Sometimes corporate media just come out and tell you what their priorities are. Take a Washington Post story by Reid Wilson (3/26/14) headlined “States Use Farm Bill Loophole to Stem Food Stamp Cuts.”
The “loophole” the headline refers to is a provision in food stamp law that gives slightly higher benefits to people who receive state subsidies for heating bills. The law was formerly written so that people who received as little as one dollar in heating aid were eligible for what is known as “heat and eat” aid, and some were giving just that much to some of their needy citizens to qualify them.
The Republican-led House, apparently driven by the conviction that poor people have too much to eat, insisted on making it harder to get these supplementary food stamps, and so the law was changed so that recipients had to receive at least $20 a year in heating aid to qualify. And governors in eight states said they would comply with the law by raising their heating subsidies to that amount.
This completely logical and predictable response to a legislative change is what the Washington Post describes as a “loophole”–and what it quotes Republican House Speaker John Boehner as calling “this cheating and this fraud.”
The Post makes clear what it sees as the important point here: The story’s lead speaks of the “loophole…potentially wiping out billions of dollars in savings Congress agreed to last month,” while the last sentence concludes, “If all of the states that operate the heat-and-eat program take advantage of the loophole, all $8.5 billion in cuts would disappear.”
That $8.5 billion in savings is a 10-year figure. Bear in mind that US government spending over the next 10 years is projected to be almost $47 trillion, so $8.5 billion amounts to about 0.02 percent–or two ten-thousandths–of federal outlays. Naturally, it’s a much larger proportion of hungry families’ food budget.
The Post‘s spin on this story is a little like describing Oliver Twist as the story of a conniving orphan scheming to bust the poorhouse budget by demanding seconds of gruel.