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State GOP equates food-stamp recipients, wild animals

When Republicans equate families in poverty and wild animals, it suggests a degree of contempt and personal animosity.
People receive free groceries at a food pantry run by the Food Bank For New York City on Dec. 11, 2013 in New York City.
People receive free groceries at a food pantry run by the Food Bank For New York City on Dec. 11, 2013 in New York City.
On the right, it's not unusual for conservatives to take great offense to accusations that they don't like people in poverty. It's not personal, Republicans argue; their opposition to social-insurance programs is about conservative economic theory and the scope of government. There's no animosity or ill will.
But once in a while, evidence to the contrary rips off the mask. The NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City reported today:

The Oklahoma Republican Party is under fire after a controversial Facebook post. In the post, the Oklahoma GOP compared providing food stamp benefits for Americans in need to feeding animals at national parks.... The post has received more than 1,400 comments and 1,600 shares.

The state Republican Party's message is every bit as offensive as one might think. It began by saying the federal "food stamp program ... is proud to be distributing this year the greatest amount of free Meals and Food Stamps ever."
It added, "Meanwhile, the National Park Service ... asks us "Please Do Not Feed the Animals." Their stated reason for the policy is because "The animals will grow dependent on handouts and will learn to take care of themselves."
The Oklahoma GOP concludes, "Thus ends today's lesson in irony."
Let's unwrap the argument, because it's offensive on more levels than one.
First, the Oklahoma Republican Party believes food-stamp distribution has reached an all-time high. That's factually incorrect. In fact, GOP lawmakers have already successfully cut food aid to the poor.
Second, comparing poverty-stricken families to wild animals suggests that for some Republicans, hostility towards the poor is personal. It is about animosity and ill will. Forget the high-minded explanations about economic theory -- equating the poor and wild animals is evidence of contempt.
And third, that's not what "irony" means.
ThinkProgress noted that the state GOP took down the post, posting a classic non-apology apology in which the Oklahoma Republican Party said it was sorry "to those who were offended" and "for any misconceptions that were created."
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) published a Facebook message of her own, adding that she accepts the state party's explanation "that he was not intentionally disparaging any group of people."
* Update: The original report excerpted above in the third paragraph included incorrect dates and has been replaced.