Scrooge has come early this year. We’re kicking our Tiny Tims. This holiday season, kids in America’s poorest families are going to have less to eat.
November 1 brought $5 billion in new cuts to the nation’s food stamp program, now officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
Poor families will lose on average 7 percent of their food aid, calculates the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. A mother with two kids will lose $319 over the rest of the current federal fiscal year. The cuts could cost some families a week’s worth of meals a month, says the chief at America’s largest food bank.
More cuts are looming. A U.S. House of Representatives majority is demanding an additional $39 billion in “savings” over the next decade. Ohio and a host of other states, in the meantime, are moving to limit food stamp eligibility. [...]
But America’s new heartlessness reflects much more than this turbocharged political power of America’s rich. An insensitivity toward the problems poor people face, researchers have shown, reflects a deeper psychological shift that extreme inequality makes all but inevitable.
The wider a society’s economic divide, as Demos think tank analyst Sean McElwee noted last week, the less empathy on the part of the rich and the powerful toward the poor and the weak. In a starkly unequal society, people of more than ample means “rarely brush shoulders” with people of little advantage. These rich don’t see the poor. They stereotype them — as lazy and unworthy.
Some cheerleaders for the rich and powerful, adds economist Nancy Folbre, go even further. They attribute unemployment and sluggish growth “to excessively generous public assistance.” Cutting food stamps, for these self-righteous souls, comes to seem an easy solution to all that ails a failing American economy.