U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger hung out for part of the day Wednesday at the Billy Graham Library, volunteering at a food drive for local food pantries.
Pittenger has been a vocal supporter of food banks in the past, even helping develop a plan, along with CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison, to hold food drives at most local public schools.
Pittenger's press release about Wednesday's food drive quoted him as saying, "There shouldn't be hungry kids in Charlotte." I agree completely with that statement, and I'm glad the congressman took time to help local providers of food to the poor. But Pittenger's PR-savvy food drive photo op shows a different side of the Republican lawmaker than we're used to, and, frankly, I'm a little confused.
Specifically, I wonder why Pittenger didn't translate his concern for the poor and hungry in his district into support for the most effective weapon Congress has in its anti-hunger arsenal: the food-stamp program. In September he voted in favor of sweeping "reforms" to the food-stamp program that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would cut around $40 billion in nutrition aid over 10 years and deny benefits to nearly four million people starting in 2014.
And need I remind readers that the GOP voted to slash the food-stamp program during the ongoing Great Recession? The brutal economic downturn, aka "Wall Street's Golden Age," has doubled food-stamp enrollment to 47 million, and, apparently unbeknown to GOP lawmakers, is still hitting the nation's poor pretty hard.
The incredible "selling point" for the House GOP's war on food stamps is that it's a jobs measure. In other words, they based their legislation on old conservative bugaboos about "welfare queens" and parasitical bums who get food stamps because they're too lazy to look for a job. Thus, the thinking goes, not being able to get food stamps will urge these social delinquents to get off their asses and become productive Americans, as God intended. The fatal flaw in that kind of "reasoning," however, is that most beneficiaries of the food stamp program are children, the elderly and/or disabled.
So, Pittenger, good job helping out at the Billy Graham food drive. The next time food stamps come up, though, remember what you said about not having hungry children in Charlotte. We urge you to use the same sentiment to support an increase in food-stamp benefits. As Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, noted at the time of the GOP's anti-food-stamps measure's passage, "[This bill] guts nutrition for those most in need and says to the poor, to hungry children, to the disabled, seniors and our veterans, 'You don't matter, you are not worthy of our help.' They deserve better." Amen.