As history will no doubt show, there's absolutely nothing that the disabled and disenfranchised enjoy more than being told by the people they depend on to survive that they are all a bunch of filthy moochers.
Well, shocker, Interweb, because that's what one Oklahoman Republican did this week on the very public forum that is Facebook—committing the political equivalent of giving little ol' Orphan Annie a Cleveland steamer in the middle of Madison Square Garden.
As you may or may not have heard, Randy Brogdon, the Chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, made headlines this week when he had to apologize for posting a particularly malicious remark about food stamp recipients.
The offending Facebook post claimed that there was an "irony" that needed to be brought to light. While the US government is "proud to be distributing" $46 million dollars in food stamps this year, the post said the government is also eager to warn people not to feed the animals in the national parks. Why does the government warn people not to feed the animals? Because the "animals will grow dependent on the handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves."
The implication of the delightful post, of course, is that food stamp recipients are, like animals, need to be taught not to be dependent on their benevolent caretakers. It's a statement so ripe for parody it almost sounds like one of those hack, early-90s standups bits like "Evian spelled backwards is naïve".
Needless to say, a veritable media shitstorm broke out and Brogdon posted an "apology." That is, if your definition of an apology is simply saying that the people you are insulting are obviously too hungry from a lack of food to rightly understand the "misconceptions that were created."
Brogden's half-hearted apology is sort of like saying, "I'm sorry, kind sir, but you're just misinterpreting that knife currently piercing your intestines."
What we refer to as food stamps is actually known as The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federal program whose benefits are distributed by the states. Approximately 46.5 million Americans receive these benefits.
Incidentally, this isn't the only episode in recent history surrounding the hot-button issue that is food stamps. Wisconsin governor and Republican nomination hopeful Scott Walker has continually fought for his state's right to administer drug tests to recipients of its food stamp program, FoodShare. Now, it seems the fine governor is actually suing the federal government for his right to do so. "This lawsuit seeks to provide clarity that the State of Wisconsin has the authority to require drug testing for FoodShare recipients," said Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel in a press release on Tuesday.
When the state of Georgia attempted to implement a similar mandatory drug test for food stamp recipients last year, the US Department of Agriculture shot it down.
Several other states, including Missouri and Wisconsin, have jumped on the anti-food stamps bandwagon with proposed bills to ban the purchase of lobster, shellfish, and/or junk food with food stamps. Conservative bloggers have also tried to stir up outrage over illegal immigrants receiving food handouts.
But others are fighting against these naysayers, defending the dignity of food-stamp recipients. As Mario Batali's recent #FoodBankNYCChallenge showed—a challenge taken up by many, including Gwyneth Paltrow (who failed miserably)—the average weekly allotment of food stamps, $29 in some states, doesn't go far. Sure, you can buy a bit of lobster. You just won't eat much of anything else for the rest of the week aside from rock-flavored water.
And despite inflammatory arguments to the contrary, federal law requires that recipients of SNAP must be legal immigrants who have been in this country more than five years. Also, "able-bodied adults without dependents" can only receive food stamps for three out of 36 months if they are not working at least 20 hours a week or participating in a work program.
The policy wars will undoubtedly rage on. But those who analogize food-stamp recipients to animals might have some apologizing to do, even if it is half-hearted.