The bluebirds of happiness are chirping away in our nation’s treetops these days, for America is now in the fifth year of economic recovery. Let’s all sing “Happy Days Are Here Again,” for stock prices are reaching record highs, corporate profits are soaring, and even the unemployment numbers are on the mend.
But wait, what’s this? Down below the treetops, way down there at the grassroots, poverty not only persists, but is spreading. Also, America’s income disparity is worsening as middle-class workers are pushed into lower-wage jobs and poor people are pushed out entirely. Far from “Happy Days,” joblessness among our lowest-income families is now the worst on record, having reached the staggering rate of 21 percent.
The plight of the poor in our Land of Plenty is so dramatic that even the Republican leaders of the U.S. House have noticed them and are reaching out with open hands. Unfortunately, they are not offering a helping hand to the needy, but a cold, hard slap in the face. On September 19, in a gratuitous act of political pettiness and human callousness, the GOP slashed $4 billion a year out of the food stamp program. Well, they explained, the food stamp subsidy just keeps expanding, despite the recovery our economy is enjoying, so we have to stop the excess.
Apparently these congresscritters never even visit reality. Hello, boneheads — the program has expanded only because all of the “recovery” benefits went to the privileged few at the top, with those at the ground level losing income, thus having to reach desperately for food stamps as a life preserver. In fact, the program lifted about four million Americans above the poverty level last year and kept millions more from sinking deeper into destitution. It’s a safety net that’s been working exactly as it’s supposed to — and GOP ideologues don’t want government programs that work.
Also, just for the hell of it, these laissez-fairyland Dickensians added insult to the injury that their cuts would cause for millions of America’s hard-hit people. They tacked on a provision to let the meanest of states force the needy families to submit to humiliating drug tests as the price of obtaining food for their families.