Obama's Anti-Populist Agenda
by Stephen Lendman
Obama's a reliable corporate tool. He serves powerful monied interests. He spurns populist ones. He's done so throughout his tenure. He's unfit to serve.
Since taking office, he targeted America's most disadvantaged. He wants deeper Medicare and Medicaid cuts than already instituted on his watch. He wants Social Security benefits reduced.
He's already cut:
• home heating help for needy families;
• higher education Pell Grants;
• Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) benefits;
• community healthcare center funding;
• HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other disease prevention programs;
• WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) low-income family grants to states for supplemental food, healthcare, and nutrition education;
• Head Start education, health and nutrition help for low-income families with children;
• community development block grants for housing; and
• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
More on them below. He's waging war on social America. He's in lockstep with Republicans and most Democrats. Everything's "on the table," he said.
He's gutting America's New Deal and Great Society. He's eroding vital longstanding programs en route to eliminating them altogether. He's beholden to monied interests. They own him.
He's waging class war. He's throwing millions of needly Americans under the bus. He's force-feeding pain and suffering.
Obamacare rationed healthcare. It penalizes households unable to afford insurance. It assures escalating costs. It puts vital treatment out of reach for growing millions. He's doing it when it's most needed.
He's got lots more budget cutting schemes in mind. He wants seniors, low income earners, and America's most disadvantaged hit hardest.
Doing so shifts more wealth disproportionately to Wall Street, war profiteers, other corporate favorites, and super-rich elites already with too much.
Stealing from poor Peter to benefit rich Paul is policy. Only a Democrat would do what Republicans on their own wouldn't dare.
Obama's a stealth corporatist hardliner. He's been that way throughout his political career. It got him elevated to America's highest office. He's paying dividends to power bosses who selected him. They wouldn't have done so otherwise.
He supports deeper food stamp cuts. Franklin Roosevelt instituted the first Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It began in May 1939.
Henry Wallace was agriculture secretary. Milo Perkins administered the program. "We've got a picture of a gorge," he said, "with farm surpluses on one cliff and under-nourished city folks with outstretched hands on the other. We set out to find a practical way to build a bridge across that chasm."
The program ended when conditions warranting it no longer existed. In 1959, Eisenhower reinstituted it.
Jack Kennedy's first Executive Order expanded the program. Lyndon Johnson enacted the 1964 Food Stamp Act. He called doing so "a realistic and responsible step toward the fuller and wiser use of an agricultural abundance."
It's a vitally important social program. It provides food for growing millions unable to afford enough of it. Cutbacks began in the 1980s. Clinton continued them. They're prioritized more now than earlier.
Congress plans major cuts. They're part of the 2013 Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (aka farm bill). It's a five-year omnibus agricultural policy bill. The last one expired on September 30, 2012.
In January, a nine-month extension was agreed on. Agribusiness subsidies continued. Food stamps and other populist programs were cut. New legislation plans huge ones most needed. Feeding the nation's poor will suffer
Farm bills authorize, repeal, extend, and revise US agricultural policy. They reward rich farmers disproportionately. They heavily subsidize agribusiness. Doing so helps put family farmers out of business.
A small percent of mega-farms produce most US agricultural output. They specialize in commodity crops. They include corn, wheat, cotton, rice, soybeans and other animal feed grains.
So-called "specialty" crops include vegetables and fruit. They're not subsidized.
What agribusiness wants it gets. It comes at the expense of small farms and federal food programs. They include feeding the nation's poor.
SNAP's been attacked for years. Over the next decade, it faces its biggest challenge. Deep cuts are proposed. On May 15, the House Agricultural Committee passed the 2013 farm bill.
It cuts $21 billion in SNAP aid. Doing so means nearly two million needy Americans won't get food stamps. In 2000, around 17 million got them. By yearend 2012, it spiked to a record 48 million. Since 2008, recipients increased over 70%.
Under protracted Main Street Depression conditions, expect numbers to swell exponentially annually. At the same time, Congress wants less aid provided when it's most needed. It's too vital to lose.
Legislation awaits a full House vote. The Senate has its own version. Both target America's needy. It's just a matter of how much.
Hungry Americans don't matter. Half or more are children. Many attending schools with hot breakfasts or lunches may get their only daily meal.
Most households receiving food stamps have at least one employed member. According to the Food Journal, they "typically include a child, elderly person or a disable person, and a gross income of $744 a month."
With proposed amendments, SNAP benefits to fund the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and Education Jobs Fund face 10% cuts.
SNAP-Ed (the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grant Program) is reduced by one-third in FY 2013. Doing so greatly compromises the ability of recipients to make healthy food choices.
SNAP is America's most important anti-hunger program. Millions face dire consequences without it. Nearly 72% of recipients are in families with children. Over one-fourth are in households with seniors or disabled people.
After unemployment insurance, it's the most vital federal program during hard times. It's ongoing. It's deepening. It's protracted. Growing millions are increasingly dependent.
Washington funds SNAP. It splits administrative costs with states. They operate the program. Nearly all low-income households are eligible. At least so far.
Criteria explained below must be met. States have some wiggle room to adjust them.
Gross monthly income must be at or below 130% of the poverty line. In FY 2013, it's defined as $24,800 annually for a three-person household. Those with an elderly or disabled member need not meet this limit.
Net monthly income must be less than or equal to defined poverty after deductions for high housing costs and child care. In FY 2013, the designated amount is $19,100 annually.
Assets must fall below certain limits. Households without elderly or disabled members must have $2,000 or less. Others with one or more of these members must have $3,250 or less.
Regardless of income or assets, ineligible categories include striking workers, most college students, and certain legal immigrants. Undocumented immigrants aren't eligible.
Most unemployed childless adults receive benefits only for three months. Some high unemployment areas waive this limitation.
On May 22, a Senate amendment passed. It makes anyone convicted of certain violent crimes ineligible for SNAP benefits for life.
It doesn't matter how long ago the offense was committed, under what circumstances, or whether the offender henceforth became a model citizen.
Losing benefits affects other family members. Children and spouses will suffer through no fault of their own. Given the disproportionate numbers of incarcerated Blacks and Latinos, this provision discriminates racially.
Many were wrongfully convicted. Targeting them again compounds injustice. Congress is dismissive and uncaring. It reflects America's dark side.
The world's richest country spurns its most disadvantaged. Doing so swells their numbers. People of color are most harmed. Corporate giants and super-rich elites are disproportionately favored.
Rank-and-file House and Senate members earn $174,000 annually. Majority and minority leaders get $193,000. The House Speaker receives $223,000.
Cost-of-living increases add more annually unless Congress votes against them. All congressional members get subsidized healthcare, generous pensions, and outsized government perks.
Millionaires comprise America's 1%. In Congress, it means being average. Among 535 House and Senate members, about half are millionaires.
The vast majority of congressional members are well off financially. Many of their constituents suffer disproportionately. Bipartisan complicity punishes them unjustly.
When growing millions need help, they face increasing hardships. Force-fed austerity assures it. Cutting food stamps highlights congressional indifference.
Class war rages. Growing needs go unaddressed. Hungry children don't matter. America never was beautiful. It's less so today than ever. It's dark side's in plain sight.
Harming its most disadvantaged reflects it. They face harder than ever hard times. In 1941, Franklin Roosevelt pledged freedom from want. Bipartisan complicity today ignores it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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