6 weeks ago

Thom: This is truly depressing. What's wrong with these people? It seems ideology has made them lose sight of right and wrong. It sure sounds like they're on the road to Nazism, if not already there.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 6 weeks ago

Deny the poor spaghetti sauce? Do they dare wish to incur the wrath of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and his delicious tentacles of torturous torment? Any politician who wants to have any say in how a welfare recipient spends their stipend should first be required to live a year on welfare--and nothing else. Let's just see how much shrimp, crab, and lobster that buys them.

Seriously though, I've never seen such a disgusting bunch of corrupt, soulless, callous, and ineffective lawmakers in all my life. Corporate welfare robs everyone, at the benefit of the rich. Common welfare picks up the slack caused by poor corporate and public management of our economy. Do any of these charlatans realize that by simply raising the minimum wage it would be possible to bump millions of people off both welfare and medicaid without causing any human hardship? Do they even care? I think not!

The only real solution to our welfare state is to end free trade by heavily taxing imports and FORCING "the job makers" to actually MAKE SOME JOBS WHERE THEY ARE NEEDED--IN THE USA. We've tried handing over our hard earned tax dollars in the form of tax breaks and subsidies now for over 30 years and all we've gotten in return is blamed for being poor. Until We the People stand up and start demanding and insisting on the real solution to our problems, our problems will continue to be mocked, circumnavigated, exploited, and multiplied by the wealthy few; who, in turn, trickle down nothing more for the masses than false accusations for the hardships that their greedy political policies have inflicted upon this once great nation.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 9 years 6 weeks ago

Is it not yet obvious? Republicans want to KILL OFF poor people. I thought they made that pretty clear at the teabagger debates. They're only a few steps from sending out death squads. (Hmmm, maybe they already are).

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 6 weeks ago

This is enough to make me lose my lunch.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 9 years 6 weeks ago

Barking mad!

USA is barking mad!

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 9 years 6 weeks ago

Provide corporate welfare and tax breaks for the rich and you stimulate offshore bank accounts. Provide things like food stamps, a living wage, and affordable education, and you stimulate the entire economy, lift all boats, and make for a safe and happy society....kind of like the society citizens who are lucky enough to reside in countries that practice various degrees of democratic socialism experience.

Put money in the pockets of those who will spend it, not those who lie about creating jobs with it. Demand for a product, along with the money to buy that product, creates opposed to give the rich guy another tax break and watch him hire. Watch him stash money and ship jobs overseas.

Destroy the middleclass with free trade and a 40 year wage freeze and expect the new concentration/redistribution of wealth will grow the economy and benefit all......only in a madman's world!

upperrnaz12348's picture
upperrnaz12348 9 years 6 weeks ago

The name "Wisconsin" comes to mind to me relative to the way that Workfare program was implement in Israel. it was a utter failure, and cost lives and the health of many people in that program. People were "taught" employability skills, as well as other stuff in a class room setting, as well as others sent off to contract labor that payed just under minimum at sweatshop conditions. In my town, and some others people with serious medical issues where it specified limitatons on what they could and could not do were ignored and ... In addition there were cases where people in the program were abused by the staff. Eventually, "Wisconsin", as it was called was dropped, and the company that was hired on to put it in place was set off to where it belonged.

Luckily, Israel is a democracy, and sometimes it acually listens to the what the citizens say about what it does, sometimes.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 9 years 6 weeks ago

stecoop01, I don't think they consciously want to kill off poor people; they need the oversupply of labor to keep it cheap. Their selfishness pushes them to disregard the health and safety of the labor they rely on, but they're too simple-minded to realize the detriment to the quality of labor that causes.

Right-wingers typically think in simple, black-and-white terms. They can't understand the law of unintended consequences. Compare abstinence-only sex education, which leads to teen pregnancy and chlamydia outbreaks, and anti-birth control laws, which increase abortions.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 6 weeks ago

All the comments here, I think are right on. My only complaint is no one is pointing the absurdity of the right wing defense of these policies.

I am guessing that one of their defenses would be we cannot afford helping the poor. I think too many people on the left respond by saying we are giving too big of tax breaks to the rich (I agree). I implore everyone not to use that line of reasoning. We should help the poor now, and not wait for some future congress to increase taxes on the rich. The left also brags about how Obama is cutting the deficit. My question is how is cutting the deficit any different than using austerity measures. You know, austerity measures, that are being used throughout the world and that never work. Why do we on the left brag about Obama cutting the deficit?

