Lyndon Johnson had his War on Poverty; Donald Trump has declared war on the impoverished themselves.
The president’s latest salvo might have been fired at immigrants, but it sent a clear message to anyone struggling to make ends meet in America that the current occupant of the White House would prefer you look elsewhere for help.
The Trump administration last week issued a revised rule that would deny legal status to any immigrants U.S. officials think are likely to apply for government assistance such as food stamps or subsidized housing.
Kenneth Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the new “green card” rule would help ensure immigrants allowed to stay in this country “can stand on their own two feet” and won’t become a drain on society.
That seemingly innocuous comment was meant to assure taxpayers the president is only protecting their interests, but it has a more sinister connotation when placed in context with other moves by this administration to limit aid to the poor.
It smacks of the same rhetoric that decades ago spawned the “welfare queen” myth that poor women living in ghetto neighborhoods were having babies to get a monthly check instead of getting a job.
Trump declared his war on the poor with an executive order issued April 10, 2018, titled “Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility.” Call it his manifesto.
Trump’s document admitted welfare reform under Bill Clinton in 1996 included a work requirement but insisted the system “still traps many recipients, especially children, in poverty and is in need of further reform.”
It’s true that too many Americans are poor, about 40 million, and too many of the poor are children, about 13 million. But blaming temporary assistance programs for persistent poverty is an elitist trope and a gross distortion of reality.
Many poor families are working multiple jobs and still need help. Instead of extending a hand, Trump is making their situation more difficult.
He’s figured out it’s easier to bypass Congress, especially with Democrats controlling the House, and get subservient department heads to make rule changes like the revised green card requirements.
The Department of Agriculture, for example, is making a rule change that would eliminate food stamp benefits for 3.1 million Americans.
It doesn’t matter that 11 million people have left the food stamp rolls since its post-recession peak of 47 million. Trump wants more people off food stamps. Instead of addressing the reasons so many families experience hunger and periods of food insecurity, he is callously cutting off a lifeline many use as a last resort.
The Houston Chronicle