Don’t Let Your Constituents Go Hungry

A letter from Melissa Harris-Perry

Dear Mr. Cantor,

It’s me Melissa. Now I’m not going to quibble with you over your philosophical approach. But let’s deal in facts. The beginning of your speech on the House floor before Thursday’s vote was…um, kind of right.

“This bill is designed to give people a hand when they need it most and most people don’t choose to be on food stamps….most people don’t choose to be on food stamps.”

Now if you’re talking about the intent of the original bill then yes Mr. Cantor I can agree. Because that bill was meant to give people a hand when they need it most. But if you mean the new bill you spearheaded, oh no sir. Mr. Cantor: #HaveASeat.

Because according to the Congressional Budget Office your bill cuts $39 billion over the next decade. And as a result of those cuts, 3.8 million people will lose their SNAP benefits in 2014. Sticking with the facts, in your speech you talked about what certain participants in the SNAP program will have to do to get benefits. “The truth is anyone subjected to the work requirements under this bill who are able bodied, who are able bodied under 50 will not be denied benefits. If only they are willing to sign up for the opportunity to work.”

“…sign up for the opportunity to work.”

Mr. Cantor, you also noted the demagoguery and misinformation around the work requirement of this bill. #HaveASeat. Because Mr. Pot you’re worse than the kettle you complained about. You make it sound like: Sure poor people, we’ll give you food, but only if you are willing to work for it. What gave you the impression that poor people didn’t want to work? Sir they want to eat! And at a time when most of your fellow Republicans are worried about their districts, you seem distracted and have forgotten about yours. So let me remind you.

Take a look at this interactive map on the website of “Feeding America,” the nationwide network of food banks. If you scroll your mouse along this map, you can find out what the food insecurity levels are in all parts of the country. Nationwide the figure is 50 million. Fifty million Americans living at risk of not knowing where their next meal will come from or if it will come at all.

Take Virginia. Does it look familiar, Mr. Cantor?

This is the 7th District of Virginia–your district. 11% of your constituents, Mr. Cantor–approximately 85,000 people in your district–are at risk of hunger. 15% of—or nearly 27,000 children—who you represent, have to worry about their next meal.

And yet you’ve waged a war to slash the very funds that feed the hungry. That includes your constituents. This isn’t about curbing government waste or preventing fraud. It’s not about your effort to bully the poor and dictate how they should live and qualify for food. It’s about feeding the 47 million people who benefited from the program last year and continue to need its support.

And if you don’t understand that fact, seriously, man… #HaveASeat.