Obama didn’t deserve it. When he made his racially-tinged crack, the ex-speaker hoped you’d forgotten that 8 million jobs were lost on President Bush’s watch, driving record numbers of unemployed Americans onto the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) rolls.
About 7.2 million of those lost American jobs have been recovered since President Obama’s first year in office. The recovery would be considerably stronger if the Republican-led House of Representatives passed the American Jobs Act.
That legislation, blocked for two years by the GOP leadership, would put 2 million unemployed Americans back to work, lower the deficit and be paid for in 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Closer to home, however, there is someone who has richly earned the “food stamp” title.
The Associated Press reported last week that 40,000 Georgia residents have been added to SNAP. That brings the total to nearly 2 million Georgians — 25 percent of them children under the age of 6 — who rely on food stamps in a state with a population of 10 million.
“Georgia has surged from having the 15th-highest proportion of food stamp recipients to sixth-highest,” AP noted. More than a half-million of these recipients are in metro Atlanta counties, including Cobb, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Georgia suffered more than most states and is still hundreds of thousands of jobs below its pre-recession levels,” reported AP. “Additionally, many jobs that have been added are low-paying positions. About 58 percent of working-age food stamp recipients are employed.”
It begs the question Republicans are so fond of asking Obama: Where are the jobs, Gov. Deal? Why is dependence on federal food assistance growing, not shrinking, since you took office?
Here’s part of the answer: Deal is under the thumb of Georgia’s tea partiers, who would rather have 500,000 Georgia children dependant on federal food assistance — or better yet, no federal assistance — than see their parents going to work.
Medicaid expansion would quickly create 70,000 good-paying health care jobs, according to Healthcare Georgia Foundation, increasing state and local tax revenues by $275 million annually while producing an $8 billion economic impact in Georgia.
“For the average taxpayer, the Medicaid expansion is actually a good deal,” said the study’s author, Dr. Bill Custer, one of Georgia’s leading health care economists.
Terrified of being primaried by his tea party patrons, Deal rejected expansion under Obamacare. He claims it will cost Georgia $4.5 billion over 10 years — twice other estimates. In fact, Medicaid expansion would cost Georgians nothing in the first three years and just 10 percent of the total annual cost thereafter.
“I think it is probably unrealistic to expect that promise to be fulfilled in the long-term simply because of the financial status of the federal government,” Deal said.
I think it is probably realistic Deal is smoking tea party exhaust. The governor knows Georgia can leave the program if federal reimbursements fall below 90 percent.
Nearly a quarter of employed Georgians lack health insurance, with working families making up nearly half of the uninsured. With about 700,000 uninsured Georgians added to the Medicare rolls, Peach State taxpayers would no longer pay for the most expensive healthcare there is when these uninsured folks go to hospital emergency rooms for medical treatment.
Deal couldn’t care less what the numbers or the experts say. And that, more than anything else, tells you all you need to know about a state with so much economic growth potential but so little leadership to develop it.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Nathan Deal, our food stamp governor.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.