Cámara de Comercio de Lima / Flickr Visita de Paul Krugman...
Cámara de Comercio de Lima / Flickr

No. Not literally.

But the Nobel Laureate in Economics put up this column at the New York Times last night and it is a thorough demolition of the administration’s threat to veto the farm bill unless it includes stringent work requirements for recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program  (SNAP), one of the two major (the other being the school lunch program) nutrition programs provided by the Federal government, and one that also is a major guaranteed source of income for farm communities, thereby helping sustain crop prices.

Consider this paragraph:

Let me be upfront here: There’s something fundamentally obscene about this spectacle. Here we have a man who inherited great wealth, then built a business career largely around duping the gullible — whether they were naïve investors in his business ventures left holding the bag when those ventures went bankrupt, or students who wasted time and money on worthless degrees from Trump University. Yet he’s determined to snatch food from the mouths of the truly desperate, because he’s sure that somehow or other they’re getting away with something, having it too easy.

Of course, we all know how much Trump himself gets away with things, whether of not paying workmen, or ripping off consumers, or apparently abusing women.  But Lord forbid that anyone else “get away” with something, especially if Trump can attack those folks for his personal or political gain.

In the next paragraph, Krugman warns us about the impact that this threat, if carried out, might have:

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that new work requirements plus other restrictions proposed by House Republicans would end up denying or reducing nutritional aid to around two million people, mostly in families with children.

Krugman goes on to explore — and I think demolish — the Conservative arguments against things like SNAP, quoting Speaker Ryan on it being a “hammock” that lulls recipients into a life of “dependency and complaisency”  —   and I presume we can all hear the echoes of Ayn Rand in remarks like that.

Here is Krugman’s response to that blather:

Able-bodied SNAP recipients who should be working but aren’t are very hard to find: A vast majority of the program’s beneficiaries either are working — but at unstable jobs that pay low wages — or are children, elderly, disabled or essential family caregivers.

Oh, and there’s strong evidence that children in low-income families that receive food stamps become more productive and healthier adults, which means that the program is actually good for long-run economic growth.

Of course, the other argument made by some Conservatives that such programs inflate the deficit, not that they actually care about same except when it can somehow be tied to social programs promoted by Democrats —  after all, all we need to look at is the impact upon deficits of the recent tax bill.

And Krugman puts this in proper context with these words:

the C.B.O. estimates that the proposed cuts to food stamps would save less than one percent, that’s right, one percent, of the revenue lost due to that tax cut. In fact, over the next decade the entire SNAP program, which helps 40 million Americans, will cost only about a third as much as the tax cut. No, it’s not about the money.

What about the possibility that this is simply another way of Trump acting Blacks and other minorities, something that has long been part of his rhetoric and actions, going back to being cited by the Federal government for discrimination in his apartments through Trump’s actions with respect to the Central Park Five, even after it became obvious they were innocent and had been railroad through much of the rhetoric of his campaign (for example, good people on both sides in Charlottesville)?   It is a distortion, and an attempt to deflect and mislead . Consider:

But while many urban blacks do get food stamps, so do many rural whites. Nationally, significantly more whites than blacks receive food stamps, and participation in SNAP is higher in rural than in urban counties. Food stamps are especially important in depressed regions like Appalachia that have lost jobs in coal and other traditional sectors.

And yes, this means that some of the biggest victims of Trump’s obsession with cutting “welfare” will be the very people who put him in office.

There is more, much more, in this column, which I think should be passed on and bookmarked.  If Trump gets his way, and the impact begins to be felt in “Trump country,” it may begin to make a political difference, just like the Chinese switching from the US to Brazil as its source for soybeans is already beginning to bite.

Krugman sees no policy justification for this approach, and does not think it can even be explained by racism, although clearly when it comes to Trump and many of his supporters, racism is a key factor.

Try Krugman’s penultimate paragraph for an explanation:

No, this is about petty cruelty turned into a principle of government. It’s about privileged people who look at the less fortunate and don’t think, “There but for the grace of God go I”; they just see a bunch of losers. They don’t want to help the less fortunate; in fact, they get angry at the very idea of public aid that makes those losers a bit less miserable.

Think for a moment of the 5 cabinet officers and one head of an independent Executive Agency who have already been identified as ripping off the rest of us for their own self-aggtandizement:

Ryan Zinke

Scott Pruitt

David Shulkin

Steve Mnuchin

Tom Price

Ben Carson

Think of how Trump himself finds ways to profit  —

– Secret Service having to rent office space at Trump Tower to protect him during the campaign

– Secret Service having to rent golf carts to protect him

– Republican party events being held at Trump-branded properties

– foreign governments doing events at Trump-branded properties

All of these are apparently okay in the eyes of Donald Trump and his acolytes.

But providing a benefit that helps many people, both those receiving the aid and those whose income benefits from the Federal government  purchasing their farm products, and attacking it largely just to provide how “tough” and mean one can be?

Perhaps the final one sentence paragraph from Krugman is appropriate:

And these are the people now running America.

What have we become?

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