If today is a day, then it must be time for a round of one of our favorite aneurysm-inducing games. No, not football or Candyland.
We’re talking about a game of Let’s Restrict the Diets of People on Food Assistance Because Conservatives Think They’re All Buying Crab Legs and New York Strip Steaks with Their SNAP Cards and That Makes Them SO ANGRY THEY COULD SHIT.
We’re probably going to have to workshop that title a bit to get Hasbro interested in a licensing deal.
Anyway, today’s game is happening in Iowa, where the GOP-dominated (natch) Legislature wants to pass a bill that would force the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to ask for a waiver from the federal government’s already-somewhat-restrictive list of approved foodstuffs that can be purchased by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants. Then Iowa would sub in its own approved list (from the Women Infants and Children, or WIC program), which is somehow even more restrictive.
So what would change? Well, SNAP recipients would no longer be able to use their benefits to buy meat, unless it’s canned tuna or salmon or pureed in baby food. They couldn’t buy flour, cooking oil, spices or even salt and pepper. Canned vegetables and fruit would be off the list. And no soup for you.
Ho-ho, no fancy food that has any taste for you, Poverty Boy. You will eat tinned meat like some sort of lowly deckhand on The Terroror you will eat nothing.
Seems like a bit of a contradiction, to forbid people from buying salt and then telling them the only meat they can have is the canned stuff that often has sodium levels so high it could make even Keith Richards keel over. And can you imagine telling people in the nation’s top state for commercial red-meat production that they can’t buy meat? Seems a mite churlish!
But the Republicans say the money could be better used elsewhere.
“It’s these entitlement programs. They’re the ones that are growing within the budget and are putting pressure on us being able to fund other priorities,” House Speaker Pat Grassley said.
Food is now an “entitlement” in Iowa if you are one of the children, disabled people, or old folks who make up roughly half of SNAP recipients. And if you’re one of the working-class people who can barely make a living at your job(s) and need a little extra help to feed your kids at a time when inflation has sent grocery prices higher and cut into your household food budget, well, you can probably fit yet another job into your schedule if you’re not too lazy.
Oh, and when you do find the time to shop for groceries, make sure you take along the 16-page list of what will and won’t be allowed in your shopping cart by the state of Iowa. Surely you have that kind of time and energy.
Make sure you consult your list before buying any fancy American cheese, lest you be embarrassed when you go to pay for your groceries and some bored cashier loudly informs you and the rest of the line that sorry, your SNAP card won’t cover that, go back to the dairy section and pick out some extra-sharp cheddar, loser.
Also please make sure that container of eggs you bought is only a dozen, not a dozen and a half, Mr. Rockefeller, and also that it doesn’t make any “special health claims” on its packaging. No organic or extra omega-3 for you.
Also we hope you don’t have any wheat allergies or kidney stones, because you’re getting wheat bread and brown rice or you’re getting nothing.
Baked beans? Not for you, Gordon Ramsay.
And yes, the Pat Grassley quoted above is the son of Senate fossil Chuck Grassley, the 89-year-old with a net worth of $7.5 million as of 2018 despite the fact that he has spent almost his entire long adult life in some relatively low-paying elected office or other. Grassleys do not do food stamps.
Stories like this pop upperiodically, and they always make us shake our heads. Being poor in America is difficult enough. It is in fact a grinding existence filled with huge obstacles to decent housing, food, education, comprehensive medical care, and a million other basics that many people take for granted. And still we dump restrictions on programs like SNAP that can’t help the underprivileged without heaping ever-more red tape and humiliation and forcing them to justify their need.
If people need help buying food, just give them some dang money and let them figure out how to best use it to feed themselves and their families.
But for people who supposedly want to shrink government, conservatives sure are happy to reach into your shopping cart to make sure they approve of what is or is not in there. Also your uterus if you’re a woman. Or your genitals if you are transgender. Or your classroom curriculum if you are a teacher daring to acknowledge that racism and gay people exist. And on and on.
Anyway, Iowa Republicans! It’s not too late to be Robespierre instead of Marie Antoinette. At a minimum you improve your chances of keeping your heads on.