Republican mean-spirited, racist bill guts food stamp program, “taking the food out of mouths of our children, the poor …”

SNAP

Viewpoint

By George Miller

… That’s the impression that one might easily form when reading a  recent press release from our Congresswoman, Julia Brownley (CA CD-26): The program discussed: “would slash nearly $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a program that primarily helps feed children, seniors, the disabled, and our veterans. “ ….“More than 68,000 Ventura County residents rely on SNAP benefits to keep from going hungry,” “Instead of taking the food out of the mouths of our children, individuals with disabilities, our seniors, and our veterans, we need to focus on the work Americans sent us here to do: creating jobs and strengthening our economy.” …  and the words of Harry Reid in an AP article in the Ventura County Star publication- House and Senate face deep divide over food stamps (“The Senate will never pass such hateful, punitive legislation”).

But, even most heartless Conservatives are in favor of emergency food assistance to destitute, starving people, which was the original purpose of the Lyndon Johnson “Great Society” era program. The food stamp program, now known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) has had bipartisan support for decades because of consensus on that very point.

But now, 47+ million people are on SNAP, which has grown geometrically in recent years.  The Obama administration aggressively promotes it and there have been gross abuses reported. We have mostly all read of “food stamps” (actually it works more like a credit card now) being used to buy lobsters, caviar, champagne, treats at gambling casinos and more. There are numerous scams to get benefits for people who aren’t, or at least shouldn’t be, entitled to them. For example, some states automatically grant SNAP benefits to anyone who gets any other entitlement. We read of an example where people were awarded only $1 per year in heating cost supplements in order to make them eligible for food stamps, which is a dishonest attempt to circumvent controls.

Before Food Stamps went electronic (above)

For many years, the annual farm bill has been joined at the hip with SNAP, virtually guaranteeing passage of the latter. With the spiraling program costs, and the major budget problems of recent years, the Republicans separated the two (agricultural subsidies are about $16 billion) in the House this year, allowing much higher visibility and debate on the food stamp program. HR3102 was passed by the House as a stand-alone bill-see: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr3102#summary/oursummary.

The Republican attempt to carve out 5% from program expenses by targeting abuses, deleting  loopholes, reforming the program to eliminate people who should have never been on it and encourage work does not seem like a big stretch- especially in this era of near national bankruptcy, when the Federal Reserve orders the printing presses run 24/7 to create new debt.  It is not at all a $40 billion annual cut (The current annual program budget is $78 billion), as Brownley’s press release slyly insinuates, but a 5% reduction, or $4 billion per year. Actually, it’s only a 5% decrease in the rate of increase. Surely, we can eliminate that much in fraud, waste and abuse?  Technically, the whole program is unconstitutional and should instead be addressed by states, localities and private efforts, but we won’t go there now. HR3102 would leave more for worthy causes, or even, dare we say, to reduce the deficit?

There are broader causes of spiraling food stamp and other entitlement costs. Such programs should only be used as “safety nets” to help people in dire emergency need, not to fund multiple generations of loafers, structurally unemployed or underemployed people. The disintegration of family structures has led to a loss of financial viability of millions of minority families especially, since the advent of the welfare state, which has pushed more people into entitlement programs.  For example, from the 1960’s until now, poor single parent households with children have increased from the 20’s percentile range to 54% of  blacks, 41% of Hispanics and 32% of whites, a major American tragedy which is most closely correlated to the advent of government programs providing disincentives for families to stay together. We could also say that this coincided with the general breakdown in morality during that time leading to further disintegration of families, the core, nearly universal, building block of human society. Finally, economic mismanagement in the “Hope and Change” era has resulted in lower incomes and a lowest percentage of people working – not to be confused with the phony headline “unemployment rate” – since the Great Depression.

Notice how rational, honest attempts to address runaway program abuses are met with the usual Progressive propaganda attacks on the heartless Republican accountant mentality and the last ditch “racism” trump card.


 George Miller is a “retired” operations management consultant and a Citizen Journalist, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

 

 

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