There’s no scandal or crisis gripping federal programs — the GOP cruelty is the point: columnist
Kevin McCarthy (Photo by Win McNamee for AFP)

The cruelty is the point, New York Times editorial board member David Firestone said about the House Republicans' demands in budget negotiations.

"It’s not that there is some crisis or scandal gripping those federal programs; Republicans are making these demands simply because the debt ceiling gives them the opportunity to do so," he explained. "And they are going after the same group of people their party has demonized for decades."

The myth of lazy Black women on welfare dates back to Ronald Reagan's welfare fraud awareness campaign using racist and gendered stereotypes to justify cuts to safety net programs, Public Health Post characterized. The reality is that the largest group of people that use poverty assistance programs are the elderly, disabled and children, the Census cited.

Still, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), described them as loafers and losers: "I don’t think hard-working Americans should be paying for all the social services for people who could make a broader contribution and instead are couch potatoes,” he said.

Firestone pointed out that Gaetz's "deep concern about excessive spending didn’t stop him from requesting a $141.5 million earmark for a helicopter training hangar at Naval Air Station Whiting Field in his district."

It also ignores that most of those on assistance are already working.

"In 2021, 61 percent of the 25 million people on Medicaid were working in full- or part-time jobs," explained Firestone. "The rest were retired or disabled or taking care of small children or in school. Similarly, most food-stamp recipients work, and able-bodied adults younger than 50 are required to work in order to get more than three months of benefits in three years, unless they are taking care of children."

Still, it's one place where Republicans are looking to make cuts again.

“The House Republican wish list would put a million older adults at risk of losing their food assistance and going hungry. Rather than push Americans into poverty, we should reduce the deficit by making sure the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes," President Joe Biden said about the requirements in the GOP budget.

"The existing work requirements don’t get discussed by the drill sergeants who want to whip the vast army of couch potatoes into shape; they want more people to work and to work longer hours," Firestone explained. "Mr. McCarthy’s bill would require adults 50 to 55 to work at least 20 hours a week to receive food stamps, no matter that people in that age bracket often find high barriers to employment."

At the same time, all of this is coming under this claim from Republicans that the budget must be cut because of deficits. They conceded that the deficits were significantly increased under Donald Trump, but now that Biden is in office, they want to cut the deficit. Those cuts don't make much of a difference because of the largest spending items like defense, medicare/health, and tax cuts over the last 20 years.

As Raw Story reported, the hits veterans would experience under the GOP's budget would cut housing for 50,000 veterans, the VA said. There are also deep cuts to mental health services for vets at a time the suicide rate among those that served hasn't changed much since 2018. It would cut funding to make more veteran health clinics to help with the long wait times, and cut staff and doctors for the VA.

The Republican plan would also mandate many adults 19 to 55 work 80 hours a month to get Medicaid. "As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes, this requirement would particularly hurt low-income beneficiaries in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and seems designed as a backdoor way of undermining the expansion," explained Firestone.

He said that the way that Republicans are trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act is through this back door using the debt ceiling, because they haven't been able to repeal it.

Firestone argues this is why the debt ceiling needs to be stopped altogether.

Read the full column at The New York Times.