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Brent Budowsky: Food stamp scandals

Nov. 1, 2013 — a date that will live in infamy — will bring a new monthly jobs report proving that the pain of the jobless is continuing unabated, as a cruel cut in the food stamp program is slated to take food off the tables of hungry children, elderly and disabled Americans.

While the Dow Jones industrial average soars to record highs and American elites prepare to celebrate a prosperous holiday season, it is a scandal that the jobless remain jobless, the hungry are becoming more hungry and official Washington is doing nothing.

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It is scandalous that the hungriest Americans have been discarded from our public discourse and abandoned as nonpersons in our policy debates. They are treated like the disappeared in Pinochet’s Chile and the tortured in Stalin’s Gulag. They suffer in silence while politicians and the media ignore them.

It is a scandal that despite the real jobless rate of nearly 14 percent that will be announced on Friday, Republicans who caused the government shutdown that destroyed more jobs are continuing to oppose proposals by Democrats to create new jobs.

It is a scandal that despite punishing hunger caused by punishing joblessness, Republicans are attacking programs to feed the hungry with hostility and ferocity. Even conservative Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio worries that his party is waging a war against the poor.

The best way to reduce the budget deficit is to create more jobs, not to declare war against hungry children. The best way to lower the cost of the food stamp program is to lift more Americans out of poverty.

The attempt by Republicans in Congress to cut food stamps by almost $40 billion is a sadistic act of moral indecency against hungry children, the elderly and disabled Americans who need this program.

The cut in food stamps that would be imposed Friday is a grotesque attack against the hungry, an outrage the media must not ignore and a scandal that must be reversed.

The hungry, the hurting and the jobless are trapped in a no-man’s land between a weird and cruel ideology of the right that blames them for their pain and Democrats who must be far more bold in offering the nation a counter-narrative that puts jobs first and unites with the great faiths to forcefully champion the cause of the needy.

If Edward Kennedy were with us today, the rafters of the Senate would shake with his call to conscience. If Bob Dole were still serving in the Senate, he would be corralling his colleagues to save the hungry from this travesty of pain. Today there is little place in the party of Lincoln for the greatness and decency of Dole. There are too few voices in the party of Roosevelt with the profiles in courage of Kennedy.

If Robert Kennedy were here, he would be fighting with passion for the poor. If Jack Kemp were here, he would be promoting ideas to help the needy in his conservative way. We miss them both enormously.

Nov. 1, 2013, will be another day of infamy. Despite more news of the jobless, there is no great battle for jobs. Despite the hunger that plagues the land, the voices against the poor grow more loud and the war against the poor grows more ugly.

Pope Francis, the moral beacon of our times and the passionate voice for the poor, sets an example for us all.

Mr. President, will you heed the call of Kennedy and forcefully fight for the poor who need you?

Mr. Speaker, will you heed the prayers of the pope, end this war against the poor and extend your hand to the hungry?

Members of the Congress, will you have eyes that see and ears that hear the pain of those who suffer, and end this harvest of shame?

I love our country. We must do better than taking food from the mouths of hungry children during this holiday season.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net. 

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