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Food help: Cruel struggle

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Congress is deadlocked again -- this time because House Republicans want to slash food stamps for low-income families and school lunches for needy children.

After the Great Recession struck five years ago, the number of Americans needing food help surged to 48 million and federal cost soared. Now that recovery is occurring, the food expense is declining, but millions still need aid.

The Senate passed a farm bill including a slight spending cut, but the House is stymied by GOP attempts to impose enormous reductions that would shut off stamps for 1.8 million people and deny school lunch to 210,000.

"The price of a farm bill should not be making more people hungry in America," Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said. Various U.S. newspapers called the GOP cutback attempt "heartless," saying well-fed people have better chance in school and jobs. As for Republican claims of fraud, the Los Angeles Times said:

"In fact, the program has a low and steadily dropping fraud rate, and the vision of impoverished people living lavishly off $1.48 per meal is a mean-spirited fiction. Americans should not starve. This program deserves to continue, as a matter of moral responsibility and fiscal common sense."

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne called the House GOP farm bill "deeply flawed and inhumane," adding: "Our ability to govern ourselves is being brought low by a witches' brew of right-wing ideology [and] a shockingly cruel attitude toward the poor on the part of the Republican majority." Dionne wrote that "food stamps have been an enormous success in curbing hunger in our rich nation, while also serving as a powerful stimulus to economic recovery during hard times." He condemned tea party Republicans who want "to throw millions of low-income Americans off the food-stamp program."

Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee -- whose family cotton farm gets a huge subsidy from the farm bill -- quoted the Bible as saying "The one who is unwilling to work should not eat." Such a comment is in II Thessalonians, but many other Scripture passages mandate compassion for underdogs.

Why do conservatives endlessly oppose efforts to help families and those who are less privileged? Over the past century, conservatives fought against voting by women, birth control for couples, Social Security for the aging, equality for blacks, Medicare for retirees and various other humane plans. Luckily, progressives won all those battles.

Now America is witnessing yet another sad exercise in conservative ideology.


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