December 20, 2017

We don’t have to read between the lines to know what comes next

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"If we can't sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work,"
- Sen. Mitch McConnell

Yes, Senator you should. You should do so without delay. Because the only way to “sell” this tax bill to the American people was to lie about what it contains. And lying is not a demonstration of leadership.

Today, Republicans in Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, making the most significant structural changes to our nation’s tax system in 30 years. It is ideologically-driven legislation that heavily favors big corporations and the wealthiest of all Americans. It is predicated upon magical thinking about the effectiveness of supply-side economics at generating economic growth, which they assert will benefit the nation’s working class. It is willfully generating a $1 trillion budget deficit, which will become the justification for devastating cuts to programs that are vital to low income individuals and families who need them to afford to keep a roof over their heads, go to the doctor when they’re sick, and put a meager amount of food on the table each day.

We don’t have to read between the lines to know what comes next, because the lines have already been very publicly drawn. A handful of Republican leaders in Congress have had the nation’s safety net programs in their sights for years, and with the passing of this horrific bill, they now think they’ve cleared the way for the massive cuts they’ve wanted for so long.

The partisan rhetoric about these programs, and specifically about SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), is brutal. Misguided Members of Congress pontificate about rampant mismanagement of the program and desperate need for better accountability and controls. People who rely on SNAP are painted with broad brushes—mischaracterized as lazy scammers who have been lulled into dependency and actually choose to stay poor.

The reality about SNAP and the people who rely on it could not be farther from their distorted portrayals. Payment error rates for SNAP are at all-time lows and are lower than those for any other government program. And while it’s true that SNAP enrollment remains elevated from pre-2008 levels, the plain truth is that the people who receive these benefits need this help because they cannot get by without it. Many of them work – but are still unable to earn enough to feed their families. Most of them are in households that include children, seniors or a person with a disability. Some live in communities where jobs are scarce and job training programs are either poorly funded or non-existent. 

Are there ways that SNAP could be improved? Yes, we believe there are. But we think changes should be focused on ways to make the program work better for the people who receive needed help, not on arbitrarily reducing the program’s costs and making ideologically-driven and harmful policy changes. But make no mistake: the latter is where our "leadership" is headed. They can mischaracterize the poor, and they can then characterize their intentions any way they want, but we know the truth. Their primary goal is to slash spending and restrict access for these programs, no matter the impact on real people’s lives.                                                 

Do we sound angry? It’s because we are. Blatant lies and half-truths are always wrong; but when they are done to justify injustice that will devastate the lives of millions of American, they are reprehensible. We simply cannot allow that to happen.

Fasten your seat belts—2018 is going to be a bumpy ride.