compare the news and the research

compare the popular press coverage of the topic and the research article. what do you learn from the research article that provides deeper understanding? what was missing in the news story?news article : My topic of interest is Rich and poor diet in the U.S. My mainstream article was puplished in the Washington Post on June 23, 2016: “The difference between what rich and poor Americans eat is getting bigger” by Max Ehrenfreund the link to the article is : https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/0… research journal article : attached
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12
The Nation.
passing on the pain to the poor. Ten states have cut unemployment benefits; numerous others are paring back childcare and
work-related assistance; Medicaid is facing deep cuts; and help
for the neediest families under TANF (which replaced welfare
in 1996) has been sharply reduced, by 20 percent in South
Carolina, for example—leaving benefits for a family of three at
a mere $216 per month, bringing them to just 14 percent of the
poverty line. (For more on the hardship imposed by ClintonGingrich welfare reform, see Diana Spatz’s article on page 21.)
Drumming up outrage about the expiration of a bunch of
technical-sounding tax credits and state budget fixes is not
easy. It’s tougher because President Obama has done so little
to own what is arguably the biggest progressive accomplishment of his presidency, the Recovery Act. While there may
be disagreement about the reasons for this failure, there’s no
doubt about its effect: emboldening the Republicans in their
relentless, decades-long, billionaire-backed assault on the
Great Society, which has succeeded in moving the policy and
rhetorical frame far to the right. Having embraced House
Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan’s plan to eviscerate programs for the poor, the sick and the elderly last spring, the
GOP now takes seriously a 2012 presidential candidate who
proposes child labor as a solution to child poverty. Clearly,
a safety net caught between the contesting forces in today’s
Washington will not survive intact. As Lizzy Ratner notes
in this issue, “Obama does seem to have some kind of social
contract vision, but it is based largely on compromise, on the
social contract as process, not values. This is all well and good
until you’re forced to go up against a pack of social Darwinists
who have no values or belief in process.” This dynamic was
manifest in last summer’s debt ceiling deal, which has already
led to cuts in the 2012 budget nearly unfathomable to people
January 2, 2012
who work in fields like low-income housing (gone: $3.8 billion), to be followed by even deeper gashes as a result of the
supercommittee failure.
All this is enough to induce a combination of trepidation
and despair, not exactly prime ingredients for the huge, fearless protest movement that must take shape if disaster is to be
averted. Here is where the movement to end poverty could
gain inspiration from the proudly unprofessional activists who
have seized spaces and occupied the national discourse these
past few months. Historically, like OWS, successful poor
people’s movements have preferred justice to charity, pursuing goals set not by policy shops but by the people who know
most intimately what kind of change they need, and on whose
vigorous participation the movement depends. When Lyndon
Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964 as
part of his War on Poverty, it contained a provision calling for
“maximum feasible participation” of the poor—a provision
that “grew out of the mass civil rights mobilizations in the
1950s and early 1960s that, with blood and sacrifice, had won
basic political rights for African Americans across the South,”
writes historian Annelise Orleck in her introduction to The
War on Poverty: A New Grassroots History, 1964–1980. The
law secured funding for more than 1,000 community action
agencies across the country, which helped engage and politicize poor mothers, who fought many battles over the ensuing
decade for better food, schools and healthcare for their families (and won some of them). Imagine that: a president signing
a law that asked for, even paid for, grassroots participation to
shape policies and decide priorities. It sounds utopian now—
even under a president who once worked as a community
organizer—but as OWS has reminded us, sometimes the size
¦
of the demand is the measure of a movement.
Food Stamps vs. Poverty
Facing vast and sudden need, the food stamp program responded as a safety net should.
by LIZZY RATNER
ust past Fifth Avenue, where the gourmet food shops shift
into dollar stores and Fourteenth Street turns suddenly
seedy, there is a squat, metal-sided building that looks like
a relic from a half-familiar past. Coated in grime so thick
it’s hard to tell whether the striped siding is green or blue,
it still bears boxy traces of postwar optimism (it was built in 1946),
but mostly it looks haggard, a smile snaggled with broken teeth.
