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The GOP’s Food Stamp Hypocrisy

(Image: Missing plate via Shutterstock)

We have a serious corporate welfare problem in this country, but Republicans would apparently rather spend their time trying to stop poor people from eating spaghetti sauce than do anything about it.

Seriously, I’m not kidding.

Right now, the Wisconsin Legislature is considering a bill that would ban food stamp recipients in the Badger State from buying any kind of shellfish.

Introduced by Republican State Representative Robert Brooks, this bill would also make it harder for poor families on food stamps to buy everyday household items like spices, nuts, and – you guessed it – spaghetti sauce.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

Brooks’ proposal is actually less extreme than some of the other food stamp clampdown bills floating around red state legislatures these days – it doesn’t, for example, ban the purchase of all seafood, just shellfish – but it’s still terrible public policy.

Although they were unable to get an exact number, analysts with the Wisconsin Department of Administration estimate that it could cost the state upwards of “several million dollars” to so aggressively micromanage the food buying habits of the working poor.

This comes, of course, as Wisconsin faces $2 billion budget shortfall thanks, in large part, to Gov. Scott Walker’s tax cuts for the rich.

In other words, Wisconsin Republicans are willing to bankrupt their state even more just so they can stop poor people from making shrimp scampi with red sauce.

And that’s not even the worst of it.

At the same time as Wisconsin Republicans are clamping down on the apparent plague of lobster-eating poor people that’s ravaging their state, they’re also happily promoting a failed Scott Walker corporate welfare scheme that’s already wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, and is set to waste even more.

Back in 2011, after he was first elected governor, Walker started something called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation or WEDC, which funnels public funds to companies that claim they will create jobs for Badger State residents.

While that certainly sounds good in theory, a new report from Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau has found that the WEDC hasn’t done a good job of even bothering to checking up on the corporations to which it was passing out millions of dollars.

In fact, according to that report, the WEDC has basically no idea which of the companies it has given taxpayer dollars to have actually created jobs, and has also forgiven millions of dollars of loans that were supposed to be paid back to the state.

So much for fiscal responsibility, right?

The hypocrisy here would be hilarious if it weren’t so depressing and so utterly unsurprising.

Welfare for the rich and austerity for working people is the name of the game for the Republican Party, whether it’s at the state level in places in Wisconsin, or at the federal level here in Washington, DC.

Consider, for example, the fossil-fuel industry.

It gets $21 billion in handouts every year from the government to do nothing more than continue to pollute the planet – and yet, thanks to Republicans, it is vital programs like food stamps that get slashed in budget after budget, year after year.

But that’s only part of the story.

It’s not just that Republicans are willing to subsidize the rich and slash programs for working people all at the same time – everybody knows that.

It’s also the fact they’re willing to actually waste more money if that means demonizing poor people or criminalizing them for being poor.

That’s the big takeaway from what’s going on in Wisconsin right now.

It’s actually more expensive to stop poor people from eating shellfish than to just let the food stamp program go on as normal, but Republicans are all on board because it punishes and stigmatizes low-income people.

We saw the exact same thing happen in Florida when Rick Scott forced welfare recipients to take drug tests. The plan cost his state a small fortune, but because it made poor people look like criminals, he was fine with expanding government and paying the costs.

Remember that the next time you hear some Republican go on and one about how bad government spending is.

Because not only are Republicans totally fine with wasting taxpayer dollars to prop up rich corporations, they’re also totally fine with spending them to demonize poor people.

So much for compassionate conservatism in the Republican Party.

It was a lie and an oxymoron when George W. Bush promoted the phrase, and it’s still a lie today.