As the whole world knows by now, Trump has launched major racist attacks on four congress members known as the “Squad” over the past couple of weeks. He ordered the women to “go back where they came from.”
Trump targeted the four because of their courageous and outspoken public criticism of U.S. government policy, maintly the inhumane and xenophobic targeting of migrants, including children. Trump also focused on the four because all are people of color, with three of them coming from migrant families.
Now joining Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) on Trump’s target list is Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.). The Black congressperson, who represents the city of Baltimore, was criticized in Trump’s July 27 tweet that also defamed the city — which is over 50 percent African American — as a “rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human” would want to live.
By attacking Cummings, Trump was in reality attacking the entire Baltimore African-American community with his nauseating, recurring white supremacist remarks.
Cummings doesn’t have a radical political history, but like the “Squad” he has been critical of Trump’s treatment of migrants in detention centers rightly characterized as concentration camps.
Trump was not just mouthing off with these attacks. His words are a justification and a means to vicious ends.
One of his goals was approved on July 26 when a majority vote of the U.S. Supreme Court gave the green light for the Pentagon to spend $2.5 billion of its military budget to build a border wall in an attempt to keep migrants from crossing into the southern U.S. Trump hailed this a “Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!”
The SCOTUS decision overturned a lower court ruling that had stopped the funds. The American Civil Liberty Union, which represented a group of organizations that initiated the litigation, announced the legal effort to stop the wall will continue.
In a lesser publicized, but equally important development, the Trump administration announced plans to kick at least 3.1 million indigent people off the rolls of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.
This vital food stamp program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides access to free food for an estimated 42 million people, based on income. Some people also receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, another federal program that helps with basic needs. The new procedures would require a family receiving TANF to pass a review of income and assets to determine whether the family is eligible for SNAP benefits.
This latest attack on the poor actually began when President Bill Clinton signed “The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.” That law forced welfare recipients to work in exchange for general assistance benefits — tantamount to working at below an already inadequate minimum wage.
If approved, the new guidelines will deeply impact a city like Baltimore which in 2015 had an official poverty rate of 24 percent. In 2018 the official national poverty line was around $20,780 for a family of three. (familiesusa.org)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that cutting SNAP would reduce the federal budget by $2.5 billion — the same amount allocated for building part of the border wall.
While Trump pushes his racist wall under the guise of “national security,” what about the food security of millions of the working poor, with a disproportionate number being Black, Latinx and Indigenous?
Will the Democratic Party members in Congress challenge these cuts in a direct way or will they continue to lay low, even knowing that the cuts will deepen and expand hunger and malnutrition in their political base?
During the 1980s, mass campaigns were launched in the streets to meet the challenge of austerity, including widespread hunger, ushered in by the Ronald Reagan presidency. Outrage demanded: “Feed the People, Not the Pentagon” and “Food Is a Right.”
With Trump and the Republican Party having declared war on migrants and other people of color, a new demand must be added: “Food security, yes! Border security, no!”