House GOP strikes blow for inequality; Barr calls food aid cuts 'compassionate'

House Republicans are right to be outraged that 14 percent of American households are on food stamps, but they're outraged for the wrong reason.

The plight of so many Americans — including the 1 in 5 Kentuckians who depend on food stamps — stems from the worst economic inequality on record.

Low-wage workers can't live on what they're paid, middle class workers are being pushed into poverty, while ever more wealth is shoveled to a highly affluent few. More than half of the nation's total income went to the top 10 percent of earners in 2012, the largest proportion since the government started collecting such data in 1917.

We should all be outraged.

Yet, the five House Republicans who represent Kentucky, one of the poorest states, appear bent on tipping the scales even further against those who struggle.

On Thursday, Kentucky's GOP delegation was on the winning side of a 217-210 vote to cut off aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to 3.8 million people over the next year.

The 88,000 Kentuckians whom Reps. Andy Barr, Hal Rogers, Thomas Massie, Brett Guthrie and Ed Whitfield would immediately kick off food assistance make an average of $2,500 a year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Barr, Rogers, et al. would have us believe these malingerers are shunning gainful employment to rake in $1.42 a meal in food-stamp benefits.

Parrotting the hard-core GOP line, Barr, R-Lexington, said "this legislation is the most compassionate policy because it encourages people who are capable of work to move from dependency to self-sufficiency."

Maybe it seems like compassion if the closest you've ever been to economic insecurity is misplacing your credit card. Plus, Barr and the GOP have the comfort of knowing the Senate won't approve the drastic cuts and, if it did, the president would veto them.

Still, it's stunning that Kentucky Republicans could be so out of touch, even on a symbolic vote.

The country has yet to pull out of the economic crash that reckless business practices brought on in 2008. There are three job seekers for every job. Kentucky's unemployment rate of 8.4 percent is more than a percentage point higher than the national average of 7.3. More than 1 in 4 Kentucky children live in poverty, according to Census data released last week.

The GOP attempt to frame their food-stamp cuts as a "work requirement" is bogus: The legislation has no job provisions, cuts funding for job training and provides no waivers to residents of high-jobless areas, such as Eastern Kentucky, where 6,000 coal miners have been laid off and a third of the households receive food stamps.

The measure would cut off aid to parents who can't find work and 170,000 veterans, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

It's hard to view this as anything but just plain mean.

Then, on Friday, as if to prove their meanness wasn't a one-time fluke, the Kentucky Republicans voted to deny 600,000 Kentuckians the chance to have health insurance and receive preventive medical care. The House approved shutting down the government unless the plug is pulled on the Affordable Care Act before its main provisions take effect in three months.

Everyone should be outraged.