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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Right-wing congressman Steve Stockman (R-TX) is calling for billions of dollars in additional cuts to food stamps, after one of his staffers claimed to save money and gain two pounds after taking the “SNAP challenge.”

Last week, a group of House Democrats responded to their Republican colleagues’ plan to cut $20 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — better known as food stamps — by attempting to live for a week on a food budget of just $4.50 per day, to raise awareness about the difficulties of living on SNAP.

In response, Donny Ferguson — Rep. Stockman’s communications director and agriculture policy adviser — decided to take the challenge himself. According to a press release from Stockman’s office, Ferguson “was able to buy enough food to eat well for a week on just $27.58, almost four dollars less than the $31.50 ‘SNAP Challenge’ figure.”

“I wanted to personally experience the effects of the proposed cuts to food stamps. I didn’t plan ahead or buy strategically, I just saw the publicity stunt and made a snap decision to drive down the street and try it myself. I put my money where my mouth is, and the proposed food stamp cuts are still quite filling,” Ferguson said in the statement. “We can cut the proposed benefits by an additional 12.4 percent and still be able to eat for a week.”

“Not only am I feeding myself for less than the SNAP Challenge, I will probably have food left over,” he added.

In the press release, Stockman’s office provided a list of the groceries that Ferguson purchased for his $27.58:

Two boxes of Honeycomb cereal
Three cans of red beans and rice
Jar of peanut butter
Bottle of grape jelly
Loaf of whole wheat bread
Two cans of refried beans
Box of spaghetti
Large can of pasta sauce
Two liters of root beer
Large box of popsicles
24 servings of Wyler’s fruit drink mix
Eight cups of applesauce
Bag of pinto beans
Bag of rice
Bag of cookies
Gallon milk
Box of instant oatmeal

The list features a notable lack of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat; the statement from Stockman’s office declined to speculate on the health effects of living on a beans and fruit drink mix diet. This would presumably be a problem for the 47 percent of households receiving SNAP benefits that include a child, however.

“I could have bought cheaper vegetables instead of prepared red beans and rice, but I like red beans and rice,” said Ferguson in the statement. “Folks aren’t buying fast food instead of vegetables because of benefit limits, they’re buying fast food because fast food tastes great and vegetables taste like vegetables.”

According to Stockman’s office, Ferguson’s experiment “debunked” the “left-wing publicity stunt intended to make it appear proposed cuts to food stamps would leave families unable to feed themselves.”

“Democrats have been intentionally buying overpriced food and shopping at high-priced chains to make it appear the cuts go too far,” the statement claims.

In a follow-up statement to Think Progress, Ferguson insisted that he is “feeling great,” and gained two pounds on his SNAP diet. ““As for criticism, liberals issued a challenge and I took them up on it,” he said. “It’s not my fault it backfired on them. Reality has a way of mocking liberalism.”

Reality also has a way of combating Stockman’s talking points. According to the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the average cost of food at home already exceeds the $133.41 that the average SNAP beneficiary receives in a month.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2012 SNAP helped 47 million low-income Americans to afford a nutritionally adequate diet in a typical month. One would think that Stockman, who was once homeless for a full year, would understand the value of food security.

Additionally, the Center for American Progress estimates that every billion dollars cut from SNAP costs the economy 13,781 jobs — meaning that the cuts which Stockman supports could cost over 275,000 jobs.

Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr

H/t: Think Progress

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]