Once again, FOX News has completely mischaracterized the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), claiming that the President is “buying votes” by keeping millions of Americans on the SNAP rolls despite the “full economic recovery.” That statement is demonstrably false and racially tinged.
Here’s why it’s false:
First, whether or not an individual person is enrolled in SNAP is ultimately the responsibility of state governments, most of which are now run by conservative Republican governors. The federal government sets broad SNAP eligibility guidelines but states actually “enroll” people.
Second, the President isn’t running for office again. As he noted in his recent State of the Union address, he’s already won two campaigns and is finally free to carry out the remainder of his term focused on substance over politics. So, the claim that he’s keeping people on the SNAP roles to buy their votes is absurd on its face.
Third, out of the 20 states with the highest rates of SNAP participation, 16 voted for Governor Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential race and the same states overwhelmingly voted for Senator John McCain in 2008.
Fourth, the SNAP rolls rose during the presidencies of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama because poverty rose during both presidencies, even in times that the stock market was soaring. The FOX segment also fails to take into account the great lengths individuals have to go to in order to enroll in the SNAP program, which by the way, has a fraud rate of about 1 percent (about half the criminality rate of the U.S. House of Representatives). The implication that signing up for SNAP is easy just isn’t true. It’s far easier for billionaires to get their tax refunds than for hungry Americans to get SNAP.
Hunger is a massive problem in America. Despite growth at the top of the economy, in 2013 there were 49 million Americans who were food insecure. The reason 46 million Americans are now on SNAP is not because the President is attempting to buy votes or persuade people with handouts. It’s because hunger is a huge problem, which our government has failed to take on to the extent necessary to adequately fix the problem. Because child nutrition programs are also inadequate, 16 million American children live in households that lack sufficient food.
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It’s also offensive and false to imply that hungry Americans and SNAP recipients don’t want to work. USDA has found that—with regard to families with children suffering from food insecurity and hunger—68 percent contained at least one adult working full-time, 10 percent had at least one adult working part-time, 7 percent had an unemployed adult actively looking for work, and 7 percent were headed by an adult with a disability. The main problem is low wages and few jobs, not laziness.
Here’s why the FOX segment is racially tinged:
Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney and much of the right blamed their 2012 loss on higher minority turn out and the supposed gifts that Obama gave to minority voters. This Fox broadcast is playing off similar racial stereotypes, despite the fact that the plurality of SNAP recipients are white.
The largest reason for hunger in America today is conservative policies that reduce wages and slash social safety nets. The very conservatives who pushed the policies that sunk our economic ship shouldn’t complain when we are forced to provide life preservers in the form of food for the drowning. It’s no wonder the most conservative states are also the hungriest.
The reality is that all of us, including every employee at Fox News, relies on government sometimes. Fox News Founder and head Roger Ailes majored in radio and television while at Ohio University; this government-run – arguably socialist institution – provided a vital push to Ailes’ career.
Shame on FOX for perpetuating race-baiting, victim-blaming lies and half-truths to the American people. They deserve more, including a government that doesn’t allow its people to go hungry.
Watch (video provided by Media Matters):