If you didn’t know that local conservatives were going to take to Fox “News” to exploit Ken Block’s food stamp fraud report, I would like to bet you that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. Then, maybe we can go double or nothing on whether or not the days will get longer until late June, when they will then get shorter for about the next six months.
The Providence Journal this morning reprised Dave Fisher’s post from Friday about Woonsocket Mayor Leo Fontaine going on Fox “News” and blaming the city’s economic woes on the fact that one in three residents needs SNAP benefits.
The ProJo picked up on the similar themes as did Fisher’s post*: Fontaine inaccurately claimed that Block’s report uncovered “massive fraud” (or, me and Fontaine have an entirely different idea of what the word massive means) and that even the Fox anchor was surprised that Fontaine was blaming the poor for the city’s problems.
Unfortunately Fontaine wasn’t the only conservative using Block’s investigation to bash our poor on national television.
Rep. Doreen Costa, the voice of the tea party in the General Assembly, was on a Fox segment that included not-too subliminal messages of “‘Rhode’ to Economic Disaster” and “Who is ruining our economy?”
Costa, whose major legislative accomplishment is a failed bill that would mandate drug tests for welfare recipients, is no stranger to this form poor-bashing-as-political-shell-game. Here’s how it works:
Fox: “Why is Rhode Island suffering so much?”
Costa: “Well, I think Rhode Island is suffering so much because we don’t have any jobs here and because no business friendly legislation has been put in up at the State House…”
Fox: “Do people at least recognize that this is a problem or are you the lone ranger in this?”
Costa: “I don’t think people up at the State House even think this is an issue, they just want to keep giving out and giving out and giving out…”
Fox: “If you are trying to help these people, do you think they are trying to help themselves?
Costa: “That’s a good question. We just had a major report…”
There’s a lot in here that is either blatantly wrong or half-true to the point of being misinformation.
- Rhode Island is suffering from a lack of jobs, but it’s not the kind of jobs that the myriad of business-friendly legislation at the State House addresses. In other words, putting the DEM under an economy czar isn’t going to get anyone off food stamps in Woonsocket, probably few – if any – Woonsocket residents lost their jobs when 38 Studios failed and I’d reckon that doing away with the sales tax would do far more damage than good, in the short and long term
- So I get that very few people in politics care that the mayor of Woonsocket and the state Rep. from North Kingstown are spreading lies and half-truths about Rhode Islanders living in poverty on Fox, but what do Costa’s legislative colleagues think of her spreading lies about them. The idea that no one at the State House thinks about these issues is not in any way, shape or form true.
- I like Doreen plenty but the idea that she is “trying to help these people” on SNAP benefits, as the Fox reporter said, is cartoonishly incorrect. She may be a member of the middle class – Costa sells advertising for WPRO – but her overarching philosophy of trying to shrink government down until it can be drowned in a bathtub is nothing but bad news for the working and middle class folks of Rhode Island and good news for the corporate elite.
To date, I think Fisher – WHO LIVES IN WOONSOCKET – has done the most interesting journalism on the Washington Post’s Woonsocket piece. He points out that while the city and the schools are going bankrupt and a third of the residents – and the local economy itself – is reliant on SNAP benefits, Woonsocket is also home of Rhode Island’s largest private sector employer, CVS, which gets more than $15 million in local and state tax breaks and pays its CEO $18 million a year.
There’s something to all that that I believe is the major reason Rhode Island finds itself in such bad economic shape.
I think conservatives, moderates, liberals and progressives all agree that the state’s struggles are pretty much concentrated in our urban areas. And I think everyone also agrees that the systemic poverty in Woonsocket, West Warwick, Central Falls, Pawtucket and Providence is terribly bad for Rhode Island (I think it’s the state’s biggest economic obstacle). Here’s where there is disagreement: do we want to continue with austerity measure and trickle down ec0nomics or do we want to try some bottom-up solutions.
I don’t think the couple dozen ACI inmates who may – or may not be – scamming the system will affect either our real-life economy or our made-up CNBC rankings one way or another.