Samantha Bee Slams Lawmakers Who Say Diapers Are Nonessential Items

Nearly one-third of American parents cannot afford the cost of the absorbent undergarments.
Apr 12, 2016·
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

What do beer, cigarettes, dog food, and diapers have in common? They’re all considered nonessential items by the federal government and can’t be purchased using Supplemental Food Assistance Program benefits—commonly known as food stamps. But while families don’t need to smoke, drink, or own a pet to survive, diapers are far from optional for babies and their parents.

“Diapers are like fine whiskey. They’re expensive, and it’s impossible to parent effectively without them,” Samantha Bee joked on Monday night’s episode of Full Frontal With Samantha Bee. In the segment, Bee detailed how gaps in family assistance benefits have forced low-income parents to choose between baby supplies and groceries.

A year’s supply of diapers costs about $1,000, leaving some of the poorest families in America to spend 14 percent of their income on diapers. Roughly 30 percent of moms reported that they were unable to afford the cost of diapers in a 2013 survey published in the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Nearly 10 percent of moms said they attempted to stretch their diaper supply when they were running low, meaning they reused old diapers or didn’t change their children as frequently. Not only does a dirty diaper cause infants to shriek in protest, but sitting in their own excrement can also cause rashes and infections.

“Look, you whiny babies, if you didn’t want to wallow in your own filth like a Dickensian orphan, you shouldn’t have chosen poor parents!” Bee said sarcastically.

President Obama has been pushing for creative solutions to bring diapers to families in need. In March, the White House announced an initiative that pairs diaper companies with tech groups to help lower the cost of diapers by offering bulk packages.

The administration has turned to industry experts in part because Congress has failed to act on diaper programs, Bee explained. Back in November, two Democratic members of Congress introduced a bill that would provide diapers or a diaper subsidy to low-income parents, but it has not yet come to the floor for a vote.

Bee points out that the absence of diaper subsidies can perpetuate poverty. Many day-care centers require parents to bring in their own diapers. That means caregivers might be forced to skip work, given that businesses don’t typically hire baby workers—especially if they’re not wearing diapers.