J.J. Goldberg

Wacky Laws: No Food Stamps for Strikers, No 'Streams' in Judaism

By J.J. Goldberg

The liberal blogosphere is all worked up about a budget bill proposed by the Study Group, made up of conservative Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, that appears to deny food stamps to any family with a single adult member who goes on strike. The draconian measure was first brought to light by ThinkProgress.com (here) and has since gotten blog play at AFLCIO.org (here), InTheseTimes.com (here) and Salon.com here, as well as the Chicago Sun-Times, (here), the MSNBC “Ed Show” and even in a New York Times editorial.

The trouble is, it’s apparently not true. The sponsors told CBS News that the bill does not cut off families from food stamps when a member goes on strike—it merely prevents strikers from applying for food stamps to make up for lost income that results from a strike.

The confusion is sort of understandable, since the language of the measure states unambiguously that “no member of any family shall participate in the food stamp program at any time that any able-bodied eligible adult member of such household is on strike.” It goes on to say that families that were eligible immediately before the strike do not lose their eligibility as a result of a strike. But that “at any time” language makes it sound like families are going to be cut off, and the nuance of continued eligibility—which basically means that no family on food stamps will be cut off as a result of a strike—is lost on most of the reporters, including the Times editorialist.

The original March 23 ThinkProgress.com blog post on the bill has an update (undated, which is ironic since “date” is part of its name) reporting that, “Believe it or not,” the anti-strike language “is actually part of a 1981 Reagan era law.”

Speaking of wacky legislation, Israel’s religious affairs minister, Yaakov Margi of Shas, wants to introduce legislation in the Knesset stipulating that “there are no streams in Judaism, only one that has been passed down to us from generation to generation,” namely Orthodoxy. The Jerusalem Post reports that Margi’s legislation would also make Israel’s Chief Rabbinate “the supreme rabbinical institution in Israel and the world.” The Masorti movement of Conservative Judaism and the Jewish Agency for Israel are fighting the bill, according to another Post report.

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