[Note (12/30/2016): See the update to this story and Fox’s correction here.]
Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men. That’s the spirit of Christmas and the crass marketing slogan so fiercely defended by the Christmas Warriors at Fox News. Which makes the Fox & Friends segment Tuesday morning all the more shocking for its cruel indifference to human suffering.
Co-host Abby Huntsman introduced the segment as part their recurring “Entitlement Nation” series. These are generally excuses to attack the less fortunate among our American family. Past episodes have explored such nonsense as ObamaPhones and the lazy moochers on welfare with their extravagant microwave ovens.
Tuesday’s cheery holiday discussion was about whether SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, aka food stamps) ought to be discontinued. Because what’s more Christmasy than depriving poor families of lavish indulgences like food? To that end Huntsman raised the issue with her guests, Republican Joe Borelli and Democrat Jehmu Greene. And she framed the “fair and balanced” debate saying:
“Food stamp fraud is at an all-time high […] This year it is estimated that $70 million of taxpayer money was wasted on food stamp fraud. Is it time to end the program altogether?”
Good question, Ms. Scrooge. Don’t bother trying to reduce the alleged waste, just eliminate critical funding for food that keeps working families from starving. Not surprisingly, her Republican guest answered the question in the affirmative:
Borelli: “The Republican Party can’t be either in perception or in practice as the party that is seen as throwing people to the curb and cutting off benefits when they really need it. That said said, this program, the SNAP program, the reincarnation of the food stamp program, has been rife with problems since almost its inception.”
So Borelli’s position is that the GOP must avoid looking insensitive, while still being insensitive. It’s an admittedly tricky political maneuver. But one that Republicans have many decades of experience with. The Democrat actually offered some substance in her rebuttal:
Greene: “We certainly have to have this conversation by looking at the facts. And the facts are that 45 percent of the recipients of SNAP programs are under the age of eighteen. Nine percent of them are over the age of sixty. This is a program that keeps young people and elderly people out of poverty.
Greene also pointed out that the SNAP program helps the economy. That’s because for every five dollars that’s spent, nine dollars goes right back into the local economy. Meanwhile, Borelli incorrectly said that one percent of the spending on SNAP was lost to fraud. It’s actually only one-tenth of one percent (Republicans don’t do math). That’s an uncommonly low rate of loss for any program or even for commercial businesses.
Borelli went on to complain that the cost of the program doubled in the past eight years. What he didn’t say is that the costs went up because more people needed assistance due to the Bush Recession. Also, inflation has required the benefits to increase. If the minimum wage increased at the same rate there would be far fewer families who need this to supplement their income. But Republicans oppose that as well.
The SNAP program has proven to be an essential benefit that keeps children, seniors, and other low-income Americans from going hungry. It helps the economy, and is effective and cost efficient. In fact, the overall cost of the program is falling as the economy improves. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reports that:
“In fiscal year 2015, the federal government spent about $75 billion on SNAP. About 93 percent went directly to benefits that households used to purchase food. About 6 percent went to state administrative costs.”
Given the success of the program, it makes no sense to consider discontinuing it. But to suggest doing so during the Christmas holiday is downright cold-hearted. Fox News and the Republican Party have opposed virtually every social welfare program, including Social Security and Medicare. They are currently obsessed with repealing ObamaCare and cancelling the health insurance of 20 million people. But you might think they would withhold their most callous tendencies until after the Season of Joy. Sadly, you would be wrong.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.