published Sunday, March 27th, 2011

DesJarlais vows cuts despite numbers

by Chris Carroll
  • Video: DesJarlais hears citizens concerns
    After a tour of the Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City, Tenn., U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., spoke with area citizens about their concerns over President Barack Obama's health care reform law.

More than one-quarter of Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District depends on the government for groceries, but its congressman said he’s likely to slash the federal program that provides them.

“Folks on any entitlement programs, we’re going to have to take a look at it,” said U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Republican physician who lives in South Pittsburg, Tenn. “If it hurts me politically, then I guess it hurts me politically.”

Throughout a 20-minute interview in Tracy City, Tenn., last week, DesJarlais denied having worries about the next election 19 months away, claiming voters sent him to Washington to “get government out of our lives.”

Records show more residents in the 4th District are registered for food stamps than voted for DesJarlais when he ousted four-term Democratic congressman Lincoln Davis in November.

  • photo
    U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, left, shakes Stella Wilson's hand Wednesday at the Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City, Tenn. The Republican 4th District congressman met and spoke with some of his constituents. Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press

In February, more than 150,000 4th District residents were signed up for food stamps, according to records from the state Department of Human Services. DesJarlais received 103,969 votes in the general election.

DesJarlais’ district is Tennessee’s largest geographically, sweeping across 24 mostly rural counties from Southeast Tennessee to a point south of Nashville. Three of its counties are among the state’s 10 worst for unemployment, including Scott County at 23.2 percent.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said the numbers indicate a “contradiction of who DesJarlais is and the constituency he represents.”

“Republicans talk about government as this monster strangling the American economy,” Forrester said. “Now you have a congressman who’s talking about stripping basic things people in his district need to survive.”

Despite his district’s economic makeup, DesJarlais has identified with a conservative bloc of young, tea party-backed legislators intent on cutting back entitlement programs — Social Security and Medicare among them.

“How much does he really know about his district?” asked Vanderbilt political science professor Bruce Oppenheimer. “You get one group of people who get you elected, but there’s another part of your constituency that maybe didn’t vote for you. And you may have to worry about them in the long run.”

But the congressman said his votes fall in line with a clear message sent by people back home. He acknowledged the poverty in the 4th District, but he’s ready to trim programs that are “very personal to people” for “the good of the whole.”

“Whether the people judge me in a poor light politically because of what I don’t do for the district will be up to them,” he said.

During the campaign season, DesJarlais touted a tea party endorsement and Sarah Palin’s political action committee donated $5,000 to his campaign, finance records show. Last August, he told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he “won’t be hamstrung by the Democrats or the Republicans.”

Through 193 House floor votes since he arrived in Congress, DesJarlais has voted with Republicans 98 percent of the time, according to records maintained by the Washington Post.

“I don’t feel I’ve compromised my conservative principles at all to this point,” he said.

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bpqd said...

This man's office was bought off for another million dollars in a last-ditch attempt by conservatives to spend money on people who would reward their initiatives with votes.

Desjarlais did not hesitate to beg his community for money on his campaign, when he already had large sums flowing in after "Citizen's United" decision. Now, he's returning the favor by cutting off their food when people are desperate.

Greed, payoffs and starvation: Republican family values.

March 27, 2011 at 8:35 a.m.
coachchia said...

Since I live in one of those counties in Dr. DesJarlais' district, I have a first hand view of this topic. There are numerous individuals living here just waiting for another handout. They live off of a "crazy check" and food stamps. Many are in much better health than I and will not get a job (even when they are plentiful). I don't believe cutting is the answer but purging and reviewing those getting the handouts should occur. Watch the next time you go to the grocery in one of these areas. Observe the items in the cart of persons using foodstamps. Many, not all, will have all name brand items, junk food, cokes galore, and the best cuts of meats.

Not all abuse the system and their needs should be met, but there are many taking a free handout, draining our tax dollors, and teaching their children to do the same, thus creating an never ending cycle.

March 27, 2011 at 10:47 a.m.
sangaree said...

@coachchia, I'm just curious. How can you or anyone tell whether someone is using "food stamps" or simply a debit or credit card since paper food stamps were done away with ions ago? I honestly can't tell the difference. I'd think you'd have to be standing and breathing down an individual's back at the checkout line. And even then it would be difficult to tell.

Does anyone realize how many jobs, many in corporate America, will be lost if these social programs are cut or done away with altogether? I worked with clients needing help for many years before retiring. Most all my clients did have full time jobs. Many worked full time plus partime jobs, but still lived before the poverty line. That's why they qualified for help. Many of our military persons qualify for foodstamps because their pay is based on their rank.

Do you realize one of the greater benefactors of the foodstamp program is actually a big company in corporate America that makes millions from producing those foodstamp debit cards?

Don't look down your nose at those people your checking out in the checkout line. You could very well become one of them yourself at some point and time. All it takes is a job loss, illness, divorce, being in the military with a low rank and family to feed.

Remember, in California there are once millionaires sleeping in tents and living out of their cars. They once lived in multi-million dollar mansions. Drove the best of cars and wore the most expensive attire. If it can happen to them it can also happen to you, me or anyone.

March 27, 2011 at 5:20 p.m.
coachchia said...

Sangaree I love the assumption I am looking over someone's shoulder. I do, however, know individuals in the grocery business and have that pipeline as information. As for cutting the programs completely, I did not say that. There are many that need this program. As for my comment about many abuses, I stand by that. Having been and teacher and coach for 25 years, I have witnessed many instances where people know nothing more than wanting a handout. They have grown up with their hand extended and feel it is their right to do so. It has even gone to the point where students refuse to bring pencils and paper to class and provide the comment, "I'm free and reduced" (this means the student is on free and reduced lunch). When a student is f/r, the school is not allowed to charge the for field trips, school activities, etc... These students grow up hearing this and know nothing more. I realize there are people not working the system but there many who are! If those are purged, major monies will be saved!

April 26, 2011 at 6:30 p.m.
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