Of all the lessons to be gleaned from the Bible, the one this Republican Congressman seems to have taken away is that it's OK to starve poor people if they don't have jobs.
During Tuesday's House Committee on Agriculture hearing on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, which provides benefits to help low-income individuals and families, senior citizens, and people with disabilities afford food — Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.) quoted the New Testament during a conversation about work requirements for unemployed adults receiving SNAP benefits, the Washington Post reported on Friday.
"There's also, in the scripture, that tells us, in 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 3:10, he says, 'For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: If a man will not work, he shall not eat.' ... I think that every American, Republican or Democrat, wants to help the neediest among us, and I think it's a reasonable expectation that we have work requirements," Arrington said.
The Post reports that Arrington was responding to an expert witness at the hearing who had referenced the Old Testament to make a case for the importance of feeding the poor.
Arrington seemed to be using the quote to justify what he called the "reasonable" requirement of employment for adult SNAP recipients. But, as Joel Berg, CEO of the non-partisan nonprofit Hunger Free America, explained on Friday, Arrington's comment mischaracterize SNAP recipients.
"The vast majority of people receiving SNAP are children, senior citizens, working parents and people with disabilities," Berg said. And, for the "small minority" of people on SNAP benefits who fall into the category of "able-bodied adults without dependents," there already are work requirements.
Most of those ABAWDs, as they're often called, are "temporarily unemployed," Berg said. But, he noted, it's also possible to be working and still not be able to afford enough food, which is the case for many in the U.S. In fact, according to Hunger Free America's research, in Arrington's home state of Texas, 1.485 million adults were part of the "working hungry": employed but still unable to afford sufficient food.
Imposing harsher work requirements on SNAP recipients would just have the opposite effect than its intention, Berg said. "The more harshly [work requirements] are implemented, the more people go hungry ... if you're hungry, it's going to be harder for you to get and keep a job."