MSNBC host Chris Hayes couldn’t contain his exasperation on Wednesday in discussing the implications for poor Americans if $5 billion is cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on Friday.
“Fifteen percent of Americans are poor,” Hayes told Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and his other panelists. “Forty-seven million people. I look at that and I say, this is not working. What we are doing right now — our system, the system we’re running, is failing. Forty seven million people hungry, in poverty, in this country is a failing rate. American capitalism is not producing, at this moment, broad gains for people. It is not.”
McGovern, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, also called for President Barack Obama’s administration to join a broader discussion about not only conserving SNAP benefits, but the overall effects of poverty on the country.
“We need to be talking about increasing the minimum wage,” McGovern proposed. “We need to be talking about how you extend ladders of opportunity to help people get out of poverty. But in the meantime, we need to make sure that we are there with a safety net to make sure that people have at least enough to eat. What a radical idea, that everybody in this country — the richest country in the history of the world — ought to have enough to eat.”
Taking $5 billion out of the SNAP program, New York Coalition Against Hunger executive director Joel Berg told Hayes, would have the same effect as shutting down all of the country’s food charities for a year, a loss that food banks would not be able to cover, a topic that, as Media Matters reported on Tuesday, has gone largely ignored in media circles.
“Until this segment, as far as we know, this is the first network news show to even discuss 48 million people losing food,” Berg said. Technically, however, Hayes’ colleague Al Sharpton, addressed the issue on Tuesday.
But while conservative media outlets are correct in pointing out that the program has expanded to cost $80 billion, Food Bank for New York City president Margarette Purvis told Hayes, they are often content to ignore the broader context behind that phenomenon.
“It’s not growing off on its own — it reflects that there is a huge hunger crisis,” Purvis argued. “The problem is that we’re treating the issue as the people, rather than the issue [being], why is hunger this bad in this country? Everyone should be upset about this, not upset at the people who are suffering through it.”
Watch the discussion, as aired Wednesday on MSNBC, below.