March 13, 2013

Fox News continued its war on poor people today when it hyped Herman Cain’s highly dubious claim that people are using food stamps to pay for "fitness training," which he “learned” via a caller to his radio show.

It was not very surprising that Cain would repeat a thing like this without bothering to verify it. He isn’t exactly known for having a thirst for knowledge. But what’s Fox's excuse? Apparently, the “fair and balanced” network was so eager to re-air Cain’s characterization of food stamp recipients as moochers being exploited by a government that wants to make them dependent that nobody cared enough to verify whether Cain was telling the truth.

As banners on the screen screamed ON THE DOLE and then FOOD STAMP NATION, Steve Doocy announced that on Friday, “a document dump” from the federal government revealed a rise in Americans’ use of food stamps, the “biggest number in history,” he said. “47,791,996 Americans had to get these SNAP cards to put food on their table – they say," he said with a sneer.

Gretchen Carlson added, “So some people are concerned at the fact that this number has continued to escalate dramatically over the last couple of years.”

The concern was not that people are hungry or are not earning enough money to feed their families adequately. For example, as the Working Poor Families Project reported, "the number of low-income working families is increasing and nearly one third of all working families—32 percent—may not have enough money to meet basic needs." Also not mentioned: 55% of all food stamp recipients are children under 18 or the elderly, over 65.

And speaking of the working poor, let’s not forget that Cain bears a hefty chunk of responsibility for their plight:

Seven of the ten lowest paying jobs in America are restaurant jobs, and the two absolute lowest paying jobs in America are restaurant: dishwashers and fast food preps and cooks are the two absolute lowest paying jobs in America. These workers earn poverty wages because the minimum wage for tipped workers at the federal level has been frozen for 22 years at $2.13 an hour, and it’s the reason that food servers use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce, and have a poverty rate of three times the rest of the U.S. workforce.

We got to this place because of the power of the National Restaurant Association; we call it the other NRA. They’ve been named the tenth most powerful lobbying group in Congress and back in 1996 when Herman Cain was the head of the National Restaurant Association, he struck a deal with Congress saying that, “We will not oppose the overall minimum wage continuing to rise as long as the minimum wage for tipped workers stays frozen forever,” and so it has for the last 22 years.

No, the concern voiced on Fox was that welfare queens people must be gaming the system. With the help of the Obama administration.The three hosts gave their implicit approval as they unquestioningly presented this clip of Cain's screed to Greta Van Susteren (who also did not challenge his "food stamps for fitness training" claim) the night before:

The federal government has made a mess of the program by exploiting the program and exploiting those people who have learned how to abuse the program. The food stamps program, Greta, is a misnomer. With two words: “food” and “stamp.” It’s no longer just about helping people to get food. It helps them to get free stuff. And secondly, because some bureaucrat thought that people going in and handing in stamps was somewhat insulting, they now have given them a government credit card. And I found this out today, Greta, on my radio show. A guy called in and said he owns fitness centers. The government has even allowed food stamp recipients to use their cards for fitness training programs. So the problem starts with the exploitation on the part of government because ideologically they want as many people to be dependent on the government as they possibly can.

[Editor's note: Medicare -- not SNAP --covers Silver Sneakers fitness training in many states, because exercise keeps the elderly healthy.]

Although Fox recently got rid of pundit Dick Morris for his over-the-top claims about a “landslidey” win for Mitt Romney (among other crackpot predictions), Herman Cain seems well positioned to carry on his legacy.

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