Nancy Trussell of Roanoke wrote in the August 24 Roanoke Times about a frustrating meeting that she and other representatives from the Bread for the World charity held with Congressman Goodlatte at his Washington office in June.
We discussed upcoming legislation that will affect the S.N.A.P (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) as well as the Medicaid expansion provision of the ACA. We told Mr. Goodlatte that 90 percent of S.N.A.P. participants are on it for 10 months or less. This, of course, is not news to him and it really didn’t interest him. Mr. Goodlatte gave our group an earful about the inadequacies and abuses of what I would call a “safety net”. Nor was he interested in our belief that food insecurity leads to health issues that, in fact, cost the U.S. far more than the cost of making sure families in the U.S. have food. We reminded him that 1 in 7 children in Virginia live in poverty and that 14.4 percent of Va. children are food insecure.
When asked what he thought about Virginia’s minimum wage, he explained that Roanoke is an inexpensive place to live and gave us all the impression that he thinks this is a fair living wage. (I’d LOVE to have him try to live on that – if only for a week!).
Mr. Goodlatte listened politely, I commend him for that. But to each fact we presented, he stressed that balancing the national budget is his primary concern. He was unmoved by anything we said about hunger or the families that are suffering here in Roanoke.
(Although Goodlatte routinely introduces balanced budget amendments in Congress, his budget-busting votes during the George W. Bush administration prove that his commitment to balancing the federal budget is, shall we say, flexible.)
Goodlatte has refused to criticize President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal, which would make huge cuts to S.N.A.P., which helps feed more than 31,000 households in the Sixth District, the majority of them with children under 18.
I finally lost my temper. I was sitting in his glass tower (yes, he does have a lovely office with fabulous view of the Capitol) but symbolically and literally, he is out of touch with Roanoke and its citizens. I explained that he needs to come back to Roanoke and visit Hurt Park Elementary School on a Friday morning to watch the Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church hunger team pack weekend snack packs while the children looking eagerly at the food and his response was, “What do YOU think I should cut instead?”
It’s hard to imagine a more insensitive and out-of-touch remark. Does Goodlatte believe a program which saves tens of thousands of his constituents (many of them low-wage workers and their children) from going hungry is one of the least essential? Apparently he places a higher priority on funding President Trump’s ridiculous and hugely expensive plan to build a wall along the Mexican border.
When asked to speak to the Bread for the World attendees about my visit with Mr. Goodlatte, I explained that my representative doesn’t care about his constituents and that he must not be re-elected. No one in this great country (already great) should ever be hungry. Not here in Roanoke, that’s for sure.