There are things I understand, and things I never will.
Take crime. I can understand the motives for many criminal acts– you see something you want and can’t afford, so you steal it; you are so furious with someone that you beat or even kill them. These are wrong actions, and certainly not excusable–but most of us can see and at least partially understand the human weaknesses involved.
On the other hand, there are anti-social behaviors that defy understanding. Vandalism, for example–the act of simply trashing something–has always confounded me. Another is hurting people who lack the ability to fight back, just because you can.
And that brings us to today’s GOP.
What triggered this post was a headline in the Washington Post, “Republican governors in 15 states reject summer food money for kids.”
Republican governors in 15 states are rejecting a new federally funded program to give food assistance to hungry children during the summer months, denying benefits to 8 million children across the country.
The program is expected to serve 21 million youngsters starting around June, providing $2.5 billion in relief across the country.
The governors have given varying reasons for refusing to take part, from the price tag to the fact that the final details of the plan have yet to be worked out. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said she saw no need to add money to a program that helps food-insecure youths “when childhood obesity has become an epidemic.” Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen (R) said bluntly, “I don’t believe in welfare.”
Activists with nonprofit organizations in the states rejecting the funds say the impact will be devastating –it will add pressure on private food banks that are already overwhelmed.
In 2022, food insecurity rates increased sharply, with 17.3 percent of households with children lacking enough food, up from 12.5 percent in 2021, according to the USDA.
In Oklahoma, for example, pandemic food relief money has been helping more than 350,000 children in need for the past four summers. Now that money has dried up with no statewide replacement on the way, and nonprofit assistance groups are scrambling to fill the gap.
What do these Republican Governors stand to gain by refusing to take advantage of an existing program and rejecting funds that have already been appropriated? What blow against obesity (!) or “welfare” is achieved by refusing to feed hungry children?
As the article points out, a number of these states have also refused to extend Medicaid to their poor citizens. Wouldn’t want to let those “undesirables” access medical care!
And although the article didn’t mention it, there’s considerable overlap between the Red states that don’t want to feed hungry children and Republicans’ ugly use of trans children as a political wedge issue. As Indiana Senate candidate Marc Carmichael points out, as acceptance of gay citizens has diminished their usefulness as a wedge issue, Republican extremists like Jim Banks have turned to attacks on trans children. As Carmichael says, it’s despicable to pick on children who are vulnerable and powerless. It is particularly cruel to focus such attacks on children who are already struggling with their identities.
And there’s so much more…
What about the cruelty of denying appropriate medical care to pregnant women? Abortion bans, according to GOP culture warriors like Banks, are needed to “save” innocent babies. That concern about babies rather obviously doesn’t translate into feeding hungry children. It also didn’t keep the Trump administration from tearing immigrant children from their families–without even documenting where they were being sent so that they could find each other again. It obviously doesn’t prompt Republicans to protect the lives and health of those children’s mothers.
Nope–once those babies emerge from the womb, they’re on their own.
There are plenty of other examples– Adam Serwer’s recent best-seller, “The Cruelty is the Point” spells them out, as does a recent essay from the Telegraph. After listing a number of Republican positions that seem deliberately intended to hurt people who lack the means to resist, the author considers what the GOP offers in return:
The ability to be openly intolerant of others. Starting with immigrants and extending to minorities, the poor, and any non-fundamentalist Christian, the list of people Republicans are encouraging others to revile keeps growing. Employing a word that they refuse to define for fear of sounding silly, Republican candidates rail against “woke” as though it stood for Satan’s agenda, when all it means is being aware of injustice. What is more intellectually cruel than wanting your followers to be intolerant, unaware and ignorant?
Republicans used to debate the best way to help people who needed that help. Today’s GOP doesn’t want to help anyone but gun owners and the party’s donors. Certainly not hungry children.