Stealing From the Hungry

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

~  Dwight D. Eisenhower

When President Eisenhower spoke those words he was correct. If he were alive today and able to speak those same words to his own party, he would be wasting his breath. Making sense doesn’t allow one to become popular in today’s GOP; ask Jon Hunstman about that. But Eisenhower, having lived through the economic devastation of the Great Depression, was quite familiar with the need for both pragmatism and compassion — such as that which was warranted when he expanded the Social Security system.

Eisenhower’s concern was two-pronged: focus on unnecessary spending — such as that which is lobbied for by the military industrial complex — and don’t neglect those among us who are unable to care for themselves. Today’s Republican party doesn’t take his approach; while planning moves to block the Buffett Rule‘s  proposed millionaire’s tax increase, House Republicans have simultaneously moved to cut food stamps and other benefits for millions of people in need. The Republican (Ryan) budget, fully supported by candidate Mitt Romney, purports to save over $33 billion over 10 years — $14 billion less than the amount the Buffett Rule would have produced.

When it is a matter of feeding people no budget cut is deep enough. U.S. Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK, and Chair of the Agriculture Committee) said, “It’s tightening things up. It’s reflecting the budgetary times we are in.” However, when it’s a matter of raising revenues that would minimally impact the wealthiest 1% the GOP bleats and balks. Their claim is that  whatever the amount, any tax increase represents an amount that is too high when that contribution comes from the wallets of the wealthy. Additionally, an increase on the wealthy makes no sense because $47 billion is “virtually no money” and, therefore, wouldn’t have an impact.

Just. Plain. Foul.

According to Feeding America, hunger exists for one in six people in this country. With tight budgets, funding for food and shelter has been cut around the nation — but $47 billion could feed a lot of people. The Food Stamp Program (also known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) provides support to families, the elderly and the disabled. When America’s economic recession officially began in December of 2007, food stamp use skyrocketed and has since increased by approximately 70%.

It is for these types of programs that public sector intervention is needed; government programs are certainly not perfect but we cannot be so foolish as to expect that charitable or religious institutions can pick up the slack. Nor can we expect that the private sector will take on supplemental nutrition programs or anything else that doesn’t contribute to their bottom line. The Romney plan is devastating; even the bishops of the Catholic Church noted that the budget submitted by devout Cafeteria Catholic, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), fails a morality test.  Repeat. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says this is immoral…and they know a few things about immorality… 

Under President Eisenhower, the highest marginal income tax rate was 91%. The economy grew. Nobody is even remotely suggesting returning to the days of a 91% rate — but are we, as a nation, willing to return to the days of bread lines?  It’s time to separate the mean-spirited and batshit crazy from everyone else.

And, in the meantime, as for the poor? Oh, I know…Let ’em eat cake.



Image Source: Social Security Online History Pages