This is the home of the Waverly Food Stamp Center, one of
eighteen such centers in New York City. On a recent Monday
morning, it was choked with visitors—men, women and kids
in strollers—heading to appointments, picking up applications
and pressing to get cases reopened. They came in waves, big
and constant, which got sucked upward in two tin-can eleva-
J
Lizzy Ratner is a contributing writer to The Nation who lives in New
York City.
tors and then spit out into a room that one applicant, Erica,
described as “really hot,” “crowded” and “loud.” It was the
kind of place where no one seemed to be in control, and where
anyone who might be in control didn’t seem to care. And yet
somehow, Erica said, the place functioned. Despite hoops and
hurdles, visitors frequently walked out with the help they so
desperately needed when they came in.
“They do assist you, they do,” said a middle-aged man who
asked to be identified by his nickname, Mr. Monk, as he breezed
out of the Waverly Center. Mr. Monk had lost his job, then his
home, to the recession and had decided to apply for benefits
because “I have to eat.” Still waiting to see if his welfare application would be accepted, he’d already received an emergency food
stamp disbursement. “Every red penny goes to food.”
Welcome to the food stamp system: decaying, inundated
and one of the most unexpectedly effective safety net pro-
14
The Nation.
January 2, 2012
caused by the attack on other entitlement programs. Call it
the safety net’s safety net.
“In terms of food security in this country, food stamps really
are the foundational component of the safety net,” says Triada
Stampas, director of government relations and public education
for the Food Bank for New York City. “It is a program that by
and large works.”
The fact that the program remains as successful as it does is
remarkable given the beatings it has taken since Ronald Reagan
began sweeping away the buttresses of the welfare state. Since the
Reagan revolution, funding has regularly been slashed, eligibility tightened and, during the Gingrich years, most immigrants
banned from the program. And yet, even amid these attacks, food
stamps have enjoyed enough bipartisan support to avoid the radical disemboweling experienced by, say, the welfare system. The
reason, at least in part, is the way the program has historically been
framed: as a voucher (always Republican-friendly)
supporting the working (and hence “deserving”)
NUMBER OF NEW YORKERS, IN MILLIONS, WHO USE FOOD STAMPS ON
poor. As a result, funding has often been restored,
ANY GIVEN DAY (NEARLY 1 IN 4)
some categories of documented immigrants have
been readmitted to the rolls, and the program has
NUMBER OF AMERICANS, IN MILLIONS, WHO USE FOOD STAMPS ON
retained sufficient flexibility to respond quickly
ANY GIVEN DAY (1 IN 7)
when the need is greatest.
The past few years provide a textbook illustration of how the food stamp program works when it functions
people. And thanks to an infusion of $45.2 billion in stimulus
best. In 2007, before this country’s economic engine gave out, the
money, SNAP has helped millions of unemployed and undernumber of people receiving food stamps hovered at 26.3 million,
employed recession victims. In 2010 alone, food stamps lifted
a number that had crept up steadily since the start of the decade,
3.9 million people above the poverty line, the Census Bureau
thanks to the 2001 recession and stagnating wages. In the almost
reports. And it did this, continues to do it, despite decades of onfour years since, the number of people participating in SNAP
again, off-again neglect, budget cuts and Republican attacks.
exploded, nearly doubling as unemployment and underemploy“Food stamps are really the only functioning part of the
ment rocketed ever higher. Obviously it would have been far betsafety net,” says Joel Berg, executive director of the New York
ter if the economy had improved and the need evaporated. But
Coalition Against Hunger. “It’s the only thing left.”
given today’s unhappy economic reality, the spiking SNAP rolls
The question now is, how much longer can the food stamp
are one of the clearest signs of a functioning food safety net.
program withstand the conservative assault on the nation’s safety
“The program’s almost a model countercyclical program, in
net? And why haven’t Obama and the Democrats done more to
the sense that as more people are unemployed, as more peodefend such a vital program?
ple’s wages fall, food stamps can step in quickly and effectively
to pick up some of the slack and ameliorate some of the pain,”
he modern-day food stamp system is, in many ways, a
says James Weill, president of the Food Research and Action
model entitlement program—far from perfect, but as
Center (FRAC), one of the country’s most prominent national
good as it gets in social welfare–wary America. Born of
anti-hunger organizations.
