Melissa Harris-Perry | November 17, 2012
>>> in this week's below the line conversation, we've been talking about the upcoming reduction in s.n.a.p. benefits for hundreds of thousands of ohio households with lisa hemler-fugitte. and back with me, jelani cobb, ryan alexander, daniel garza and karen carter peterson . i want to start with you gelani. we heard a lot in this cycle about the food stamp president as though that was itself sort of a problem. pretty stunning then that ohio which gives the president the victory is now facing a food stamp reduction.
>> right. i think the interesting thing here is the trajectory that we've seen this idea of food stamps take in terms of american public policy. one of the things that we could actually be proud of in american history was the movement to eliminate hunger. actual bona fide day to day hunger that existed in this country and food stamps are the line of defense against this. the other thing is that we had something that we would think of now as completely politically untenable. butthrough throughout the 1960s into the '70s, we had welfare rights organizations.
>> yeah, right, exactly. johnny tillman and folks like thissing. people organizing to say we should not have poverty in this country and we have to as a society we have a responsibility to make sure that no child goes to school hungry. this kind of goes to show how far we've gotten from that idea.
>> this is not a small thing. we were talking about the fiscal cliff initially. again, maybe wall street won't experience a fiscal cliff if we go around that curve or bend but these are the sorts of families who would immediately feel it. this feels to me what an actual fiscal cliff is. is there a way to get bipartisan agreement on something like food security ?
>> it's interesting. foreign politics are very bipartis bipartisan, but they're really, really tricky. we're looking into this lame duck and they might pass a farm bill that provides increased corporate welfare , that provides that increases the entitlements available to farmers through crop insurance , through a new program called shallow losses. at the same time we're debating on the margins what size are the cuts to food stamps . those are the food stamp conversations and the s.n.a.p. conversations are plor partisan than the rest of the farm bill but this was a record profit year for farms and we're talking about giving them more money. so that's the kind of conversation we've got to see in washington. it's not partisan. that's regional but we can't necessarily afford to give wealthy farmers handouts through the farm bill when people are struggling.
>> it's interesting. we've talked before about the farm bill and the fact that food stamps are part of it. when you look at the community that is farmers, again, louisiana is a poor state. it's a state where many in both our rural communities and our urban communities rely on this supplemental nutrition program. is there space within sort of even the formulas that zat governments have for kind of bipartisan agreement around this.
>> there's no question when you talk about the farm bill , you'll find every member of the congressional delegation supports the subsidies for the agricultural community and ultimately the very poor we have in our state. but i think there is that common ground with respect to meeting the needs of poor people and as a professor said, the -- those that are hungry. if you don't -- this is a safety net program. we talked about medicare and medicaid and social security . this is a safety net program but it's not a safety hammock, right? it's supposed to be there for a short period of time to help those in need. that's what we do. that's what government is there for. it's not for you to lounge around on a hammock, a safety hammock. and it's supposed to provide a fundamental need and no one, i think we all agree that no one in the country should go hungry.
>> and yet, daniel, the language of food stamps was particularly during the republican primary and then even again, it revived during the general election this sort of language of like the 47%, the entitled, the gifts. but we're looking at images of kids who are going to school hungry. i feel like republicans get real bipartisan on this when you show those images but the fact is when they attack those programs in theory, they are attacking poor kids.
>> well, what they're attacking more than anything is not the wasted money as much as it is the wasted lives. and the wasted futures of people who get caught up in of this safety hammock let's just say. what they want is a tramp mo lean. of course, you're going to work hard to fulfill the need that exists. everybody is touched by poverty at one point in their life with need, with scarcity.
>> not everybody is.
>> my parents were farm workers. i grew up migrating from california, nebraska, and washington state . i know what need is and what poverty is. they never took welfare.
>> this is an interesting point. it does feel like the republican party on this question is made up of two different coalitions. one is often the sort of up from narrative of folks who came up from circumstances of poverty. then there is the mitt romney version of republicanism we saw on display this time which isn't an up from there. it's very much we have it and want to protect it narrative.
>> well, look, i work for a school district in south texas . and we were dealing with a truancy case in one instance. it was a 12-year-old on her second pregnancy. they said because we have klee claims at a welfare bite. we are not in an ungenerous nation. $1 trillion we pay for 82 means tested welfare programs.
>> if you have a 12-year-old who is in a circumstance of pregnancy, it is almost certain that she is not pregnant by a 12-year-old boy. it is almost certain that she is pregnant by someone who is basically in a situation of at a minimum statutory rape and perhaps worse, and yet, you had -- okay. i'm going to back off a bit. i don't want to move too far from our issue of food. i've got it say when i hear stories like that, i want to come back to you, lisa . i wonder why we even get into a kind of ethic cal conversation when talking about food. that feels like it is separate from whether or not someone is moral or ethical that we ought to have as a nation an ethical responsibility toward the provision of sufficient food resources.
>> absolutely. i mean, you ite or you die. it's that simple. and to believe that we can't feed one in four poor children who live in poverty, many who live in abject poverty by providing a basic safety net , a nutritional safety net means we are sacrificing not only their future but our future as a country and our ability to compete in a global marketplace . you know, i find it very interesting that food stamps became front and center during this political debate while 2 billion was spent fighting out a campaign. we had millions, 47 million americans, many who work every day who don't earn enough to be able to put food on their table and a roof over their head. i prefer to view the s.n.a.p. program for working families as a work support program. they are strugglinging with wage suppression. minimum wage jobs, rising costs, especially for housing. and this has become a work support program just as medicaid has. it's supporting low wage workers.
>> lisa , i love that. i'm going to begin to borrow and use that language. it is a work support program. these are often working families . the idea that you can work full-time in this country and still not have sufficient income to feed one's family is a real shame on our nation. thank you for joining us from columbus, ohio . lisa hamler-fugitt.
>> thank you to ryan alexander here at the table and the rest are back for more. coming up, suddenly it seems that republicans just can't stop talking about race. is it just that they're missing one key point? that's next.