With their war against gays and lesbians in ruins, Republicans have turned their attention to an old standby: The poor. Gays and lesbians may have rich friends to advocate for them, but who cares about the poor? They are easy targets.

Florida State Rep. Ronda Storms has proposed legislation to expand what people may not buy with food stamps. According to Jennifer LaRue Huget, writer for The Washington Post, the list includes "foods containing trans fats; sweetened beverages, including sodas; sweets, such as Jello, candy, ice cream, pudding, popsicles, muffins, sweet rolls, cakes, cupcakes, pies, cobblers, pastries and doughnuts; and salty snack foods, such as corn-based salty snacks, pretzels, party mix, popcorn and potato chips and other foods of the unhealthful variety."


Federal law prohibits the use food stamps for some of these items, but Storm wants to end desserts for the poor, birthday cakes for their children and popcorn to be consumed during the Republican presidential debates.

Storm also wants to ban the use of food stamps at restaurants. Obviously, she has not heard of half-price burger night at Maggie's or half-price entre night at Rafael's. You can't buy good food cheaper than that.

Storm says that she just wants poor people to make "healthful food choices" with their government subsidies. She has a point. Why the poor insist on eating hot dogs and potato chips instead of a healthy salmon dinner is beyond me.

Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback recently signed legislation forbidding poor people from using state welfare cards on cruise ships. Kansas is land-locked, the cards don't work outside of Kansas and there is no evidence that anyone has ever used the Kansas welfare card on a cruise ship. But the law was passed anyway, according to the law's sponsor, State Sen. Michael O'Donnell, "just for good measure."

In Missouri, where taxes are so low the economy there has produced one of the poorest states in the nation, State Rep. Rick Brattin wants to cut out soft drinks, chips and cookies from the food stamp menu. Brattin also says he is concerned about the diet of the poor people of Missouri and just wants them to focus on nutrition. He says he just can't imagine what food stamp recipients do with all of their money. "I couldn't dream of spending that much money per month" on food, he recently stated. Yes, in the eyes of Republicans, the poor are just swimming in cash.

I understand Brattin's concern. I can't imagine what members of Congress do with all of their government assistance, especially since they work only half the year. Free health care, travel, office space in Washington and in their home state and staff to attend to their every need. I couldn't dream of having all of those services.

Don't you love it when politicians, living the high life on the government, target poor people, mostly children and the elderly, for receiving government food assistance? The hypocrisy coming out of the mouths of politicians is amazing. Congressman Doug Lamalfa, a Republican from California, for example, says we should cut the food stamp program, but maintain the $1.7 million government farm subsidies he receives each year. Congresswomen Kristi Noem wants to cut food stamp subsidies, too, but not the $503,000 her family received in farm subsidies last year. How do these people sleep at night?

Then there's the outright dishonesty. For example, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann repeatedly states in her stump speeches that 70 percent of the cost of the food stamp program goes to pay the federal employees to run the program. The actual cost is just 5 percent.

Forty percent of people receiving food stamps are white, 26 percent are African American and 10 percent are Hispanic. Forty-five percent of recipients are children and 37 percent are retired elderly or individuals with disabilities. One out of four veterans receive help from food stamps or other food aid, such as local food pantries. Luckily, they won't need to take any cruises; they've already been abroad fighting our wars.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at