Democrats want to raise minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour and fund benefits for the long-term unemployed. They have also fought against GOP cuts to food stamps, also called SNAP.
Raising the minimum wage would take millions of people working full time jobs off the food stamp rolls and lift them out of poverty. So for Democrats, putting more money into the pockets of working-class Americans solves two problems with one action.
But Republicans claim government assistance for full time workers earning poverty wages only serves to make them dependent on government.
According to USA Today, “Republicans say many of the safety-net programs (President Lyndon) Johnson started have sputtered and need to be scaled back, both to reduce the nation's mounting debt and to avoid fostering an entitlement attitude among the poor.”
President Johnson’s “war on poverty” included Medicare, food stamps, Medicaid, Head Start, and federal assistance for higher education, among others. The programs began in the 1960’s and by the early 1970’s, had reduced poverty rates to “a historic low of 11.1 percent,” according to The Center for American Progress.
Still, Republicans claim the programs were a failure and believe they should be scaled back, eliminated completely, or handed over to Wall Street as part of privatization of government programs.
Supporters of the moral promise of America’s social safety net believe targeting budget cuts at low wage workers, and children, the largest group receiving food stamps, is cold-hearted and unnecessary in a country with as much wealth as the US.
Those who favor cutting the safety net suggest that it is not money well spent, despite America’s falling deficit.
As the partisan battle rages on, Americans struggling to maintain middle-class lifestyles or rise out of poverty can only wonder who will really win this economic war.