Rep. Steve King desperately wants a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico he's willing to take food from the mouths of babies to build it.
After a House committee endorsed the Trump administration's full, $1.6 billion budget request to begin the construction of a southern-border wall, the Republican congressman from western Iowa said he wanted to more than triple the spending on the wall.
"Are you comfortable, congressman, with providing $1.6 billion of taxpayer money, not from Mexico, to build that wall?" CNN's Alisyn Camerota asked King recently.
"Absolutely, yes," he replied. "And more. I'd throw another $5 billion on the pile and I would find half a billion of that from right out of Planned Parenthood's budget. And the rest of it could come out of food stamps and the entitlements that are being spread out for people who haven't worked in three generations."
He went on to say Congress needs to "ratchet back down" the number of Americans on food stamps.
As King knows, there are more than 45 million Americans in families that rely on food stamps, and they're not freeloaders. Nearly two-thirds of them are children or they're elderly or disabled, and the others are the working poor, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.
More one-fifth of all food-stamp recipients work full time, are family caretakers, or are participating in a training program. Only 14 percent of them work fewer than 30 hours per week or are unemployed.
In King's 4th Congressional District, 31,000 Iowa households receive food stamps — and more than half of them are families with children. More than half of the 4th District households receiving food stamps include at least one person who has worked within the previous 12 months.
But King said the food stamp program — formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — is being abused by people who don't really need financial assistance to pay for food and by people who are too fat and should scale back their food intake, anyway.
"We've seen this (program) go from 19 million people now on the SNAP program up to 47 million people," he said. "I'm sure that all of them didn't need it. We built the programs because — to solve the problem of malnutrition in America. Now we have a problem of obesity. When you match up the EBT card with what the scales say on some of the folks, I think it's worth looking at."
King also suggested cutting food-stamp benefits for the needy isn't much different from what the former first lady, Michelle Obama, proposed when she advocated healthier school lunches.
"I wouldn't impose anything more strict on anybody in America than what Michelle Obama did with her school lunch program. So, I would just say let's limit it to that," King said.
King knows better. He publicly derided the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which required schools to use the federal money they receive for school lunches on more healthful foods, and paired a cut in food-stamp benefits with increased spending on school lunches. In 2012, King derided the law as "the nanny state personified," then introduced legislation to eliminate the dietary standards it imposed. In fact he is still trying to get the bill passed.
So why does King want to "ratchet back" spending on food stamps? It's not about obesity. His proposal is one of cost cutting, not calorie counting, and it's aimed squarely at individuals and families who, on average, have an annual household income of less than $10,000.
It's tempting to suggest King's proposal will go nowhere, but the reality is it mirrors the Trump administration's budget plan. The White House proposes $1.6 billion be spent next year on the border wall and, at the same time, it's calling for a reduction in spending on food stamps to the tune of $1.8 billion during that same year.
Given that, it's fair to say President Donald Trump shares Steve King's priorities on this issue. It should come as a surprise to no one, particularly the voters of the 4th District, who will probably support both the president and their congressman even as their relatives, friends and neighbors lose their food stamps.
Des Moines Register