Food should not be a bargaining chip, a carrot that we dangle to rev up our political base, or treated as something that it is optional. Republicans in Congress, clearly have another view and much of it is based on stereotypes and conjuncture.

We’ve all heard it before. The dog whistles that Republicans blow to pit one group against another. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker’s whistle bellows his phrase “Public Assistance Should Be a Trampoline, Not a Hammock”. Every time he says it, the word “lazy” is the elephant in the room or the implied underlying message. And in terms of that message, Republicans around the country are all singing from the same hymnal.

State Sen. Lena Taylor

Michael Conaway (R-Texas), chairman of the Agriculture Committee in the House of Representatives, drafted H.R. 2 or what’s simply known as The 2018 Farm Bill. The proposal, which deals with subsidies for farmers, also seeks to make critical changes to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) program. Specifically, the legislation would require able-bodied adults, between the ages of 18 and 59, to work or be enrolled in a job-training program for at least 20 hours a week starting in 2021 to get food assistance through SNAP. If they don’t, they will lose their benefits for periods that could range from 1-3 years. Right away, I think about the 18-year-old, who may be enrolled in college and would now be required to work 20 hours a week to receive assistance.

In Wisconsin, an analysis done by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau found that roughly 75,720 could be forced out of the program. That number would include 23,369 children, which would not only make them ineligible for food stamps, but automatically make them ineligible for free and reduced school lunches. How in good consciousness do you propose measures such as these? Republicans package this madness in the belief that they are forcing people to get on their feet and get off public assistance. Yet we provide tax breaks to the wealthiest people in America and we give multi-billion dollar companies tax subsidies and incentives totaling $3.2 billion dollars in Wisconsin alone.

Without a doubt, it is frustrating to understand that Republicans have no long-term strategy to move people out of poverty. Often residents get trapped into low-wage jobs that satisfy the immediate work requirement. However, they are never positioned to be fully capable of taking care of themselves or their families. Real strategies include raising the minimum wage, allowing local governments to set their own wage standards, properly funding public education, providing affordable college options, and free or reduced education in trade or technical schools.

Instead of creating policy that allows residents to steady their foundation and get prepared to build a solid future, Republicans are guaranteeing a crop of individuals that will continue to struggle and impact the health and wealth of urban communities for decades to come.

Written by State Sen. Lena Taylor

State Sen. Lena Taylor

Wisconsin State Sen. Lena Taylor represents the 4th State Senate District in Milwaukee.