Tuesday, December 20, 2011

DeMint's egregious violation of the 8th commandment

The pro-life movement that Senator DeMint professes to be part of rests on the foundation of traditional Judeo-Christian ethics. The Fifth Commandment--"You shall not murder"--might even be considered the cornerstone of the pro-life movement. DeMint is evidently too busy to continue reading to the end of Exodus chapter 20, though, as yesterday he ran afoul of the Eighth Commandment ("You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor"). In fact, DeMint bore false witness against 44 million neighbors: the Americans who are in such economic distress that they receive food stamps.

I was aghast at DeMint's fabrication: "Many Americans are sick of seeing the guy in front of them in the grocery line using food stamps to buy steaks." Maybe his insult against the poor is hitting me so hard because at one time I myself was a food stamp recipient. I couldn't even afford ground round, much less steak! As far as I can tell, DeMint and economic reality are in two separate universes. I have seen plenty of people use food stamps at grocery stores, but never once have I seen them procure steaks. There are members of my church who receive food stamps, and they don't use them to buy steaks either.

Most of you who are reading this have "neighbors" who are food stamp recipients, since they constitute about 15% of Americans. They're the members of your worship community, perhaps, who are struggling financially. Do you think they buy steaks and caviar with food stamps? Nine million of them are elderly and blind who depend on Supplemental Security. About nine million depend on Social Security.  About the same number are unemployed and looking for work. And about half are children. Hey kids--stop picking up those packages of sirloin from the meat department!

It is probably easy for DeMint to weave fables like this because the company he keeps does not include food stamp recipients. Recipients are, I imagine, in short supply in the hallowed halls of Congress.  Not many of his campaign donors receive food stamps either, I reckon.

But why would he pronounce such reckless slander to the press? It appears that he's trying to demonize the impoverished children, and the blind, and the aged, and the disabled, and the unemployed so he can justify a budget-cutting plan whose burden falls almost completely on the poorest Americans. In fact, $3 trillion of the cuts he proposes affect the poorest Americans, and only $20 billion (one half of one percent) affect the wealthy. And you wonder why there's an Occupy movement.

DeMint is trying to take the easy road by talking tough on deficit spending without addressing its root causes. Something you rarely hear in all the Tea Party talk is that, with the exception of three key programs, federal spending as a percentage of the national economy has not grown at all over the past few decades. And what would those three runaway components of the federal budget be? I'll save that for another post....but suffice it to say that those 3 programs have extremely well-financed lobbyists and vast constituencies. So DeMint would put himself in real political peril if he were to advance an effective deficit reduction plan that aims at the 3 runaway programs. But courage, like food stamp recipients, seems to be in short supply in the hallowed halls of Congress.

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