Tina Dupuy: Don’t like food stamps? Raise the minimum wage
Say you’re philosophically opposed to food stamps. Let’s say you feel better about yourself by calling those who’ve hit hard times freeloading parasites. Suppose the very idea someone somewhere may be cheating the system is enough for you to support snatching all subsidized sandwiches out of the hands of your fellow Americans. Imagine that right in the middle of the Great Recession you think feeding the hungry is actually hurting the poor and discouraging them from working. Let’s pretend—hypothetically—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of the government programs you’d most like to see cut or dissolved altogether. Let’s suppose you’re the kind of person who’s disgusted by the whole thing. “Get a job!” you mutter at the TV when the food stamp issue is broadcast into your home.
There are 46.2 million impoverished citizens in this country. That’s more than the populations of Tunisia, Greece, Portugal, Switzerland and Ireland combined. Of these 46.2 million, about 10.4 million are the working poor. The others are largely elderly, disabled or children.
The most recent data tells us 10.4 million Americans work and yet can’t feed themselves or their families. Why? Because working doesn’t work. Working isn’t the solution to hunger because work doesn’t pay enough to buy food AND shelter. Raising the minimum wage to the proposed $10.10 an hour would mean a person with a full time job and one dependent child would no longer meet the requirements for food stamp eligibility. Working could effectively get people out of poverty: A novel concept.
Currently the ideologically pure right wing thinks food stamps are a disincentive to work and a minimum wage raise will kill jobs. Their hope is to keep wages so low you can’t live on them while also cutting food stamps. It’s where philosophy shatters on the frayed edge of facts on the ground. It’s not realistic—it’s just Republican.
The right wing has shed its once storied pragmatism for a new outraged ostrich-with-its-head-in-the-ground approach to public policy. They’re against abortion AND family planning; against the national debt AND for tax cuts; against Obamacare AND against socialized medicine (google it). So when you ask a Republican lawmaker what their ideas are to fix pressing issues Americans face every day they just squawk, “Benghazi!” “Lawless!” and hide their head back in their proverbial burrow.
An easy way to reduce food stamp dependency is to raise the minimum wage. A Pew Research study noted, “Nearly 21.3 million U.S. workers (or 16.4 percent of the workforce) would be directly affected by raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by July 2015.”
And if 21.3 million workers and their families have new spending power—it’s good for business. Walmart, which depends on food stamps to largely feed their workforce, saw a negative impact on their profits from the cuts to the program last November. If they were forced by government decree to pay their workers enough to buy food at Walmart with their wages (instead of EBT cards), it would be a positive impact to Walmart’s bottom line.
If food stamps are something you in your gut just don’t like, then you would naturally support an initiative to reduce dependency on that program. Since poor shaming has had little impact on making the poor less poor perhaps we should try another tactic.
Tell Congress to raise the minimum wage.
Tina Dupuy is managing editor of Crooks and Liars. She can be reached at email@example.com.