By Jacob Chamberlain
Jan 13, 2014
Cuts to food stamps and jobless benefits predictable result of 'neoliberal assault' on American people
As Congress decides this week whether to re-institute emergency jobless benefits for millions of Americans and closes in on negotiations for a Farm Bill that could see billions of dollars cut out of food stamp programs, renowned activist and intellectual Noam Chomsky summed up the state of American politics in an interview Thursday in two words: "pure savagery."
"The refusal to provide very minimal living standards to people who are caught in this monstrosity — that's just pure savagery." –Noam Chomsky
"The refusal to provide very minimal living standards to people who are caught in this monstrosity — that's just pure savagery," Chomsky said during an interview with HuffPost Live. "There's no other word for it."
The Washington Post reports that current Farm Bill negotiations are calling for the elimination of roughly $9 billion in funding for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next decade, "according to several aides familiar with the negotiations who are not authorized to speak publicly about the details."
The changes would decrease assistance for at least 800,000 households, with cuts of up to $90 per month. “That’s the last week of groceries for the month,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) told the Washington Post.
The GOP-controlled House had originally called for $40 billion in cuts and the Democratic-led Senate had originally called for $4 billion.
The negotiation, expected to wrap up by next week, arrives two months after U.S. lawmakers allowed a separate stimulus boost to SNAP to expire, cutting a universal $5 billion in funding that gouged food assistance for 47 million food stamp recipients, 49 percent of whom are children.
Meanwhile, last month Congress let expire emergency long-term jobless benefits for 1.3 million Americans, a "lifeline" for many who have been looking for jobs for an extended period of time and depended on those benefits to get by.
On Tuesday, the Senate just barely passed a vote to move ahead on a bill that would restore those jobless benefits. But even if it the actual bill passes in the Senate, it will then head to the Republican-led House of Representatives, where it is likely to face strong opposition.
"Inequality has been a very serious problem for a very long time," Chomsky said. "Inequality now is at a level not seen at least since the 1920s...maybe further back. That is very severe."
Any growth in the last recent years has gone to the top 2% of the population, Chomsky said, adding that a large part of the population is now living below the poverty line while at the very top of the spectrum, profits are booming for the wealthy.
However, today's congressional roadblocks to public service programs, that many say are essential for those in need in the United States, have "nothing to do with bad apples in Congress," Chomsky told HuffPost Live. "These are deep structural problems having to do with, in effect, the neoliberal assault on the population, not just of the United States but of the world, that's taken place in the past generation. There are areas that have escaped, but it's pretty broad."
It used to be said years ago that the United States is a one-party state -- the business party -- with two factions, Democrats and Republicans. That's no longer true. It's still a one-party state -- the business party -- but now it has only one faction. And it's not Democrats, it's moderate Republicans. The so-called New Democrats, who are the dominant force in the Democratic Party, are pretty much what used to be moderate Republicans a couple of decades ago. And the rest of the Republican Party has just drifted off the spectrum.
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