From the MSNBC NOW with Alex Wagner program, Sept. 20- “On Thursday, House Republicans voted to cut nearly $40 billion from food stamps–one of the largest cuts in U.S. history. The cuts come at a time when 49 million Americans live in households that struggle to put food on the table. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., joins NOW with his reaction to Thursday’s vote.”
A transcript of the NOW discussion is also available.
This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.
>>> at a time when 47 million americans are living in poverty and 49 million americans including nearly 17 million children are living in households that have trouble putting meals on the table, it is at this time that 217 republicans in the house of representatives voted for one of the largest cuts in the food stamp program in u.s. history . last night a bill to cut $40 billion in the food stamp program and impose work requirements on its recipients passed in the house in a party line vote. not a single democrat voted for the bill. “the new york times” called the vote another insult to the poor and said it could be seen only as an act of supreme indifference. the bill has no chance of passing the senate and white house said it would be vetoed making it a monumental waste of time. monumental time wasting is par for the course in this congress. what nutrition reform and opportunity act represents is actually something monumental. a republican party that no longer even pretends to care about the struggles of the poor and working class but instead struggles to make life harder for them. at least a handful of republicans understood the gravity and what this signaled for the public. 15 members from the gop that voted against the bill was congressman joe young . these proposed cuts would result in approximately 10,000 alaskans losing s.n.a.p., that’s food stamp support and harm food security for families. while i agree with many of my colleagues that we should continue to improve s.n.a.p. making such drastic reductions in funding is not the best way forward . joining us from capitol hill is democratic congressman from massachusetts second district jim mcgovern . congressman, thanks for joining us.
>> thanks for having me.
>> a lively day i’ll say euphemistically, a live 24 hours on capitol hill . lets talk about s.n.a.p. cuts. i was, i guess, in some way heartened at least 15 republicans understood the fact this is a terrible, terrible bill. given the fact that of the 254 counties where food stamp recipients doubled in the last five years, mitt romney won 213 of them. to say this was not a problem that the republican electorate understands and feels is a dismissal of what is actually happening in the room. why is the republican party marching under this banner of slashing food stamps .
>> that’s a good question. i’m grateful for 15 republicans who voted their conscious and against this terrible bill. the rest of the republicans voted eric cantor ‘s conscious unfortunately. you’re absolutely right. there’s not a single congressional district in the country where there isn’t a problem with hunger and where people are not utilizing food stamps . we’re coming out of a terrible economy. hopefully it will be getting better soon if the republicans don’t shut the government down. in the meantime we need to make sure people in this country have enough to eat. what was sad about the vote. ending hunger used to be a bipartisan issue. think of bob doll and mcgovern came together and strengthened the s.n.a.p. program, back then food stamps . there’s a great bipartisan tradition here. the republicans yesterday blew all this up. this has become a very partisan issue from their point of view and it was a rotten thing to do to poor poem.
>> ideological, if about cost-cutting what about farm subsidies . goa found recipients at 2300 farms had grown no crops at all for the past five years. if you want to cut costs, why not take some of the fat from there.
>> that’s a good point. there are savings to be had in these excessive farm subsidies as well as crop insurance . we read every day about new examples of fraud and abuse. this is more than that. this is an ideological issue, i think, with the leadership in the republican party where they believe there should be no public sector , where government has no obligation to the most vulnerable in our country. think about this. if they get their way 3.8 million people will lose benefits. children, senior citizens . by the way, 170,000 veterans would lose their s.n.a.p. benefit. it just is a rotten, cruel, terrible thing to do and it was offensive. listening to the rhetoric on the house floor yesterday, the two things i realized was there was an incredible ignorance about the program. most guys have know idea what it does, doesn’t know the average benefit is $1.50 per meal per day. insensitivity. the way they diminish the struggle of poor people is just stunning to me.
>> brian, we have talked about food stamps and this is cemented, this republican vote is the clearest expression that the 47% has wrapped its arms around the republican party in a strangle hold, takers versus makers. as the congressman points out, there’s a complete lack of understanding about who is in food stamps . people on food stamps can’t work because they are sick, disabled, have a child, an elderly person. they want to work. instead these laws are crafted in a punitive fashion to shame people who have already lost so much dignity by being out of work and struggling hard.
>> it’s the politics of ignorant resentment. they haven’t thought it through. lets say somebody gets $200 a month in food stamp benefits. that’s $50 a week. they want people to work 20 hours a week for that. that’s $2.50 an hour. they would never work for $2.50 an hour and no rational person would work for $2.50 an hour because there are many more useful things you can be doing with your time than giving it to the government for $2.50 an hour. i think dignity is the best word to put it. they don’t recognize the fundamental dignity that every person in this country has and that’s why they treat them with such disrespect. such a lack of interest in their actual lives. if they had an interest, they would not suggest that you go to some state work center for 20 hours a week for $2 an hour. feels like marie antoinette , let them eat cake , wlafr they want, peasants, unwashed masses.
>> worse than that. they envision a bunch of lay abouts, people who spend all day lounging on the couch and eating caviar they bought with — i don’t know, horded three years worth of food stamps and bought a tin of caviar. this is the image that comes to their mind. it’s this weird fantasy they have.
>> also it’s such a slap in the face in terms of your ordinary every day working class americans . there’s so much rhetoric around patriotism and this country and what makes it work. here it’s such a devaluation of americans and american society and american work ethic .
>> i think there’s something more sinister going on here. you can’t underestimate or devalue racial implications here. so much of the language that we hear, it’s like the welfare queens. those takers, those people, what comes along with that are people of color . regardless of the fact most are white. it feels like the language — waste, fraud and abuse. we’ve got to stop the waste, fraud and abuse. it’s setting up something we saw with wide southern strategy last time which was to convince white voters to vote against self-interest because at least you’re better than those people. i think that’s more than insidious than they don’t care, they don’t understand. i think there’s something far more nefarious going on here.
>> congressman, i think one of the huge pieces of misinformation, more people on the food stamp roles because it’s somehow easier on the s.n.a.p. program. if you track it, more people on the rolls because economy has worsened. we have a chart, increase in food stamps parallel increase in poverty.
>> absolutely. the economic forecast predicts spending on food stamps will go down as the economy gets better. that line that somehow people want to be on food stamps like it’s some sort of sweet deal to people is ridiculous. $1.50 per meal per day. when you think about it, of all the people on food stamps who work, you can have two adults working in a family at minimum wage jobs and still not earn enough for the s.n.a.p. benefit. we have to talk about lifting people up, not putting people down. this is a fight worth having. this should not be a partisan fight. those of us who fought yesterday against these cutbacks, we need to regroup and come back. they are not going to give up. look, if government stands for anything, it ought to stand for the most vulnerable in this country. to cut a food program by $40 billion and tell 3.8 million people to hell with you is outrageous. it’s a new low even for these guys. we’re going to fight back, push back.
>> i support you. don young made his share of controversial comments, on this issue at least he voted the right way. did you have conversations with the 15 republicans that bucked the party politics and said we’re going to stand up for people in america.
>> i did. i voted for members who voted with us on this, republican members. i talked to republicans who were very uncomfortable with this vote. i kept urging them, vote your conscious, not eric cantor ‘s conscious. thches not written in the agriculture committee , it was written in eric cantor ‘s living room . i know a lot of rank and file republicans did not like to cast that vote yesterday. i’m disappointed more didn’t stand up to their leadership and the people they represent. these are our neighbors. these are the people who we should be caring about and not treating with disrespect.
>> massachusetts congressman jim mcgovern , thank you for voting with your