Mayor Cory Booker (D) of Newark, New Jersey, has recently made headlines with his highly anticipated food stamp challenge. The challenge required him to limit his grocery budget to $4.32 a day, for an entire week — the average amount allotted to participants on New Jersey's food stamp program, SNAP.
Although it could have been a truly honorable gesture, one that every politician could have taken a lesson from, Booker failed to rise to the occasion. Not only did he neglect to acknowledge valuable lessons of perseverance and success, but also he grossly overstated the circumstances in which he was subjected to — ultimately tainting the intended message and bringing about controversy.
Like most in the political world, I was first introduced to Cory Booker through his documentary, Street Fight, which chronicled his first attempt at running for Mayor of Newark.
Booker, over the past year or so, had gained mass notoriety for going above and beyond his duties as mayor and aiding some citizens who were in urgent need. He first saved one of his neighbors from a house fire back in the spring, followed by helping a pedestrian who had been hit by a car, back in June. He even lent a helping hand to some people who were involved in a car accident this week, right in the middle of his challenge.
Then, of course, there was that hilarious video of Booker and Governor Chris Christie, (R) New Jersey, where Booker arrives at emergency situations just seconds before Christie, ultimately stealing Christie's thunder. The video not only showed that Booker has no problem befriending "the enemy," but displayed that he has a sense of humor as well — two traits that most politicians lack.
So, despite my dissent of Booker's worldly views, he gets my respect — on account that he chooses to lead with deeds rather than words. Plus, he stood up to the Obama campaign when he called their attacks on Romney's tenure at Bain Capital "nauseating" (#Winning).
Which brings me to the, "I don't want to be a jerk, but I'm going to be," moment. Booker's recent food stamp challenge was a total farce and will, most likely, serve as his final stepping-stone before he announces his run for governor.
First off, either Booker doesn't understand how the SNAP program works or he's pushing an agenda. I'm going with the latter, being that Booker described his participation in the challenge as a "movement towards food justice." Also, assuming that Booker possesses at least a 5th grade vocabulary, he should understand the definition of "supplemental" — the first word in the SNAP acronym. Meaning that the program is used as a means of filling a void in coverage, not to serve as the sole provider of coverage — and by Booker only living off of $4.32, he falsifies the reality of the program and its intent.
SNAP's website clearly displays the income qualifications that individuals and families must meet in order to receive benefits. For example, SNAP allows a family of four to have a gross monthly income of up to $2,498 and still receive benefits. So, unlike some other government programs, you're not required to be dirt poor in order to qualify for benefits.
Recipients of SNAP are not only allowed to work, but they're expected to. SNAP outlines that, with some exceptions, able-bodied adults are "required to register for work and accept suitable employment" — and — "failure to comply with these requirements can result in disqualification from the program." Basically, unless self-executed, the idea of someone solely living off of $4.32 a day while on SNAP is a misrepresentation at best.
Booker also missed an important and much needed opportunity to offer people the hope and motivation they need to succeed. Booker, a wildly successful individual, who exemplifies perseverance, should have promoted that theme — instead of using this as a vehicle for expanding government programs. He possessed the power to re-instill faith in the America dream and could have inspired people to rise above their current state of discontent. What he did, however, was convey a theme that reeked of class warfare, riddled with an "us versus them" mentality.
But, I guess I can cut Booker a small break. I mean, the challenge did put him up against “caffeine withdrawal” — oh, the humanity!
Booker, without question, had the chance to inspire the world down and out. On the contrary, however, he used this opportunity to tout the social justice agenda. A move that, I'm sure made up for his little outburst directed towards the Obama campaign. Worse yet, Booker couldn't even be honest about the circumstances in which he was trying to publicize.
Honest conversation produces honest results and when one’s agenda clouds the truth, everyone loses. It's not necessarily what you believe Mr. Booker; it's how you portray your beliefs — plain and simple.