by Whitney Pitcher
On Friday, FoxNews ran a second “Boomtown” special featuring Stephen Bannon and Peter Schweizer and highlighting the research done by Schweizer’s Government Accountability Institute on food stamps. The federal government currently funds 126 separate anti-poverty programs, ranging from Medicaid to Pell Grants to food stamps. Since President Johnson declared the “war on poverty” in the 1960s, $15 trillion has been spent to combat it. Despite this, there are still 50 million Americans in poverty, including 20% of all children. 47 million are on food stamps–more than 15 times as many as in 1969. Anti-poverty programs have expanded greatly under the guise of “compassionate” conservatism and unveiled socialism. These programs, intended at least in word, to be a safety net for the poor, have actually become a hammock for large corporations. In essence, such programs are really “compassionate” corporatism.
Below is a table from a CATO Institute report detailing the failures of programs aimed at fight poverty:
During the Reagan administration, welfare spending remained relatively constant only to jump from about $200 billion a year to $300 billion a year during President George HW Bush’s tenure. During President Clinton’s two terms, welfare spending remained constant at around $300 billion a year. However, while President George W. Bush was in office, welfare spending jumped to around $500 billion a year by 2008. This upward trend has continued under President Obama. According to Schweizer’s report, both Bushes and Obama expanded eligibility for food stamps specifically. The welfare reform championed by Speaker Newt Gingrich and signed by President Clinton reduced the number of people on food stamps from 25.5 million to 17 million between 1996 and 2000. In the next four years under President Bush however, those numbers grew again from 23.8 million Americans under the more palatable Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This was the “compassionate” conservatism touted by President Bush, but who really received the compassion?
Former Bush speechwriter, Michael Gerson defined compassionate conservatism as “the theory that the government should encourage the effective provision of social services without providing the service itself.” Additionally, the Bush White House claimed that faith based organizations would be empowered to provide these services, but in practice, it was large corporations–like JP Morgan–who were empowered. Schweizer’s report details the role of JP Morgan in food stamp programs. When they acquired Citicorp Electronic Financial Services in 2003, they also received the contracts of what is now nearly half of all states EBT (akin to a food stamp debit card) programs. Since they became involved in the EBT business, JP Morgan has more than tripled their donations to Congressional members who sit on the Agriculture committees (The Department of Agriculture administers the program). Additionally, President Obama received more than $800,000 in campaign contributions from JP Morgan, which he promptly rewarded with an expansion of SNAP through the “stimulus” program and further expansion in 2010. What has this yielded for JP Morgan? According to Schweizer, they have made more than half a billion dollars off of SNAP since 2004, and their profit is expected to grow as SNAP continues to expand.
The very etymology of the word “compassion” indicates that it cannot be provided by government. The word, compassion, really means to suffer with. How much can government empathize with the poor when their campaign accounts are being padded while their cronies’ profits rise? Additionally, government cannot be compassionate with other people’s money. American is known for being very generous. A study published last August noted that Americans gave over $214 billion to charity in 2008. “Red” states comprised the top eight states for charitable giving, while “blue” states made up the seven least charitable states. This is what compassion is–giving of one’s own money to help those in need. It isn’t using taxpayer dollars to perpetuate poverty while politicians’ cronies profit.