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Why Republicans hate it when poor people have food to eat

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The New Republic, April 2023

Republicans are hating on food stamps again. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s debt-ceiling bill expanded coverage of an existing work requirement to receive food stamps to include people aged 49 to 55, who were previously exempted. That wasn’t good enough for Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, who has called nonworking food stamp recipients “couch potatoes.” So before the bill cleared the House on Wednesday, 217–215, it was amended to accelerate to October 2024 the deadline for quinquagenarian recipients to get jobs. (Gaetz voted against the bill anyway.)

The paradox of the food stamp program is that it was originally designed to benefit three Republican constituencies: farmers, grocers, and wholesalers. (Even today, one of the program’s biggest supporters is Walmart.) Yet food stamps have come under near-constant attack since 1976, when Ronald Reagan, then challenging Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination, disparaged a largely mythical African American “welfare queen” who “used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare.”

Continue reading at The New Republic.

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