The Congress is considering a Farm Bill right now that could cut $20 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which is also known as Food Stamps. It is part of the social safety net where the government provides some help for people to buy food when they are poor or have low income. The reason for the cuts is the same tired false assumptions Republicans make about poor people. Many in the GOP claim that Food Stamps make people dependent on the government, the program is being abused, or worse that charity will cover the need. Like all GOP claims, their attack on food assistance is full of crap.
REP. STEVE KING (R-IA): Handing out benefits is not an economic stimulator. But we wanna take care of the people that are needy, the people that’re hungry, and we’ve watched this program grow from a number that I think I first memorized when I arrived here in Congress, about 19 million people, now about 49 million people. And it appears to me that the goal of this administration is to expand the rolls of people that’re on SNAP benefits. And their purpose for doing so in part is because of what the gentleman has said from Massachusetts. Another purpose for that though is just to simply expand the dependency class.
But the reality for SNAP recipients is far from King’s image of a “dependency class.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains that “only 4 percent that worked in the year before starting to receive SNAP did not work in the following year,” and adds that the raw total of recipients who work while enrolled in the program has tripled since 2000.
The think tank also notes that SNAP’s role as an unusually efficient stimulative multiplier is backed by Moody’s Analytics and the Congressional Budget Office.
Furthermore, the program keeps hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Americans out of the deepest pits of poverty, and even as the Great Recession swelled SNAP rolls, the program continued to push its erroneous payments rates to record lows
Rep. King’s remarks are typical from the Republicans who ignore the facts. Some, like Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN), will try to use the Bible to justify cutting food assistance:
Stephen Fincher, a deranged Republican congressman from Tennessee, is very angry that the federal government is committed to preventing poor people from starving to death:
Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, who supports cuts to the program, had his own Bible verse from the Book of Thessalonians to quote back to Vargas: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” he said.
The program in question is SNAP, better known as food stamps. Fincher and his ultra-right-wing friends in the House are furious about the fact that the worst economic crisis in 80 years has resulted in more Americans needing food stamps. The whole point of programs like SNAP and other automatic stabilizers, of course, is that they kick in when the economy is struggling and people need help. Fincher is shocked and horrified by this heinous policy of ensuring that poor people and their children don’t starve. Food is to be earned! Sure, this is the richest country in the history in the world, but if we provide our citizens with food to eat, then freedom is obviously dead.
He fulminates about people who are allegedly “unwilling to work” sucking off the government teat with impunity. This is a patently dishonest representation of the SNAP program. Most people who receive food stamps cannot be dismissed as losers who are “unwilling to work.” Nearly half (47%) of all food stamp recipients are children. Another 8% are 60 years of age or older. The “working poor” – people who live in a household with income from work – represent another 41%. Between children, the elderly, the working poor, and people who want a job but cannot find one – someone should tell Fincher that there are still more than 3 unemployed job seekers for every 1 opening – that leaves very few people who can be accurately described as being “unwilling” to work. It’s also worth noting that the average monthly SNAP benefit is a whopping $287. It takes a deeply disturbed person to crusade against providing this class of people with food to eat, when the economy is this battered, and when the broad economic benefits of the program have been so well established (at least in the reality-based community).
Also note, Fincher and his family receive millions in crop subsidies which is kind of like getting food stamps.
Some Democrats trying to stop the cuts spent a week on food stamps to highlight the issue:
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) detailed her grocery plans in a Wednesday blog post:
“This morning, I went shopping for the week on the SNAP budget. Getting your budget down to $4.50 a day is complicated. You need to try to make sure you have enough protein, limit your sodium, and find good vegetables. If you have special dietary needs, like diabetes or an allergy, there’s even more to think about.”
“What I’m thinking about most during this trip is that I’m shopping only for myself.”
“When I was a young, single mother, I was on public assistance. It was a bridge over troubled water, and without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I spent hours debating what to buy and what to skip, all the while keeping my sons in my mind. I could go without breakfast; my sons couldn’t. I went through the grocery store today thinking about what I wanted, not what my sons would eat, but that wasn’t always the case. I would have bought ground beef and white bread for them, not yams, and certainly not tuna.”
Rep. Lee’s experience is close to typical for someone on food stamps:
Jaquez, a single mother of three who is studying to be a home health aide, receives, $668 per month in food stamps through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, to make ends meet. It’s not enough.
On Tuesday, Jaquez ran out of milk. For many that would mean a quick trip to the corner store. For Jaquez, it’s an obstacle course of finding money, keeping the kids safe and weighing how long she can go without.
Her situation is not unique. Researchers say having no wiggle-room in one’s budget can be disastrous if something unexpected arises, like an increase in a utility bill.
“A rich person who fails to plan, or who plans poorly, may simply cut back on frivolous expenditures,” states the research paper ‘Savings Policy and Decision-making in Low-Income Households,’ published by Financial Access Initiative. “The lack of slack makes the poor walk a planning tightrope: they must, in effect, be super-planners in less conducive and less helpful surroundings, lest they slip deeper into poverty.”
For Jaquez, there’s a Pathmark on Bergen Street in Newark, about five blocks from where she lives, but she shops at Extra Supermarket, a little more than a mile from her apartment, because, she says, it offers the better bargains. Sometimes she catches a ride there, but usually she walks.
I also need to point out that food stamps are supplemental that means you also have to contribute cash to your food costs. I have a friend on disability who is single with no children who gets only $57 a month. That works out to an average of less than $2 a day. His monthly food bill after SNAP comes to about $100 and that is even eating only two meals a day, no junk food, and rarely if ever eating out. His disability pay barely covers his housing and utilities leaving little cash for food. Some months end with only spaghetti or soup for all his meals.
Republicans and other people who only see the cost of SNAP and think it is too much claim that food banks and pantries will take up the slack – you know like they did during the Great Depression. Think again.
The deep cuts proposed for SNAP will greatly compound the hardships facing both households that lack the means for adequate food and the support structure of foodbanks, pantries and soup kitchens already stretched to the limit. The House bill is exceptionally harsh. It would cut roughly $40 billion in farm spending over the next 10 years. More than half of the cuts, $20.5 billion, would come out of SNAP. By comparison, the Senate bill would cut the program by $4.1 billion.
The House bill does include modest increases in funding for foodbanks and community food projects. Still, an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concludes nearly 2 million people would lose SNAP benefits due to the House cuts. About 210,000 children who qualify for free school meals because of their families’ SNAP eligibility also would lose the benefit.
I get that we need to prevent abuse or fraud in the program but to cut food assistance from those who have so little to begin with is just cold. Anyone who votes for or supports such drastic cuts that will affect millions of families don’t deserve to be in Congress or even citizens. Taking food out of the mouths of children is almost as low as molesting them.