Conservative Republicans Ratchet Up War Against Poor

March 28, 2011 3:32 pm ET — Walid Zafar

Rep. Jim Jordan

Members of the influential Republican Study Committee finally have a plan on how to create jobs: a bill introduced in the House earlier this month by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) will impose a work requirement on food stamps recipients. If you're one of the tens of millions of Americans receiving food stamps, or one of the millions pushed into the program as a result of the recession — the worst since the Great Depression — you will first need to find a job before you can feed your family. Their cynical legislation also scales back funding for vital safety net programs to pre-recession levels.

The Washington Examiner explains:

Members of the GOP's most conservative House faction earlier this month introduced a bill that would reduce funding for the nation's welfare programs to 2007 levels. In addition, the legislation would impose a work requirement for those who receive food stamps.

"We need a smarter approach that promotes self-reliance and acknowledges the interconnected nature of all our anti-poverty programs," said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee and sponsor of the legislation.

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., a co-sponsor and member of the House Budget Committee, wants the funding cap language included in the House budget resolution, which sets spending limits for the upcoming fiscal year and could be on the floor by April. The work requirement for food stamps could move later in a separate bill.

The bill comes during a period of sustained unemployment; nearly 40 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for more than six months. Since the start of the recession, the number of Americans who have opted for state and federal safety net programs has increased dramatically, including in the most conservative of states. A record number of Americans — more than 40 million — are now receiving food stamps.

The RSC's proposal is cruel, and it's also really bad policy. Because there are few jobs to be had — the Economic Policy Institute estimates that there are currently more than six job seekers for every job opening — the work requirement will inevitably push more and more families into abject poverty. Once there, they will be in an even weaker position to find employment.

As the editors of the New York Times put it, "Surely hard times should find public servants protecting the neediest first, not targeting them for crumbs from a program more vital to society than another tired round of antiwelfare politicking."

The work requirement isn't the only GOP-led proposal aimed at weakening the food stamp program. Another provision buried in the bill bars families from participating in the program if a member of the family goes on strike. It reads: "no member of a family unit shall participate in the food stamp program at any time that any able-bodied work eligible adult member of such household is on strike as defined in the Labor Management Relations Act."