In the US, dismissing the poor as undeserving failures has been almost a national sport. It began back in the 1980s, after Ronald Reagan’s ardent anti-welfare presidency, which had the dubious distinction of cultivating the myth of the so-called welfare queen. Now a fresh and frightening attack on millions of low income people is under way.
While (forgivably) observers are distracted daily by the tumultuous Trump White House, the Republican budget plan for 2018 – currently in the House of Representatives – is set to eviscerate what little is left of America’s social safety net.
Proposed budgets are inevitably altered as they make their way through convoluted congressional processes but advocacy groups are warning that, if implemented, 2018’s House Republican budget would represent the apotheosis of decades of attacks on poor people.
The list of areas at risk of being slashed is long and disturbing. It includes affordable housing schemes, women’s health, jobs training and disability benefits. It also targets one of the most fundamental forms of assistance for those in urgent need – nutrition-based programmes.
As the Illinois-based Shriver Centre points out, programmes such as the supplemental nutrition assistance programme (Snap) – formerly food stamps, which are targeted for a whopping 20% cut over a decade – and earned income tax credits (also on the chopping block) are the mainstays of a safety net helping millions of families annually. Yet they are directly in the firing line. These programmes don’t just help to alleviate the immediate need that sends people to food banks. The Shriver Centre points out that the evidence shows they lead to “long term gains” that promote social mobility.
More than 40 million Americans use food banks, about one in eight people, and this includes 13 million children. In large part, this reliance on food banks is because Snap and other programmes have never been sufficient. Scott Allard, a political…