The Right’s war on the poor rages on, driven in part by the belief that racial and ethnic minorities are getting much of the help. Yet, as food stamps are slashed, Congress lavishes money on military projects that are judged wasteful or useless, John LaForge writes.
By John LaForge
Beginning Nov. 1, food stamp cutbacks mean $36 per month less for a family of four.
Public “servants” like Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan and Democratic former President Bill Clinton point to the failure of poverty programs to end poverty, and then slash those program budgets or abolish them altogether. Clinton’s actions did away with Aid to Families with Dependent Children in a fell swoop he dubbed “welfare reform.”
Meanwhile, the chronic test failure of anti-missile rockets never results in budget cuts, but is called reason enough for more funding. The latest miss by the “missile defense” project occurred July 5 over the Pacific, adding to a near perfect record of total flops or faked hits. The rocket business is one welfare program that is never declared fraudulent or wasteful except by scientists, honest think tanks and military watchdog groups.
Today a lot of Republicans claim the food stamp program, officially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, is rife with fraud. They say “Ineligible people get food stamps!” So Congress dogs the poor who may not vote and don’t donate to campaigns, while doling out billions of dollars to missile contractors Lockheed, Martin, Boeing, TRW and Raytheon, etc. in exchange for millions of dollars in re-election cash.
So the House adopted a farm bill in July that for the first time since 1973 eliminates food stamps A Senate bill approved in May cut about $4.5 billion from the program, mainly by altering eligibility rules.
The percentage of our population that uses food stamps went up from 8.7 in 2007 to 15.2 in 2012. This near doubling is partly the result of the Great Recession, high unemployment, and the fact that Republicans have made deep cuts in unemployment benefits.
The House action will eliminate about 5.1 million people from SNAP, according to a report by the Health Impact Project. Almost half a million people who get food stamps but still do not get enough to eat (the average SNAP amount is $134 a month) would lose their eligibility for the stamps. The HIP study found that food stamps cuts will not just affect the ability of low-income people to feed themselves, but would also increase poverty.
Failed and Redundant Weapons
Independent analysts like MIT Professor of Science, Technology and International Security Theodore Postol argue that “ballistic missile defense” (BMD) can’t work, interceptor missiles can never distinguish real incoming weapons from swarms of decoys, and should be cancelled.
Postol charged in a March 2000 letter to President Clinton that the program’s officers were “most likely attempting to illegally use the security and classification system to hide waste, fraud and abuse,” that included faked test results. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher told Ronald Reagan 30 years ago, “I am a chemist. I know it won’t work.”
Still, spending for BMD over three decades totals about $200 billion, $130 billion by 2000, according to the Center for Strategic and Budget Assessments, and about $10 billion every year since then. Last March, President Barack Obama announced another $1 billion in funding to add 14 new “interceptor” missile pads to the 26 already deployed in Fort Greely, Alaska.
Even more insulting are the weapons programs unwanted by the Pentagon that get funded again and again. Military brass have said that the new Joint-Strike fighter jet bomber (or F-35) and additional upgrades to the M1 Abrams tank are unnecessary. The 6,000 completed M1 upgrades are enough, says DoD. Baltimore Sun blogger Terry Munson reported Aug. 17 that zeroing the Abrams rehab program would save $3.5 billion.
Pentagon chiefs have called a lot of costly systems unneeded and unaffordable. Josh Sweigart in the Dayton Daily News reported last year that the military had proposed cost cutting that would save at least $487 billion over 10 years.
The Pentagon suggested canceling: 1) the Global Hawk drone, whose purpose is served by the U2, saving $2.5 billion by 2017; 2) the C-27J Spartan transport aircraft, saving $400 million by 2017; 3) 5,000 jobs from the Air National Guard, and slashing $300 million from its budget; and 4) plans for an East Coast missile defense battery that Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had called unnecessary, saving $3.6 billion by 2017.
The same congressional budget cutters who call for “small” government have insured that useless military boondoggles in their districts stay big, even while providing fewer jobs per billions of dollars spent than any other sector of expenditure.
As Munson said, “If we used some of that money to feed hungry children and educate those who need it most Congressional reps might be compelled to find support among real voters and not just corporations seeking government handouts.”
John LaForge writes for PeaceVoice, is co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits their quarterly newsletter: www.nukewatchinfo.org