There is something wrong with the Republican Party.
It's not the party's platform, although it could use some tweaking. It's not even Republican policies, though they cause many women and minorities to flee. No, this problem has to do with the GOP's spirit—a spirit that has gone from proud and unforgiving to downright mean.
Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a farm bill, as it does most years. This year the House left out entirely one of two major components of every farm bill since the 1970s: food stamps. The house expanded the other component, billions in subsidies that largely end up in the pockets of big agri-business corporations.
Over the years, food stamps, aka the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, have become an integral part of our social safety net. Nearly 46.6 million low-income Americans receive them monthly, up from the roughly 32 million who received them when President Barack Obama took office.
The cause for that increase is easy to see. America is still recovering from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, though at better-than-expected rates. Low- and middle-income wages are stagnant or falling; long-term unemployment remains a big issue.
But Republicans in the U.S. House are pushing austerity in a fragile recovery, pulling the rug out from under the nation's poorest people. They passed the stripped farm bill 216-208, without a single Democratic vote and with 12 Republicans voting no.
Make no mistake: Eliminating SNAP would effectively kick the working poor while they are down. Conservatives make a familiar argument: that the federal government is funding the lazy and feeding people who won't work. Never mind that the average amount of assistance per person in Mississippi is a "lavish" $123 a month or $4.04 a day for the nearly 660,000 Mississippians who receive it.
Don't confuse this issue with race, either. While the popular narrative may be that food stamps are the government redistributing your tax dollars to people of color, that story is so full of holes, it makes Swiss cheese blush.
The truth is, as The New York Times pointed out last week, nearly half of all Americans who receive SNAP assistance are white. In many places, even in the South, the majority of people on food stamps are white. In Tennessee, for example, 63 percent of program enrollees are white.
Republicans aren't dumb, but they do play to a base that they believe is ignorant, and they seem to want to keep them that way. All three of Mississippi's Republican representatives supported this bill.
So let's get it straight: In Mississippi, a state at or near the top of the list of poorest and most unhealthy Americans, the Republican leadership is actively trying to prevent the federal government from helping people gain access to food and health care. Shame on them.