Cutting Food Stamps? Really?

On top of cuts programmed for November, Congressional Republicans want to cut food stamp funding by another $40 billion.

You have got to be kidding me.

Anyone who actually knows how the food stamps program (known as SNAP = Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) works would know that it makes complete moral and economic sense. Let’s get the facts straight:

  • Food stamps are for the purchase of food ONLY. No household goods. No alcohol. No cigarettes. No gas.
  • Food stamps are a great economic boost: their funds are put immediately back into the economy and every dollar of food stamps generates $1.70 in economic activity. Show me what other stimulus program has that kind of return.
  • The average monthly benefit for food stamp households in 2012 was $133.41. House Republicans (who are leading the charge to cut $40 billion in food stamps from the Farm Bill) want to nickel and dime hungry Americans. Should we start comparisons with the monthly benefit level of your tax cuts for the 1%?
  • Fraud is not a problem. Republicans love to tout that their aim is simply to eliminate fraud, which wastes taxpayers’ money. First of all, the fear of fraud (and thus justification for wiping out the program) is completely disproportional to the actual levels of fraud. The data is clear and consistent that fraud is an incredibly small problem, particularly since food stamps became issued through debit card-like Electronic Benefit (EBT) cards. And again – this is for FOOD. People can’t buy drugs with this money. They can’t buy cars. They can’t buy anything except food. Why are we so concerned about making it hard for low-income Americans to have access to food?
  • I used to work at a food bank and for anyone who actually deals with America’s hungry, you have a very clear picture that the vast majority of people who are on food stamps are working individuals and families. They are people with disabilities. They are college students who are paying their way through school. They are senior citizens on fixed incomes. They are families who lost jobs in the recession and have not been able to find full-time work since. It’s very easy to take one example and extrapolate, making it sound like food stamps are turning Americans into dependents of a bloated welfare state. But this is not only completely removed from the truth, it’s also just insane to be so viciously opposed to helping Americans put food on the table. Many low-income households regularly have to make awful choices between paying for heat and paying for gas, paying for medication and paying for rent, paying for tuition and paying for food, just like Amber, who is going to school to become a dietician, is working and has a five-year old daughter. Without food stamps, she could not continue to go to school to give her and her daughter a better life. The dollars just don’t add up. Why are we so eager to make the choices of the poor that much harder? Why do we not recognize that a fueled body is the first step to someone being able to contribute to society, to be able to study or work effectively? You try going four hours without eating and see how cranky you get; imagine going without food every day. Imagine having to determine your food budget for every meal, worried that there might not be enough left at the end of the day, end of the week, end of the month. If we want people to contribute to society, we have got to empower them first. In a perfect world, everyone could get a job and support themselves. Last time I checked, our world wasn’t like that. That is what a social safety net is for and food stamps are an absolutely essential component of that.

So, if anything I’ve said has moved you on this issue, please call your representatives in the House of Representatives and urge them to vote against the Farm Bill proposal to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program.

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