In military parlance, collateral damage is harm to things that are incidental to the intended target and generally refers to the incidental destruction of civilian property and non-combatant casualties. There is also seeming collateral damage in politicians’ actions that may appear unintended, or excused away as acceptable in the cause of the greater good such as when Speaker of the House John Boehner said “so be it” to news Republican budget cuts to reduce the nation’s debt would kill over a million jobs in 2011. However, the damage Republican austerity policies are wreaking on the people and the economy is not incidental, and not only they deliberately damaging the economy by killing jobs, they are killing poor people.
It is likely that doing away with poor people was on the minds of Republicans when they refused to extend food stamp assistance to the 48 million Americans who had their food stamp benefits cut last Friday. Contrary to reports the cuts were only $5 billion, the real figure is over $11 billion over three years that will keep 20% of Americans who said they lacked sufficient money to buy food last year struggling to avoid starvation. The number is sure to increase as House Republicans, led by Ayn Rand devotee and failed vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, seek to appropriate food stamp funding in the upcoming bicameral budget negotiations since Republicans omitted SNAP funding from the still languishing Farm Bill.
Republicans in the House proposed cutting $40 billion from the food stamp program earlier this year, but Ryan is looking for a number closer to $90 billion that would bring the total to roughly $110 billion and teach the working poor, senior citizens, and children a lesson Ryan often reiterates. According to Ryan’s ideology of greed; the poor just have it way too easy and it is time to stop their free ride. He said, “We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.” Now, Ryan’s brutal disregard for hungry Americans may have credence if Republicans were not concurrently killing jobs and decent wages to keep tens-of-millions of Americans barely able to afford food, but it is all a well-laid plan to “thin the herd” of the 47% of takers Ryan and his Republican cohort hold in such brutal contempt; especially since the 2010 midterm elections.
Last week in an Economic Policy Institute paper, associate professor Gordon Lafer exposed the Republicans’ barbarism in cutting wages, benefits, and worker protections in states since they took control after the 2010 midterm elections. Lafer wrote that, “Four states passed laws restricting the minimum wage, four lifted restrictions on child labor, and 16 imposed new limits on benefits for the unemployed. With the support of the corporate lobbies, states also passed laws stripping workers of overtime rights, repealing or restricting rights to sick leave, and making it harder to sue one’s employer for race or sex discrimination.” He asserted that it is why 40% of working families receiving food stamps have at least one wage earner and why they will face increasing hunger to go along with their lack of healthcare and decent wages if they are fortunate enough to find a job.
Republicans and their conservative supporters are wont to say a little hunger is an incentive to work harder, but their breathtakingly cruel austerity is doing more harm than just sending little children to be hungry, it is killing Americans. For example, just in the state of Michigan a black male’s life expectancy is lower than a man living in Uzbekistan, black infant mortality is on a par with Syria, and in the nation’s white working class, people have started dying younger; especially if they are white working class women. It led Monica Potts to opine in the American Prospect that “absent a war, genocide, pandemic, or massive governmental collapse, drops in life expectancy are rare.” But this is a war; a deliberate, calculated war on the poor and it is due to Republicans keeping poor Americans from having “access to education, medical care, good wages and healthy food that isn’t just leaving the worst-off Americans behind. It’s killing them.” And it is not collateral damage or borne of fiscal responsibility; it is pure unadulterated conservative ideology borne of blatant cruelty.
There is little doubt Republicans are aware of the damage their policies are wreaking on the poor because they must know that nearly 25% of America’s children live in poverty and face hunger every day of their peasant lives, or that America has the highest infant mortality rate in the entire developed world. As an aside, the same so-called conservative Christians fighting to give personhood to zygotes are also responsible for cutting Women, Infants, and Children food and nutrition assistance and oppose funding for pre-natal care for low-income expectant mothers. Add to that the cuts to Head Start, free and reduce school lunches, and healthcare and their so-called pro-life stance only applies to zygotes, embryos, and fetuses but ceases when it breathes air and becomes a person.
The deadly effects of Republican cuts to food stamps, healthcare, and assault on workers are not unintended consequences or a sacrificed forced on the poor to pay for Republican economic malfeasance borne of perpetual tax cuts for the rich and out-of-control spending under the Bush administration; they are deliberate machinations to kill of what Paul Ryan and Republicans call “takers.” In fact, Republicans are in a frenzy to slowly kill off any American that receives assistance whether it is the poor, children, Veterans, or senior citizens with their drive to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid they claim the country can no longer afford.
As devastating as the food stamp cuts that took effect last Friday may be, they are just a preview of increased hunger 48 million Americans are going to face when Republicans led by Paul Ryan decimate SNAP in the upcoming budget negotiations. The numbers are certain to increase because the brutal cuts adversely affect the economy that will put more Americans out of work and unfortunately for them, there will be precious little food assistance with Ryan lusting to cut $90 billion on top of the $11 billion from last week. The brutality and deliberate assault on the poor is most evident in the Republican assertion that by creating hungry Americans they are encouraging them to go find jobs that Republicans are killing at a slightly higher rate than their poor victims are dying, but it does not explain their assault on senior citizens, children, infants, and disabled Americans who are being slowly killed off at the same frequency as the working poor and likely Speaker of the House John Boehner is saying “so be it.”
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.