On a recent episode of Fox & Friends, guest Star Parker mourned the evolution of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which provides grocery assistance to low-income people and families. Apparently, Parker thinks that the act of obtaining nutritious food should be a lot harder.
Until the late ’90s, food assistance programs largely used what we know as food stamps–stamps or coupons in different colors to denote different cash denominations. Now it utilizes EBT (or electronic benefit transfer), a debit card-type system. And according to Parker and other terrible people, that’s a shame because that “[takes] the shame out of it.” The stamps, as she sees it, “had this stigma about them, so people wouldn’t want to be on even if they qualify.”
Just a quick reminder that “qualify” here equals need. A need for food to keep you nourished and even, you know, alive. And this woman is celebrating the obstacles that keep people from asking for and accepting help for that need.
According to Parker, after the economic crash in 2008, a lot of people signed up for short-term assistance. Now, she says the use of assistance programs is “generational,” and claims the existence of an epidemic of a group called “watchers.”
“These guys are not working,” she says. “They’re watching. They’re watching porn, they’re watching TV, they’re watching women, they’re watching everything, but they’re not working.”
Parker credits the American Enterprise Institute, a distinctly conservative and fossil fuel-funded think tank and research group, with the observation of these nonexistent “watchers.” What she most definitely doesn’t cite in her argument are actual facts. Because those tell a very different story.
According to data collected and released by the USDA (which oversees the SNAP program), many recipients do work–about 32%. More than half of recipients live in households with earnings from employment. Only about 5% of recipients also receive cash welfare benefits, so it’s not like SNAP users are “wasting” their resources, even to someone like Parker who feels entitled to be the arbiter of what is and isn’t considered a waste.
SNAP covers food and only food. It doesn’t even cover things like toilet paper, medicine or diapers, despite the fact that 2/3 of SNAP benefits go to families with children. But Parker doesn’t seem to care about that, focusing only on the “guys” allegedly subsisting on nothing but porn and an average of $249 a month. Fraud in the SNAP system makes up about 1.5% of use, compared with the more than 20 million children who benefit from SNAP. But Parker and those at Fox & Friends have made their choice of who they’ll prioritize.
There will always be people who love to judge recipients of federal or state benefits. These people have an image of what a person on benefits should look like, and it includes a mix of shame and piety. These are the people who shoot dirty looks at those using their EBT cards for food and cash to buy a bottle of wine or some candy, as if no one in that situation deserves any small amount of pleasure. Last year, Donald Trump suggested switching from EBT cards to a meal box delivery system for no apparent reason except the desire to closely control the people’s behavior to the point of punishment.
Star Parker is the founder of the Center for Urban Renewal (CURE), which claims to “address issues of culture, race and poverty from a Judeo-Christian conservative perspective,” which is strange because I didn’t know shaming the poor was a Judeo-Christian principle.
(via Media Matters, image: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
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