Thursday, September 26, 2013

House Cuts Food Stamps, Ignores 1% Wall Streets Sales Tax

Brandon Turbeville
September 26, 2013

Congressional members of the House of Representatives  voted this week on a bill that would cut billions of dollars from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) also commonly known as food stamps. As a result, millions of poor Americans are now staring down the barrel of the reactionary gun while they face the realistic threat that virtually the only source of food available to them will soon be yanked away.

In yet another example of the lurching austerity measures being foisted onto the backs of the American people already riddled with a crippled economy, government mandates, and increasing taxation, the House Agriculture Committee had already approved $20 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next 10 years as part of the reauthorization of the U.S. farm bill. Although SNAP benefits have traditionally been voted on as part of the farm bill itself, reactionaries and austerity proponents  decided to separate the two in an attempt to gut SNAP in terms of funding and availability.

Indeed, the bill which House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) helped promote within the House would not only remove the “categorical eligibility” determination, but it would double the cuts agreed to by the House Agriculture Committee to a total of $40 billion of “savings” (meaning cuts) to the program over the next 10 years. This is because, now that Cantor and his reactionary friends are getting their way, food stamp recipients will be required to spend 20 hours a week at a job or job training. Thus, with the implementation of these proposed rules, the number of individuals eligible for the programs are logically going to decline.

“Categorical eligibility” is simply a technique used by states to determine whether or not an individual is eligible for food stamp benefits based on whether or not the person has qualified for other government-based poverty relief programs. Categorical eligibility is, the states argue, a way to increase efficiency and to cut down on bureaucracy since the individuals will not have to apply for the same basic benefits twice and go through a lengthy approval process with the relevant agencies. This is one of the changes that the reactionaries want to remove – forcing states to increase the level of bureaucratic involvement and slow down the response time for food stamp applications.

Of course, the requirement that forces food stamp recipients to spend 20 hours a week  in a job or job training is ludicrous even on its face since many food stamp recipients are on the program due to lack of a job to begin with. Even so, what are “job trainees” supposed to do when they can no longer be trained for jobs that no longer exist?

Regardless, austerity proponents like Cantor and his reactionary friends in Congress continue to beat the drums of Austrian School “self-sufficiency” which, after having contributed to the creation of a society which benefits only Wall Street banks and large corporations with the tab being picked up by poor, working, and middle class Americans, leaves most of the population at the bottom of the barrel with no means to ever climb out.

The reactionary push, of course, is always based on the underlying propaganda that those receiving food stamp benefits are lazy and non-productive people who are only seeking a handout from the working and middle classes. In other words, austerity proponents intend for working and middle class Americans to believe that they are being forced to pay for “free” meals of the lazy welfare class who have no desire to work. In fact, such is just the type of language used by Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina when he stated that the new GOP proposals were aimed at “"able-bodied adults who refuse to work."

Of course, in an economy that stands with a real unemployment rate of approximately 20% to 22%, with new and destructive trade policies being enacted day after day, McHenry’s absurd insinuation surrounding food stamp recipients is nothing but a slap in the face to the people who are now suffering under economic conditions created by inept and corrupt members of the political class much like himself.

Still, the fact that close to 48 million Americans are now on the food stamp roles are touted as evidence that the U.S. budget cannot sustain such a growing mass of “welfare recipients.” Soon, austerity proponents argue, the American taxpayer will simply be unable to afford to continue to sustain the growing mass of individuals signed up for nutritional assistance.

Yet, while absolutely ludicrous propaganda campaigns are launched suggesting that food stamp recipients are “living the good life” with “free food” paid for the by taxpayer, the reality is quite different. Indeed, far from living the good life, food stamps are quite modest supplemental assistance to the poor and working classes, particularly when taken in the context of a worldwide economic depression and rising prices.

Quite the opposite of what many reactionaries and austerity proponents would project into the minds of the working public, food stamps are, on average, under $200 per month. Thus, when one calculates the average per meal allocation, food stamps provide approximately $2.22 per meal – hardly the good life. Indeed, one would find it quite interesting to see Majority Leader Cantor, Rep. McHenry, and other austerity proponents live off of $2.22 per meal.

