War is a systematic and prolonged conflict carried out by one group against another and is characterized by extreme violence, social disruption, and economic destruction between political communities; therefore, it can be defined as political violence. Republicans love war, and it is irrelevant to them who faces social and economic destruction even if it is the citizens of their own country. Over the past two years Republicans have, with their evangelical cohort, publicly waged a sustained war against women and the gay community, but their bigger war is against the poor who are easier to decimate because they are unseen and have little resources to defend themselves; especially children. Whether it is because children are defenseless, or because Republicans enjoy using them as proxies for their parents economic status, America’s poor youth cannot escape the onslaught from the GOP. This past week, Republicans in West Virginia and Fox News opened a new front in the war on America’s poor children that reveals no-one is safe from the GOP unless they are rich.
Video courtesy of Media Matters:
The news that West Virginia Republican Ray Canterbury, a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, supports forcing poor children into labor to qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches puts a new meaning on the phrase “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” While Democrats and Republicans were debating Senate Bill 663, the Feed to Achieve Act, a bill to make breakfast and lunch available for free to poverty-level students from kindergarten through high school seniors, Canterbury proposed forcing children to mop floors, mow lawns, and do other janitorial tasks because according to him, “providing students with free lunches would destroy their work ethic and show them there’s an easy way” to live off the hard work of other Americans. Canterbury is not unique in perpetuating the notion that people forced into poverty by Republican policies that have kept unemployment high are lazy and stealing from the wealthy, and instead of working to help parents find living wage jobs, it is better to denigrate their children by forcing them to work or go hungry.
Republicans labor under the fallacy that Americans living in poverty are doing so out of choice, and to teach them to take responsibility for their economic plight and become “real hardworking Americans,” it is best to withhold the basic necessities of life. The idea that children living in homes of the working-poor and unemployed will achieve greater success if they learn to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps by making basic nutrition dependent on forced labor ignores that these are children and they go to school for an education, not a job. Besides using food as an incentive to learn a strong work ethic, forcing kids to perform maintenance work for food also puts social pressure in the form of degrading them in front of their wealthier peers, as well as sending a message to school maintenance workers that 2nd grade students can do their jobs and that they are over-compensated for their work that is only worth a child’s free breakfast and lunch, and only during school hours.
Last month in Tennessee, Republicans proposed a 30% percent reduction in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (food stamps) to families whose children are not making satisfactory progress in school. It is another form of war against the poor and like Republicans in Congress and state legislatures across America, their goal is punishing poverty-level Americans instead of creating living wage jobs necessary to lift them out of poverty so they would not require assistance whether it is free school lunches, food stamps, or basic healthcare. If Americans have learned nothing else from Republicans for the past four years, they cannot ignore the simple fact that the GOP is on a crusade to inflict the maximum amount of harm on the least fortunate Americans by choice in their war on the poor, and the recent congressional action to eliminate flight delays is a perfect example.
The Republican sequester was meant to cut spending across all demographics to reduce the deficit, but within a week of flight controller furloughs that created a “hardship” for those fortunate enough to afford air travel, Republicans quickly passed legislation to eliminate the “hardship” of waiting an hour for their flights. The sequester’s damage to the poor however, cannot be abridged because they have been the primary targets of Republicans’ Draconian spending cuts for over two years and counting; especially children, and in West Virginia, if children do not work, they will not eat.
There is nothing as despicable as adults who prey on children, and forcing poor students to labor for food is pure Republican predation similar to Tennessee’s attempt to cut food stamps for low performing students’ families, and is a sign that conservatives are escalating their war on the poor. Students of all economic demographics have a difficult enough time getting to school on a daily basis, absorbing knowledge, and completing assignments, and unfortunately for the richest nation on Earth, nearly 25% of them are living in poverty and lack basic nutrition. School teachers and parents alike understand that disciplinary problems, attention spans, and performance is absolutely affected by hunger, and yet it is doubtful there are Republicans across the nation who would jump at the chance to fire school personnel and replace them with poor children in exchange for just one nutritional meal per day.
Republicans are waging war on all Americans who are not members of the wealthy elite class, but they have focused the lion’s share of their economic assault on the poor. The fact they single out children though, portends a lack of humanity and it leads one to wonder how long before they require the elderly to sweep streets and the handicapped to maintain state and federal office buildings to qualify for Social Security. At the rate they are progressing, it will not be long.