the Food Stamp Act of 1977, which in turn was born of
Today’s food stamp legions are a diverse group, a cross-section
the anti-hunger movement of the 1970s, it is accessible,
of ages, ethnicities and biographies. They include recession
far-reaching, resilient and lean, with an overhead that concasualties like Rosalinde Block, 59, a middle-class single mother
sumes less than 10 percent of its budget. True, its benefit levels
in Manhattan, who lost nearly half her piano students as well
are so stingy that many recipients are forced to survive on little
as her freelance gigs and medical coverage at almost the same
more than $1 a meal. True as well that it fails to reach three of
every ten people who are eligible, helping explain how some
moment in 2008 when her son became seriously ill. They are
14.5 percent of this country’s households experienced food
double-barreled hardship victims like Carmen Perez-Lopez, who
insecurity in 2010. Among those denied: a desperate mother
suffered a stroke followed almost immediately by a breast cancer
of two who walked into a Texas food stamp center earlier this
diagnosis in the fall of 2009 and quickly ran through her savings
month and took a supervisor hostage, ultimately killing herself
as she slogged through treatment. They are disproportionand two kids.
ately women; roughly half of them are children. And for many of
And yet, for all these stunning and starved beast failings,
them, food stamps have made all the difference.
SNAP remains the best of the bunch, a program whose
“They actually rescued me—they gave me food when I had
essential effectiveness has enabled it not only to stave off
none,” says Perez-Lopez, a former office manager who was
food insecurity for millions but to catch the overflow of need
reduced earlier this year to subsisting on the free nutrition
grams still standing. Indeed, like the crumbling Waverly
Center, the food stamp program, more formally known as the
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, still
stands, still works—remarkably well, all things considered. It
may not look pretty, but while other social safety net programs,
like public assistance (more commonly called welfare), public
housing, Section 8 and even unemployment insurance, have
been so thoroughly hobbled that they can no longer respond to
the struggles of millions of Americans, the food stamp program
has remained surprisingly sensitive to people’s needs. It is one
of the defining reasons more Americans were not as immiserated by this recession as they were in eras past.
The statistics tell the story. On any given day, nearly 1.8 million New Yorkers participate in the program, using electronic
benefit cards to buy bread, milk, cheese and other staples. Across
the country, the number is 46.3 million, or one out of every seven
1.8
46.3
T
January 2, 2012
The Nation.
15
bars handed out by her cancer clinic. Unable even to afford
issued in May and repeated in December, was his slam calling
bananas, she was weak and losing weight—until an advocate at
Obama the “food stamp president”—a declaration of barely
the Food Bank for New York City helped her navigate the food
coded racism that harked back to decades of racially inspired
stamp application process. “Oh, I went to buy milk, I went to
attacks on food stamps, most notably Reagan’s slur about “strapbuy broccoli and cabbage and eggs… it feels so good,” she says
ping young bucks” dining out on T-bone steaks. Equally trouof her first food stamp shopping excursion.
bling, Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican with a record of
“I guess food is essential, huh?” she half-jokes.
racebaiting, led a charge in the Senate this past fall to “reform”
Yes, food is essential. But it is also something else: a source of
food stamps by restricting eligibility and undoing a planned
economic growth, a stimulus. As a 2008 study by Mark Zandi,
$9 billion budget increase, supposedly to crack down on fraud
chief economist for Moody’s Economy.com, found, every govand government excess. (Notably, food stamp errors have reached
ernment dollar spent on food stamps lifts GDP by $1.73, makrecord lows in recent years: only 2.7 percent of program costs in
ing it the most effective way to inject money into the economy.
2009, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported.)
The reason is simple: “People who receive these benefits are
The deep racism at the heart of conservative food stamp
hard-pressed, and will spend any financial aid they receive very
critiques offers at least one clue as to why the Obama adminquickly,” writes Zandi, one of John McCain’s economic advisers during his presidential campaign,
AMOUNT, IN BILLIONS OF DOLLARS, IN THE 2009 STIMULUS PACKAGE
hardly a bleeding heart. This money, in turn,
FOR FOOD STAMPS
disperses outward to the store clerks, store owners,
truckers and farmers, who then feed it back into
NUMBER OF PEOPLE, IN MILLIONS, LIFTED ABOVE THE POVERTY LINE BY
the economic loop.
