When driving through beautiful Alabama, it’s hard to imagine that well over 800,000 people don’t know where their next meal is coming from, or if they’ll eat at all. That’s according to a study from 2015-2017 by a non-profit, Hunger Free America, that also listed Alabama in the top ten states for food insecurity for working adults, people over 60, and kids.
There are a variety of factors that contribute to food insecurity and hunger. For example, Alabama has no state minimum wage and the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour hasn’t been adjusted since 2009. That translates into over 250,000 working Alabamians who struggle to put food on their tables. However, in states that have increased their minimum wage, they have seen a significant decrease in hunger. Another factor contributing to food insecurity is that Alabama has also shortened the amount of time that people can receive unemployment benefits and has made cuts to a variety of social service programs designed to help people in need.
Another issue closely associated with food insecurity is malnutrition. Unfortunately, when people are struggling to make ends meet, they are often forced to purchase processed, less-nutritional food because it’s cheaper. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, this is a major contributing factor in Alabama’s high rates of diabetes and obesity.
All of this makes AL Rep. Mo Brooks’ comments on the recent USDA plan to cut over 700,000 people from food stamps absolutely reprehensible and callous. Basically, the plan eliminates the ability of states to provide employment waivers to people who live in high unemployment areas and, instead, imposes a work requirement to receive SNAP benefits. Brooks characterized these people as “slackers” who drain money from “hard-working taxpayers.”
Brooks has no idea about the real struggle poor people are going through to make ends meet. He probably never thought about the difficulties that people in rural areas of Alabama face in terms of transportation, affordable housing, and finding decent employment.
Instead, he wants us to believe that they’re just “slackers.”
It’s another sad example of Republicans vilifying the poor so they feel better about cutting necessary social service programs while they keep giving the wealthy huge tax breaks. Brooks doesn’t want people to remember that he supported Trump’s tax scheme which was a huge boon to millionaires and billionaires, but exploded our nation’s debt and deficit. Now, like others in his Republican House Freedom Caucus cult, he’ll try to shift blame for the historic deficit onto the poor… you know, “the slackers.”
Of course, Brooks’ math is delusional. He said, “It is wrong to let slackers take roughly $70 billion per year from hard-working taxpayers who need that money for their own needs.” Well, except that the cuts are expected to reduce costs by about 1.1 billion the first year and 7.9 billion over the next seven years. Oh, and that’s also just a tiny drop in the bucket when it comes to federal spending. Maybe, Brooks was referring to all food stamp recipients like those other “slackers” who happen to be disabled, single mothers, or children.
Of course, those “slackers” still probably paid more in taxes than Amazon did last year. Yeah, Amazon didn’t pay a dime after all that enormous profit, but folks like Brooks think that’s far more important than making sure that people eat.
Brooks’ comments are disgusting, but certainly not surprising given his long history of insensitive, cruel, and ignorant gaffes. Interestingly, he seems undisturbed by Trump’s tariffs that are hurting Alabama’s soybean farmers in his district. It makes you wonder if he’ll call them “slackers”, too, when they get their government bail-out checks after they’re forced to foreclose on their family farms.
The real “slacker’ here is Brooks, who’d rather spew radical rhetoric and tow the party line, rather than doing his job and working for North Alabama.
Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.