The US House of Representatives voted to defund $40 billion dollars from the SNAP program of food assistance for the poorest of the poor. SNAP, better known as the food stamps assistance program, is claimed by some in the House to be a program steeped in fraud. That’s right — people are stealing a whopping $4.50 a day and some people are getting fat off food stamps, making them lazy.
Let me tell you about the people I know who use food stamps. They are kids and they are old people — and none of them ‘live large’ as some in Congress claim. Go to the Walmart in Cleveland, Tennessee and you will see the people who are living on food stamps. They are the grandparents, mothers and fathers of the children I teach during my 25 years of teaching. They are poor, they are white and they are Christian. Over 14% of the population of Bradley County, Tennessee receives food stamps, and the poverty rate is as high as 90% in some county schools. At the school where I have taught for the last seven years, the latest count had over 1000 of the 1700 students receiving free or reduced lunch with another 200 applications to be processed bringing the level of poverty at over 65% of the schools population.
Poverty brings with it crime, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, dysfunctional families and at-risk students — all of which affects my job daily. I see what poverty does to children, I see what poverty does to families every day. I get to see the lifeless souls of children who at 14 already believe they will never be anything more than dirt poor. I get to listen to the teenager who has to take care of herself and her three siblings by herself because her father is in prison and her mother is in the hospital and there is no other family around. I get to see hungry kids every day who race to the lunch room so they can eat the last meal of the day.
I read a report that stated kids who live in poverty walk around school in the same type of fog as if they had pulled an all-nighter, except they feel it daily, and extra sleep does not alleviate the condition. They are the kids who are constantly tired in class. They are awake only in body; their minds are silent. They are the kids who wear the same clothes from the first day of school to the end of the school year. They don’t wear designer jeans or tee shirts. They wear clothes with holes and cloths that have not been properly cleaned since they were purchased.
These are America’s poor. They do not live; they simply exist in a manner very similar to that of their sharecropper relatives of the past. These are the people whom the Eric Cantors and the Scott DesJarlais’ of the Republican Party accuse of ripping off the tax payers of America. These are the people who are accused of fraud because they’re collecting $4.50 a day when they should be working for a massive $7.25 an hour. These are the people who are trapped in a society, where the political leaders who were elected to represent them care as little for their existence as they do crap that they scrape from their $1000 shoes.
The other day, prior to the House vote, a member of Congress, Representative Phil Gingrey of Georgia, stated he could not live on his $172,000 salary. The comment was obscene but it was typical of the mindset of today’s Republican Party. They do not see past their own circumstances; they care only about themselves and their small circle of wealth. He does not shop at Walmart and he does not see what poverty does to families and to communities; he sees and believes in only what he and other GOP leaders want to see and believe — and they believe poor people are committing fraud against the taxpayers.
The fraud, waste and abuse is not coming from poor families trying to make ends meet; the fraud is coming from the Republican Party who have sold their souls to the highest bidder in order to keep their wealth, power and status. I am sure Congressman Gingrey’s children have never wanted for anything, unlike the children I teach who wake up hungry every day of their lives. Rep. Gingrey is disgusting as are the other members of the GOP who continue to attack the poor.