FOOD STAMPS IN 2010
Small wonder, then, that the program is widely
popular. In a 2010 poll of registered voters by
FRAC, 74 percent said food stamps are “very or fairly important
istration has been unable or unwilling to champion SNAP as a
for the country” and 71 percent said that cutting food stamps
valuable recession antidote: as the nation’s first African-American
would be the “wrong way for Congress to reduce spending.”
president, Obama is vulnerable to racist innuendo, which his
opponents are only too happy to exploit. Just two months after
iven the program’s popularity, to say nothing of its
Gingrich made his “food stamp president” comment, another
strengths as an anti-poverty program and recession-buster,
would-be president, Rick Santorum, picked up the theme, accusone could be forgiven for assuming that food stamps are
ing Obama, absurdly, of “pushing more people on food stamps.”
enjoying widespread government support right now: that
Moreover, and in fairness, it’s not easy to sell the positive
Congress would be debating funding increases, not cuts,
side of skyrocketing food stamp enrollment. That food stamps
and that the administration would be working hard to bolster and
have performed admirably during the recession, catching those
even boost one of its more effective stimulus initiatives.
in need and stimulating the economy, is small consolation
And yet.
when the economy continues to stagnate and unemployment
In recent months, the nation’s food stamp program has
hovers at just under 9 percent. Certainly we can agree that
come under increasing pressure—from the reverse Robin
living-wage jobs would be far preferable to an economy so
Hoods who have taken aim at the government and the
broken that 46 million people need food stamps.
And yet, none of this exactly explains the Obama administraDemocratic leaders who quake before them.
tion’s failure to defend a clear policy success. And it certainly
House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was
doesn’t explain why the administration along with Congressional
the first to empty his quiver with his Path to Prosperity plan in
Democrats bargained away some $14 billion in food stamp funding
April, in which he recommended garlanding the rich with yet
in 2010, hacking more from the program than George W. Bush
more tax cuts while carving $127 billion (or almost 20 percent)
ever did. Or why the Democrats on the Agriculture Committee
from the food stamp program over the next ten years, imposing
agreed to recommend $4 billion worth of SNAP cuts to the mertime limits on benefits and converting the system into block
cifully failed “supercommittee.” Or why Democratic leaders like
grants. Echoing the arguments used to attack welfare fifteen
Dick Durbin, Charles Schumer and Patrick Leahy failed to sign
years earlier, Ryan warned against transforming the safety net
on to a passionate letter by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand imploring
into a “hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of comthe supercommittee to protect SNAP.
placency and dependency.” If passed, the Center on Budget and
“Who are the liberal lions anymore?” one advocate laments.
Policy Priorities cautioned, the Ryan plan would have thrown
Liberal lions do seem woefully scarce these days. More
“millions of low-income families off the rolls, cut benefits by
precisely, full-throated defenders of a common, socially conthousands of dollars a year, or some combination of the two.”
tracted good seem woefully scarce. Obama does seem to have
Ryan’s proposal, and the House budget that grew out of it,
some kind of social contract vision, but it is based largely on
were defeated, but not without winning the support of almost
compromise, on the social contract as process, not values.
every Republican in the House. And now there’s the sudden
This is all well and good until you’re forced to go up against
surge of Republican presidential front-runner Newt Gingrich,
a pack of social Darwinists who have no values or belief in
which can only portend ill for food stamps. Gingrich has been
lobbing anti-SNAP bombs for months, but his most infamous,
process. No wonder he’s had a hard time defending even the
45.2
3.9
G
The Nation.
January 2, 2012
most basic, necessary and successful programs.
Then again, maybe the fight was never completely up to
him. Maybe it’s been up to us all along.
When the Food Stamp Act was passed in 1977, making
food stamps free and nationwide for the first time, it bore the
distinct traces of the blood and sweat of the newborn antihunger movement. “Most of the nation’s leading antihunger
groups were founded during a fourteen-year period starting
in 1970,” writes Joel Berg in his book All You Can Eat: How
Hungry Is America? “Not coincidentally, the nation’s greatest
advances in reducing hunger came in the same decade.”
17
Many of the groups that helped fight for the Food Stamp
Act still exist and are still fighting valiantly, but there hasn’t
been much of a movement surrounding them in years. In fact,
as progressives dived into the culture and terror wars and all but
forgot the anti-poverty wars, there’s barely been the glimmer of
a movement—until now. Until a ragged group of young, old,
utopian, hard-luck, some-luck visionaries began occupying the
country’s squares and minds with their calls for a society based
on shared, mutual good rather than rogue individualism.
As the Occupiers plot their next moves, here’s one sugges¦
tion: occupy the safety net!
Out of Wor …
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