Governor Scott Walker has been an utter disaster for the state of Wisconsin. The man who the Koch brothers once thought was going to sit in the White House and implement their neo-conservative agenda dropped out of the Republican presidential race in September, and has had to comfort himself with the destruction of his state instead. Not only has he consistenly undermined women’s rights, voter’s rights, veterans, and unions, now his imbecilic, poor-shaming policies are on track to bankrupt food banks — just in time for Christmas.
Two years ago, Walker and his fellow Republicans approved the 2013-15 state budget which created a new rule for some of the recipients of the state’s food stamp program, FoodShare. The rule mandated that all able-bodied adults, who do not have children living at home, must work twenty hours a week, or look for a job if they wanted to continue to receive food assistance. The asinine “food-for-work” law went into effect in April and within five months 15,000 Wisconsinites were kicked out of the program and left to starve.
Fortunately, for those who fell victim to Scott’s inhumane law, food banks were there to give them meals to eat. However, they have now been overwhelmed and have almost reached their breaking point. Sherrie Tussler, executive director of the Milwaukee-based Hunger Task Force, an organization that supplies emergency food to food pantries, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens, gave a dire warning to the Wisconsin State Journal:
“They will bankrupt our food banks.”
One just has to look at Walker’s economic credentials to understand that this rule was not based on any substantial evidence that it would actually work. Not only does the Koch puppet have an abysmal job creation record with the state ranking thirty-fifth in the nation, he is also responsible for the number one income decline in the country and his unemployment rates are much higher than the states around him.
According to the Department of Health Services, 770,000 people in Wisconsin receive FoodShare benefits. When someone applies for the food program, the able-bodied adults are automatically enrolled in another program that is designed to help them find employment, called the FoodShare Employment and Training program. However, according to DHS statistics, in Milwaukee County — where half of the employment trainees live — only seven percent have been able to land a job using the Walker administration’s ineffective training program.
Tussler sent a letter to Scott Walker, DHS secretary Kitty Rhoades, and lawmakers in October and asked them to waive the work requirements for Milwaukee County because the unemployment rate was so high that it qualifies for a waiver under federal rules. In her letter she also warned of food shortages due to the high volume of people who were now ineligible for the food stamp program:
“The Department of Health Services must understand that a substantial increase in the need for emergency food caused by a loss of food buying power (FoodShare) will result in wide scale shortages in Milwaukee.”
The Department of Health Services denied the waiver on November 17, and cited Department of Agricultural stats that claimed the work requirement rule has been successful in other states. What they failed to mention was that in places with high unemployment, like Milwaukee County, the work requirement is often waived.
This rule is just another way for Scott Walker and Republicans to drive people further into poverty. What’s even worse is that all of these lawmakers claim to be “Christian,” but then deny poor people the very basic nessessities, such as food and medical care. They shame the poor when they can’t find work, take away their safety nets when they are in need, and wreck their economy so that the jobs don’t even exist anymore – and if they do, their union-busting policies and refusal to raise the minimum wage mean they will continue to live in poverty anyway. The Republican Party employs these tactics all around the country, even though there is substantial proof that giving the indigent a hand up actually reduces poverty.
Merry Christmas, Wisconsin!
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.