I always say, increase the deficit to lower the debt. The way this works is invest government expenditures go towards investing in education, infrastructure etc. Do not wait to make these investments until we raise taxes on the rich. These government investments will create an economic machine that will devour the debt.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 9 years 6 weeks ago

I wish the Republicans and other conservatives would realize that the economy is like a building, with the rich people at the top, and the poor people at the bottom...the foundation.

And if you destroy, or even just damage, the foundation, the building falls down...all of it.

Destroying poor people will cause the collapse of the economy, and with it, eventually, the rich people at the top. Why can't they see this? They're hurting themselves.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 6 weeks ago

Stecoop, greed is blind.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 5 weeks ago

AIW, stecoop1 -- You also need to consider the teachings of Gore Vidal. He pointed out that no matter how well you succeed, your ego is not satisfied unless your high school buddies are failing.

jpohl 9 years 5 weeks ago

So where do we draw the line? My alchoholic uncle had to sell his food stamps for pennies on the dollar to get cash so he could buy whiskey. He should have been able to directly buy booze and smokes with Food stamps....sound absurd....well it sounds absurd to me that someone that is in need would buy something like a pound of shellfish when they could buy 2 pounds of hamburger.
I worked in a grocery store for many years and saw SOME those on food stamps buying porterhouse steaks while I went home to my meal of hamburger helper.
I watched as someone would use $100 worth of Food Stamps on Food but would have enough money to buy an additional $75 to $100 on things like beer and cigarettes. Some of those same people would drive up to get their groceries in newer model caddies. A friend of mine was on Food Stamps and had cable tv. I confronted him on that and he said it was his entertainment. Nice, but indirectly, I am paying for his entertainment. I don't mind paying for those truly in need but there are enough people gaming the system that YES, US FOOTING THE BILL SHOULD HAVE A SAY IN WHAT YOU CAN PURCHASE WITH MY MONEY!
Of course these were the exceptions and not the rule but you would be surprised at the number did some variation of the above.

jpohl 9 years 5 weeks ago

stecoop01 Your building is upside down....who do you think pays the bills? It is the minority of rich that pays the bills for the majority of people. We can have a separate debate on whether they pay enough but do some research and you will see who is footing the tax bill.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 5 weeks ago

jpohl -- It would be interesting to see the numbers supporting your assertion that a minority of rich pays the bills. I saw a detailed analysis considering all the taxes (sales, income, property etc.) which revealed that the USA has flat tax around 30%. I wonder how they determine such things. For example, if the rich pay the property tax and then turn around and raise rents to accommodate that tax, who is actually paying the tax?

I am one of the few people on the left, that thinks the laffer curve has validity. I am in favor of raising the top tax rate to 83%, so the rich will pay far less in taxes. They will be induced into investing in their businesses rather than sticking cash in the Cayman Islands.

Thom's Blog Is On the Move

Hello All

Thom's blog in this space and moving to a new home.

Please follow us across to - this will be the only place going forward to read Thom's blog posts and articles.

From Screwed:
"Hartmann speaks with the straight talking clarity and brilliance of a modern day Tom Paine as he exposes the intentional and systematic destruction of America’s middle class by an alliance of political con artists and outlines a program to restore it. This is Hartmann at his best. Essential reading for those interested in restoring the institution that made America the envy of the world."
David C. Korten, author of The Great Turning and When Corporations Rule the World
From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"With the ever-growing influence of corporate CEOs and their right-wing allies in all aspects of American life, Hartmann’s work is more relevant than ever. Throughout his career, Hartmann has spoken compellingly about the value of people-centered democracy and the challenges that millions of ordinary Americans face today as a result of a dogma dedicated to putting profit above all else. This collection is a rousing call for Americans to work together and put people first again."
Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO
From Unequal Protection, 2nd Edition:
"Beneath the success and rise of American enterprise is an untold history that is antithetical to every value Americans hold dear. This is a seminal work, a godsend really, a clear message to every citizen about the need to reform our country, laws, and companies."
Paul Hawken, coauthor of Natural Capitalism and author of The Ecology of Commerce