Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
Pathologizing poverty has been a long-term, ongoing—and sadly, highly successful—project of the right in this country. From Scott Walker’s recent appeal to PEOTUS Donald Trump to allow the state of Wisconsin to drug-test food-stamp recipients, to House GOP plans to make it harder to qualify for aid, the goal is to punish and stigmatize the poor while eliminating programs that help lift them out of poverty.
Fox News essentially functions as the media arm of the Republican Party, and on Wednesday it did its part to undermine a program that helps 44 million poor Americans. To that transparent end, an episode of “Fox & Friends” featured a segment titled, “Food Stamp Fraud at All-Time High: Is It Time to End the Program?” The piece goes on to claim that USDA figures reveal “$70 million of taxpayer money was wasted in 2016 due to food stamp fraud.”
There are a number of problems with this episode, from the false fact buried in the query to the absurd answer it proposes. Obviously, no, we shouldn’t scrap a program that serves 44 million needy people, because that would be disastrous for families, children and communities around the country. Especially since it’s an argument based on lies and obfuscation, as Mother Jones writer Kevin Drum points out:
First, I have no idea where Fox’s $70 million figure comes from—and I looked pretty hard for it. The Fox graphic attributes it to “2016 USDA,” but as near as I can tell the USDA has no numbers for SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] fraud more recent than 2011.
Drum goes on to note that even if the imaginary figure were real, it would account for a tiny fraction of cases.
That’s not all: $70 million is a startlingly low figure. In the most recent fiscal year, SNAP cost $71 billion, which means that fraud accounted for a minuscule 0.098 percent of the program budget.
So, less than 1 percent of program costs went to fraudulent cases. As Drum notes, that’s not to suggest that having $70 million go to people who weren’t eligible to receive the money isn’t problematic. But as the Washington Post points out, if we really wanted to make sure federal funds aren’t being wasted in unnecessary places, there are a few other sites we might want to look first.
Earlier this month, The Washington Post revealed that the Defense Department had deep-sixed recommendations that might save the agency up to $125 billion over the course of five years. “Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power,” our Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward wrote. “But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.” That’s a potential savings of $25 billion a year — 357 times the amount of waste in the SNAP program.
Another example. On Wednesday, we reported about a long-running scam operated by Leonard Francis, a Navy contractor who, over the course of several years, defrauded the government to the tune of $35 million.
“As of writing, Fox News has not questioned whether we should disband the Navy,” the Post wryly notes.
In fact, we can be 100 percent certain that the network would attack any messenger who suggests American military spending should be cut, though the U.S. spends more on its armed forces than the next eight nations combined. Yet Fox has no problem suggesting, based on flimsy evidence and illogical reasoning, that we should let millions of American adults and children go hungry. If the election of Trump wasn’t enough proof of the right’s complete and utter lack of morals, there’s new evidence emerging all the time.
Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.
IMAGE: Fox News