Take that, you freeloaders, living a princely life while you sup on your luxurious supermarket ramen! It’s time for you to learn a lesson.
And lest things aren’t difficult enough, here’s another new rule the administration is proposing:
The rule would also prevent households with more than $2,250 in assets, or $3,500 for a household with a disabled adult, from receiving food stamps. Those changes would strip nearly three million people of their benefits, the department said, and nearly one million children would lose automatic eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals.
Read that again. Just $2,250 in assets would make you ineligible. So if you owned a 15-year-old car that runs just well enough to get you to a minimum-wage job, which isn’t enough to support a family on anyway, you’d be considered too rich to get food stamps. You could give up the car, but then you’d lose your job, in which case you wouldn’t satisfy the work requirement unless you could find a new job in walking distance, so you’d have neither a job nor food stamps.
Poor people really do have it easy in America.
And as always, in practice “work requirements” usually amount to a bureaucratic maze people are forced to navigate to maintain their benefits, such that even people who are working plenty can make mistakes in filling out all the right forms at the right times and get kicked off the program.
Which is of course precisely the point. Any time someone gets their benefits taken away — whether it’s because they got a good job and no longer need them, or because they didn’t fill out and submit their time sheet properly and on time — Republicans count it as a victory. If it’s because you’re on the path to success, that’s great. If it’s because you slipped up and we get to boot you off? That’s almost as good.
The announcement of the latest rule change is accompanied by lots of rhetoric from the administration about encouraging people to reach down and grab ahold of those bootstraps. “This is about restoring the original intent of food stamps,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, “moving more able-bodied Americans to self sufficiency.”
As though there are millions of people out there saying, “Well, I could get a job, but with this $134 a month I’m getting to buy food, who needs it?”
As for those kids who will no longer get meals in school if the next rule goes into effect? The rumbling in their stomachs and the mockery of their peers will give them just the motivation they need to become high achievers.
Of course, if we had an economy that provided people not just any job but jobs with good wages and benefits, we’d have far fewer people needing food stamps in the first place. Food stamp eligibility is set at 130 percent of the poverty level, or $27,729 for a family of three.
Working full-time for all 52 weeks of the year (what, you think you deserve a vacation?) at, say, the starting wage at Walmart of $11 an hour (they raised it last year), you’d be making $22,880 and be eligible for food stamps. Unless the Trump administration finds a way to kick you off.
Which means that programs like food stamps are a subsidy for low-wage employers. Those wages aren’t enough for people to live on, but if that superstore cashier or fast food worker can successfully navigate the government’s bureaucracy, she might get some help to feed her kids.
As I’ve argued, the difference between a liberal and a conservative is that a liberal gets angry when a child goes hungry, and a conservative gets angry when someone gets a benefit who might not deserve it. But the Trump administration has been particularly aggressive even for Republicans in going after food stamps. And something tells me this is just the beginning.