Please Don’t Feed Those People!

It’s certainly not a new thing, and all the requisite backpeddling is being done. But still, it’s important now and then to fully grasp how some of our fellow citizens think about some of their fellow citizens, via ThinkProgress‘ Tara Culp-Ressler:

The Oklahoma Republican Party is making the case against food stamps by comparing poor people to animals, reviving a stereotype that’s often deployed against Americans who rely on government benefits to feed their families.

In a Facebook post published Monday night, the Oklahoma GOP suggested that the millions of Americans receiving food stamps this year should not be enrolled in the program because “the animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.”

That last quote was lifted by the OK GOP from a supposed National Park Service notice on why visitors shouldn’t feed the wildlife.

Culp-Ressler notes a variety of similar slurs offered over the years by GOP elected officials and candidates in public, which makes you wonder about the kind of things they say when no “outsider” is listening.

But in this case there was actually some blowback from a state agency in Oklahoma–presumably not a redoubt of liberals in this conservative state with its conservative Republican Gov. Mary Fallon:

Shame on you for comparing people in poverty and with disabilities to animals! That was an appalling and uniformed comment. Obviously you did not bother to know the majority of the 604,000 people receiving food benefits in Oklahoma are people who are aging, people with disabilities (including disabled veterans) and the working poor who are raising children. …The people who need this meager benefit are dependent upon it in order to keep themselves and their children from starving. Is that the kind of dependency you are suggesting we discourage?

This statement, originally posted on Facebook, has been taken down. I hope it’s not because they were ordered to do so from on high.

It’s one thing to be a yahoo in some bar yapping about “those people” who would “be fine if they’d just get off their butts and get a job,” or to engage in casually racist fables like Ronald Reagan’s famous using-the-change-from-food-stamps-to-buy-vodka anecdote. For a political party or an elected official or a great big adult political candidate to do so is offensive not because it “offends” people or is “politically incorrect” but because it is factually incorrect and hateful and certainly in conflict with the Judeo-Christian values that I am quite sure the Republican Party of Oklahoma believes it upholds.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.