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Gingrich has always implied that programs for people in need are really just for lazy African-Americans. He’s done it again, all over the campaign trail, most spectacularly this week in South Carolina with his straw man du jour, the “best food-stamp president.”
The facts are clear—in 2010 less than one-quarter of food stamp recipients were African-American, and nearly 30 percent of recipients had earnings (just not enough earnings to put sufficient food on their families’ tables). But good luck with the fact fight. For four full years, from 1992 to 1996, the debate about welfare targeted poor black women, even though more of those receiving what was then called FDIC were white than black. So what! By the time the Senate passed its bill and Bill Clinton signed it into law, it was so acceptable to starve and impoverish women, especially black women, that even those editorial writers and columnists who opposed the “Personal Responsiblity Act” did it on other grounds (usually, that it might harm children).
Of course, the results were felt and continue to be felt by everyone. Timothy Casey, a senior staff attorney with Legal Momentum, a women’s rights group, told the Institute for Public Accuracy this week that the 96 Act reduced benefit receipt from 60 percent of poor families, pre-reform, to only about 20 percent of poor families today, and from more than 80 percent of eligible families, pre-reform, to less than 40 percent today. “Block granting cash aid also led to sharply reduced benefits that in every state are now less than half the poverty standard.”
The Republican plan for SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that used to be called “food stamps”) looks awfully similar. The GOP would turn the program over to the states just as it did with welfare, end the guaranteed benefit for low-income families and the automatic raises during economic down times, and (as with welfare) fund the whole thing through the block grants, which, of course, would obscure a big cuts.