Well, I was going to write this long blog post about a GOP aide (Donny Ferguson of Rep. Steve Stockman’s office) who thinks it’s easy to be poor. Because he tried it for a day and was just fine.
Here’s the quick and dirty summary: A number of Democratic representatives undertook the “SNAP challenge,” in which they attempted to eat on the $31.50 benefit allotted individuals under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. I believe they did so to highlight the difficulties that many low-income individuals and families face.
But Ferguson? He did it to show everybody how much better he can play poverty. He went to a couple of stores, bought a bunch of crap and declared it is possible to eat well on the $31.50 allotted under the supplemental nutrition program.
Here’s a pic of what he initially bought:
He posted pictures of the food, receipts that totalled $27.58 and a spreadsheet that showed his meal planning for Monday through Sunday (June 17 through June 23).
I was going to nitpick the crap out of this. Apart from the fact that this is a nutritional nightmare, this diet wouldn’t work for many people: those with strict dietary requirements, medical issues (can you say “diabetes”?), working hard physical labor or growing kids. I’m sure there are a bunch of other folks who couldn’t eat this crap for other reasons.
But I don’t even think it’s enough food. The idea that one box of spaghetti and a small can of sauce could serve as four dinners is just ludicrous. Even if that box is 16 oz. (many pasta boxes have been downsized to 12 or 13.25 oz.), it’s not going to go very far. I’m not a particularly big eater, and I typically eat about 4 oz. of pasta in one sitting. Ferguson has PB&J sandwiches listed as lunch for all seven days, but that’s a pretty small jar of peanut butter. He also lists toast as a breakfast component, so that’s 21 slices of bread at a minimum. How big is that loaf, exactly?
He bought the majority of his food at the dollar store, but the food items at the dollar store are usually smaller than standard. That’s why they’re a dollar.
And don’t get me started on all the problems low-income folks have when it comes to obtaining and cooking food. Like food deserts. And high prices. No cars. Shitty public transportation. Electricity or gas has been disconnected. Stove broke or the frig broke and all your groceries are spoiled. Plus working two full-time jobs makes it a little hard to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
But then I realized I didn’t have to go into any kind of deep analysis of the diet or the spending or the challenges, because this never was about whether or not people could eat on $31.50 per week. It was just about how undeserving poor people are, and how wealthy people are so much better at playing poverty.
Because Ferguson started the SNAP challenge on Monday, and then announced Tuesday in a press release that he had “debunked” the notion that cuts to aid programs would hurt families:
Donny Ferguson, who serves as Stockman’s communications director and agriculture policy advisor, was able to buy enough food to eat well for a week on just $27.58, almost four dollars less than the $31.50 “SNAP Challenge” figure.
“I wanted to personally experience the effects of the proposed cuts to food stamps. I didn’t plan ahead or buy strategically, I just saw the publicity stunt and made a snap decision to drive down the street and try it myself. I put my money where my mouth is, and the proposed food stamp cuts are still quite filling,” said Ferguson.
“We can cut the proposed benefits by an additional 12.4 percent and still be able to eat for a week,” said Ferguson. “Not only am I feeding myself for less than the SNAP Challenge, I will probably have food left over.”
What food is left over at the end of the week will be donated to a food bank, along with the $3.92 Ferguson had left over from the $31.50 SNAP Challenge figure.
Got that? He found $31.50 to be more than adequate for a week’s supply of food. That is, after he had allegedly been on the program for one day. That was enough to allow him to “personally experience the effects of the proposed cuts.”
Press release can be found here.
Got that, you lazy overfed slackers? Not only is Donny Ferguson able to balance the budget with cuts, he is also going to donate the food he doesn’t eat to a food bank!
Except for that little detail of announcing success on Tuesday.
But then he had to go on a trip on Friday. He didn’t want to drag his SNAP challenge food around with him, so he decided he was going to buy $9 more of food and call it good. He claims he spent $8.45. However, that brings the total up to $36.03. In a twitter post he boasted that $2 of this food was being donated to charity. You can see what he purchased here:
Food for two-plus days minus those four cans of pork and beans? I call bullshit.
On Sunday, Ferguson’s office reported that he had eaten just $26.40 of the food he bought.
I cut the SNAP Challenge Budget by about 16 percent without the hysterics of overdramatic political activists agitating for more government control,” Ferguson, whose office said he gained one pound and lost one pound of body fat, said. “The proposed Food Stamp Bill didn’t cut spending, it dramatically increases it. Overall spending on food stamps would have skyrocketed well beyond the increased rates of suffering we’ve seen under Obama.
Ferguson is now the self-appointed “Undisputed Snap Challenge Champion.” This despite the fact that he spent $36.03, not $31.50. He claims now that he only ate $26.40 of the food. So his personal experience now tells him that food assistance can be cut more than the 12.5 percent he originally saved. It can be cut by 16 percent! Because if you say it over and over, it must be true.
So based on Ferguson’s personal experience, I suggest changes to the program. Any time SNAP recipients experience some personal difficulty, they should whip out Donny Ferguson’s credit cards and spend whatever they need. But then they should issue a press release and say they didn’t. Yeah.
Edited to add: It just keeps getting better and better. Today’s tweet:
Nine days, y’all! It’s a fucking miracle! Just like the loaves and fishes.
Edited again to add: Curious about Donny Ferguson? Apparently he’s no stranger to spreading, as he created a newspaper for that sole purpose. He credits himself as a “award-winning newspaper veteran” “commended by other newspapers for his ‘honest, intelligent and issue-oriented’ approach.”