Although many Americans have been convinced that food stamp recipients are simply lazy and unmotivated, the fact is that SNAP cards are nothing more than the modern equivalent of bread lines and soup kitchens from the great depression in years past. Simply providing a card that can be swiped at the local grocery store has erased the open acknowledgment of poverty and financial distress.

Regardless, austerity proponents continue to suggest that SNAP simply cannot be sustained and that government must “cut spending” and “tighten its belt” (erroneously comparing government spending to personal spending) before the nation collapses under the weight of “underfunded or unfunded liabilities.”

Yet, for all the howling regarding “government spending” and “wasted taxpayer money,” the fact is that there is a very real and tangible method of funding the social safety net – all of it, not just food stamps – which virtually no member of Congress will ever publicly discuss or suggest. This is the 1% Wall Street Sales Tax.

By enacting a 1% Wall Street Sales Tax on financial market transactions such as stocks bonds, flash trading, e-trading, high-frequency trading, debt instruments, and the notional value of derivatives, tax revenue collected by the Federal government would amount to a conservative estimate of several trillions of dollars with many other estimates suggesting a figure of tens of trillions of dollars.

Thus, even the conservative estimate of tax revenue to be collected by the 1% Wall Street Sales Tax would completely erase the $1,112,000,000.00 (1 trillion 112 billion) budget deficit of the United States and the individual states combined with an enormous sum left over for the funding and shoring up of the social safety net at the Federal, State, and Local levels.

In order to avoid the misapplication of the tax, a reasonable exemption of $1 million per person per year should be enacted in order to prevent the placement of taxes on individuals who shift around personal financial assets or make investments for their 401(k) or other retirement accounts. The 1% tax should be paid by the seller of the instrument, not the buyer, and the proceeds accrued from the tax should be split evenly between the Federal government and the States.

According to Webster Tarpley’s estimates, world derivatives currently stand “in excess of two quadrillion dollars in notional value.” Other estimates put the notional value of derivatives in the range of six to seven quadrillion dollars due to the fact that these derivatives are constantly being bought and sold.

Thus, the revenue that would be generated from a 1% Wall Street Sales Tax could be expected to reach a figure of approximately tens of trillions of dollars.

Yet, while Congress continually debates over whether or not to cut food aid to millions of poor Americans who depend on this assistance for survival, Wall Street banks are entirely ignored. Raising taxes on average working Americans is always considered to be an option in Washington. Cutting “government spending” and vital social safety net programs are always on the Congressional list of solutions whenever budget deficits and debt are brought up. However, the real culprit behind America’s economic woes, the beneficiaries of true government welfare (i.e. the bailout of 2008), are left untouched.

It is time America realize that, while the average citizen pays up to 12% sales tax on each purchase – some even paying a transaction tax on food – Wall Street pays nothing. Indeed, in many cases, wall street receives money back from the government in the forms of rebates even after paying nothing in. If every American citizen is forced to pay a sales tax on productive materials, goods, equipment and necessities, it is time to demand that Wall Street pay a sales tax on financial instruments, derivatives, and other financial transactions that contribute nothing productive to society.

In relation to the crisis of the social safety net as well as the U.S. and State budget deficit, a clear solution exists in the form of the 1% Wall Street Sales Tax.

Most of the current American financial quagmire can be traced back to the antics and schemes of Wall Street at some point or other. The lack of adequate funding for the U.S. government can be directly related to the fact that the burden of funding falls on the backs of the poor, working, and middle class while Wall Street pays nothing. This free ride afforded to Wall Street must end.

The 1% Wall Street Sales Tax is the sole method that can attract revenue in the range of tens of trillions of dollars capable of fully funding the social safety net and the U.S. government as well as effectively eliminating the budget deficit at the Federal and State levels. All of this while discouraging dangerous forms of speculation and derivatives trading. Contrary to many other proposals being floated in the public arena by often questionable sources, the 1% Wall Street Sales Tax is entirely Constitutional.

It is time for the American people to make  a choice – do we stand and fight for our own interests or do we allow carefully crafted propaganda campaigns convince us to fight for the interests of Wall Street?

Please see my article “The Case for the 1% Wall Street Sales Tax” for a detailed explanation of the reasons why the American people should advocate for such an initiative. 
Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor's Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius -- The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, and The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Turbeville has published over 275 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville's podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV.  He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at)

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