Report: These right-wing oligarchs are leading the fight to kill anti-poverty programs | Wednesday Morning Coffee

September 11, 2019 7:10 am

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

You’ve probably heard by now about Trump administration efforts to pretty much eliminate what’s known as  “Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE)” from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps.

You’re probably also aware of Republican efforts in Washington — and here in Pennsylvania — to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients.

What you likely don’t know — but probably won’t be surprised to learn — is that some pretty deep-pocketed conservative interests are behind both pushes. And they’re pumping millions of dollars into those efforts, according to some fascinating digging by the accountability reporting site, SLUDGE, which tracks this kind of spending.

As SLUDGE reports, a group with the pretty innocuous sounding name of the Foundation for Government Accountability “has already achieved some victories, as states including Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and West Virginia have imposed work requirements on SNAP recipients, sometimes using FGA model legislation. A nationwide version of work requirements proposed by the Trump administration is expected to kick hundreds of thousands of poor Americans off of SNAP.”

Image via Flickr Commons

According to SLUDGE, the FGA is heavily financed by a powerful Wisconsin foundation birthed by the wealthy, conservative Bradley brothers, multiple nonprofits affiliated with right-wing billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, and two dark money vehicles funded by Koch and Bradley charitable nonprofits. A number of FGA executives and board members work or have worked for other connected Bradley- and Koch-funded think tanks and political groups.”

More from SLUDGE:

FGA and its connected lobbying arm, the Opportunity Solutions Project, are employing a common tactic among conservative economists, policy writers, and free-market ideologues, recasting cuts to public welfare benefits as encouraging “the redeeming power of work.”

“This PR approach to welfare cuts comes out of the playbook of some of FGA’s funders, including the libertarian Koch, CEO of manufacturing conglomerate Koch Industries and one of the richest men in the world.

The Koch political and academic networks have adopted the phrases ‘human flourishing‘ and ‘well-being‘ to characterize harsh cuts to public assistance that many poor people depend on. Regardless of the Koch network’s claims, these kinds of welfare cuts mean more money that the billionaire class gets to keep from the Internal Revenue Service.

FGA represents one of many investments that wealthy American conservatives have made in order to weaken the American majority—working class Americans—and institutions meant to benefit them in favor of the private property ownership of a small but powerful minority.”

First Lady Frances Wolf speaks about Hunger Action Month in the Capitol rotunda. (Photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

The implications in Pennsylvania, when it comes to those food stamps efforts, are pretty dire.

If the White House gets its way, an estimated 3 million people nationwide could lose benefits, with 500,000 schoolchildren losing free breakfast and lunch at school. And as many as 200,000 adults and children in Pennsylvania could be affected by this change, according to state Department of Human Services data.

Last month, Gov. Tom Wolf joined with other Democratic governors to protest the cuts. They sent a letter to the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue, arguing that the cuts would disproportionately affect children.

“We can all agree that no one should be forced to go hungry in the U.S, especially children. Yet, the Department’s analysis acknowledges that its proposal may worsen hunger at a time when nearly 16 percent of households with children are experiencing food insecurity,” the letter reads, in part. “We should be doing more to help these families, not less. Adding insult to injury, this proposed rule would eliminate automatic enrollment for kids in SNAP families in the free and reduced price lunch and breakfast programs. Everyone knows that a child can’t learn when they’re hungry, but these changes would make that a reality for thousands of kids in our states and across the country.”

Elections, as they say, have consequences. And this is one of the more stark — and potentially pernicious — examples.

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Our Stuff.
Pennsylvania ended its General Assistance Program on Aug. 1. A month later, Sarah Anne Hughes checked in with former beneficiaries to see how they’re faring. It will not shock you to learn that things aren’t good.

Pa. foster kids will be able to attend college tuition-free in 2020. But lawmakers say the law could be even strongerHughes also reports.

Stephen Caruso has the results of a legislative hearing examining whether to end what’s known as ‘flexible pricing’ for wine and spirits sales.

We’re pleased to announce a new partnership with the Philadelphia Tribune, Philadelphia’s black newspaper of record. In our first story, reporter Michael D’Onofrio caught up with black leaders who say even more city cops have been fired for racist social media postings.

On our Commentary Page, a newsletter author of your acquaintance chatted with Posies’ co-frontman Ken Stringfellow, whose solo record, “Touched,” released on this day in 2001, has become a kind of 9/11 survival guide for many people. He plays a private house concert in suburban Harrisburg on Sept. 18.

Pa. Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine brings you up to speed on the Wolf administration’s latest efforts to combat addiction of all kinds.  And an advocate for Lyme disease survivors wants the state Senate to pass a previously approved House bill that would aid those contending with the disease.

Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington, joined a host of nurses from across the state to push legislation expanding their ability to provide care without a doctor in the Capitol April 9, 2019. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

A new licensing system was supposed to make life easier for Pennsylvania nurses — that hasn’t been the case, the new Spotlight PA reports (via PennLive).
The Inquirer would like you to meet Philadelphia’s new school board members.
Pittsburgh City Paper’s Ryan Deto looks at whether the Steel City is vulnerable to fracking-induced earthquakes.
The Morning Call has the latest on efforts in Harrisburg to ‘cobble together’ a property tax reform plan.
A group in Somerset County is hatching plans for a memorial to the post-9/11 War on Terror, the Tribune-Review reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

Workers are outraged over executive bonuses at PES Refinery, which was damaged by fire earlier this year, WHYY-FM reports.
Pennsylvania’s farmers are looking to the state and to the feds for industry relief, the PA Post reports.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson will headline the PA GOP’s fall dinnerPoliticsPA reports.
Politico explains why the GOP shouldn’t be celebrating that special election in North Carolina.

What Goes On.
8 a.m., Capitol Steps: 
Stair climb to honor fallen firefighters
11 a.m., Soldiers & Sailors Grove: Ready PA National Preparedness Month fair.

Gov. Tom Wolf
 continues his trip through the Baltics and Eastern Europe.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Jess Long Baker, regional spokeswoman for PPL Electric, who celebrates today. Congrats and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
For 9/11, here’s a song that got a lot of us through those dark days. It’s U2 and ‘Walk On.

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
The Guardian 
has 10 talking points from the latest round of international play — especially Kosovo living up to its hype against England.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.