Diversion Politics and Factual Errors with ‘Americans for a Tiny Sliver of Rich People’

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

Jennifer Stefano, the Pennsylvania director of Americans for Prosperity, published an op-ed in the Harrisburg Patriot-News Friday – the latest salvo in an organized right-wing assault on nutrition assistance and other safety net spending.

The op-ed claims that the number of Americans who receive some kind of subsidized food assistance is at more than 101 million and “has surpassed the number of full-time private-sector workers in our country.” Actually, there are 114 million private-sector workers in the United States, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data for June 2013, but who’s counting.

Americans for Prosperity is a conservative advocacy group funded in part by the Koch Brothers. It is the 1% looking out for the interests of the 1%.

As I noted, Jennifer Stefano’s op-ed is part of a larger campaign to cut safety net spending. Food stamp spending in the current slow economy has temporarily risen to about 0.5% of GDP, from about 0.33% of GDP in the early 1980s recession. Of course, that recession was much shorter and shallower nationally than the recent Great Recession.

Today food assistance remains well targeted: 85% of households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, have gross incomes below the poverty line; 98.5% have disposable (or “net”) incomes below the poverty line. SNAP provides only $1.50 per person per meal and is scheduled to drop to $1.30 per person per meal in November. (Stefano has nothing to say about the preservation of farm subsidies for agribusiness – the most generous “food program” in the United States.)

Stefano presents the temporary growth in food assistance as a “kitchen table” issue. Let’s put it in perspective. Another kitchen table issue is the dramatic decline in the share of the economic pie going to the vast 99% of Americans – because the share going to the top 1% has risen by about 10 percentage points, The temporary increase in food stamps spending is thus about 1/50 the size of the not-so-temporary increase in the share of income going to the Koch Brothers and, I’m guessing, other funders of Americans for Prosperity.

Stefano’s piece is part of a well-oiled effort to distract middle-class families from the real cause of their economic struggles. When you look at the facts, that cause is not rising taxes or spending on social programs. It’s the rise in economic inequality (and, to a lesser degree, the fall in taxes paid by the more affluent).

Here’s hoping that Pennsylvanians and Americans will keep their eyes on the ball and not fall for the obfuscations of groups like Stefano’s.

Fourth Cain Accuser Details Harassment

A fourth woman ha snow come forward alleging sexual harassment by Herman Cain.  This time we have specifics including groping.  The GOP presidential candidate still has not properly addressed this issue and his pattern of lying and avoiding accountability is troubling for someone seeking the White House.  Meanwhile his supporters, probably the same people who condemned Bill Clinton, are pouring money into the Cain effort.

The charges of sexual harassment are drowning out a deeper and more serious scandal however.  The Milwaukee Sentinel reported that Cain’s deep ties to the infamous Koch brothers and their Americans For Prosperity front group resulted in violations of election and campaign finance laws.  Campaign manager Mark Block, previously convicted in Wisconsin for election law violations so serious he was banned from political activism for three years, formed non profits used to pay for Cain campaign expenses.  Non profit organizations are barred from spending funds on presidential campaigns.  The non profits were connected with Americans For Prosperity.  They paid for iPads and campaign travel to the tune of $40,000.

Cain already is under attack for using political funds to buy copies of his book from which he personally profits (royalties).  In my opinion this is far more serious than the sexual harassment because it reveals a pattern of corruption.  When you combine it with that it raises serious questions about character.