Food and heating advocates are circling in on and isolating Scott Walker | WisCommunity

Food and heating advocates are circling in on and isolating Scott Walker

The Washington Post reports on developments that indicate Scott Walker's increasing isolation outside the mainstream of his own Republican Party.

In our last episode, congressional Republicans forced a deal in which Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP), or as the program is still more commonly called, food stamps, were whacked by billions of dollars. This meant that a low-income family of three (including working-poor families, and, by the way, among them a whole lot of white and rural and not just urban minority families) would lose a cruicial $29 a month in SNAP assistance. That may not sound like much, but when you are living on the edge from day to day and paycheck to paycheck and can barely pay your utility bills or put food on the table, a dollar a day is a very big deal, indeed. 

The US economy and government, our national budget and the principles upon which we stand are or ought to be much bigger than 29 bucks a month to poor families, especially those with kids. The money is chump change in the big scheme of things, but it's everything to millions of gasping Americans who still can't find work, or at least work above the non-family-supporting minimum wage. Unfortunately, grinchy Republican hearts are too small to accept this, or care about the effects. Well, we've got to fix that.

And something good has happened across this country in recent weeks. More and more states have been getting around this little GOP poison pill. The way they're doing it is to increase their respective minimums for the low-income heating-assistance benefit by $20 a year. That rejuggles the safety net formula and prevents families from enduring lower food stamp support. From the Washington Post:

Of the sixteen states and the District of Columbia that operate the heat and eat program, Montana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont have already moved to expand heating aid to preserve food stamps for low-income residents. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania is the only Republican of the bunch.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) will meet with advisors later this month to determine whether his state can adjust payments, while leaders in California, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey and Wisconsin are also considering making the change.

They are? Well, let's hear Scott Walker's office confirm that for us. As pointed out today, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, and Wisconsin all have Republican governors, with our very own Walker in charge of, so far, doing nothing on this matter for suffering families in Wisconsin. "But," DailyKos reported, "the Corbett precedent shows you shouldn't rule anything out, particularly with governors up for reelection in three of those states and the additional heating assistance money coming out of federal block grants."

So: The change won't cost states a cent, but will help financially stressed citizens -- including voters. It's a no-brainer, or at least it should be. So where are our state GOP leaders on this thing? Brains! We must have brains!

Unfortunately, Walker, like Maine Gov. Paul LePage, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and New Jersey Gov. Chris ("bridge the gap") Christie are all pretty hard-core ideologues. LePage, Snyder and Walker are all extremely tea party, too. So if the national movement among states to save food assistance is going to be a complete success, Wisconsin voters and interest groups probably are going to have to make some noise in Madison.

Check with your elected officials, local and state, and contact the nearest food bank, too. This matters to them, and it should matter to you, so let everyone know it. Write a letter to your local newspaper and blog about this, too. Oh, and let Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke know that she should campaign on ending these cuts in this perfectly legal and reasonable way. Because it's the right thing to do, and because, oh yeah, it will put pressure on her opponent, Walker.

Also be sure to get your thoughts to House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, the Janesville Republican. He was for this cut and he's been all about cutting safety net programs in general, replacing them with "dignity." Well, dignity doesn't fill empty stomachs, for kids or adults. Ryan needs to hear our scorn and deserves being back up against a wall of shame on this. 

House Speaker John Boehner unaccountably calls the growing maneuver among states to save food stamp cuts "cheating." House Republicans in general are very upset that their deep food stamp cuts are being legally thwarted by this bipartisan, though as yet mostly Democratic effort. But as DailyKos notes, there's not a lot they can do about it. They evidently were so intent on passing a farm bill laden with yet more pork for giant agribusinesses that they didn't attend to other provisions that allow this simple change. The GOP's sloppy performance is salvation for America's hungry, if the rest of us will simply make enough noise about it.

You saw how loud public criticism quickly changed the Wisconsin GOP's mind when its lawmakers planned to kill the insurance coverage mandate for oral chemotherapy, right? Well, now is the time to double down and again challenge the GOP's infatuation with bad public policy. 

Walker is gearing up for election. He hasn't yet failed to underachieve on behalf of the state's most stressed citizens, but there's always a first time for him to do the right thing. Maybe enough bad publicity will make him change his mind. If not, he can take that bad PR right into the November election, demagoguing the issue and imagining it will do him some good.

Let's fix this thing, for ourselves and our suffering neighbors.


March 26, 2014 - 6:24pm