The panel of MSNBC Live With Stephanie Ruhle took a brief time-out on Wednesday from speculating about White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to take a few lazy swings at the President’s new budget proposal for the SNAP food assistance program. The proposed policy would function similarly to services like Blue Apron, with beneficiaries receiving packages of pre-selected nutritious food items. It would also reduce the current program’s budget by 30%.
Princeton Professor Eddie Glaude argued that the proposed changes to SNAP were motivated by assumptions of fraud, which is likely true to some extent. He then concluded that such a policy was “all out war on the poor.”
“It’s patronizing,” complained New York Times journalist Bret Stephens. He added that this proposal had come from “a President who is suspected of hating the poor.”
Host Stephanie Ruhle, evidently reluctant to exclude General Kelly from the segment entirely, interjected, “John Kelly says immigrants are lazy, don’t want to get off the couch.” It is unclear whether Ruhle was conflating immigrants with the poor, or if the comment was simply a red herring.
Stephens analyzed the optics of the plan, which he determined were “terrible.” Noting that the White House’s preliminary budget is often a “show piece budget of the President’s priorities” that has little chance of passing in its initial form, he questioned why the President would include such an unpopular idea in the initial proposal. “If you do this as a political testimony to what your priorities are, why would you do that?” he asked.
Glaude suspected he had the answer: “Because this is a testimony to what their priorities are.” This proposal, he reminded the panel, had come from a President who had run on a platform of “representing working people.”
The candidate that claimed he was going to be representing working people, left behind white working class folks, really doesn’t give a damn about them. He really doesn’t care at all.
The panel did not revisit Professor Glaude’s initial claim that the changes were likely intended to prevent SNAP fraud and abuse. However, that assessment is supported up by a statement from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in December. Perdue announced that the agency was interested in proposals which would combat “fraud and waste” without increasing the program’s costs. Additionally, the USDA’s website states that in Fiscal Year 2012, the most recent year with data, OIG dedicated over half of its investigative resources to finding instances of fraud.
Yet in the context of the allegation, Glaude and the other panelists seemed to infer that an interest in stopping fraud was tantamount to an innate distrust – or as Stephens put it, a hatred – of the poor.