For the last couple of months, after seeing lots TV news stories wailing about Food Stamp fraud, I’ve been paying some attention to what appears to be a coordinated assault on what’s left of the American social safety net, and particulary Food Stamps, by both elements of the corporate media and rightwing politicians. For example, there’s this Daniel Halper piece in the Weekly Standard:
After a Scary Graph put together by Senate Republican staffers, Halperin quotes Senator Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee:
The best example of our broken welfare state may be SNAP, or the food stamp program: food stamp spending has increased every single year since 2000, even when the economy is improving. 1 in 6 Americans are now on food stamps and the USDA has an aggressive campaign to enroll millions more - whether they need the benefit or not.
Whether they need the benefit or not? I know quite a few people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(SNAP), fka Food Stamps. I know that neither their incomes nor their SNAP benefits have increased, but the purchasing power of SNAP has been steadily eroded by rising food prices over the last couple of years. Most SNAP recipients also work for a living, many of them are employed full time but still qualify for the program because their wages are so low that they truly couldn’t feed their families every day without some help.
I’d say they need the benefit. The Department of Agriculture, and local SNAP offices, have been trying to get the word out to people that if they qualify they should apply, that there is no shame in applying, and that they should apply before their kids go hungry for several days. Apparently, there are many who think this is a Bad Thing that discourages people from getting off of their lazy asses and going to work for whatever Corporate America deigns to pay them.
A good example is this Wall Street Journal editorial from the American Enterprise Institute:
This bit particulary struck me:
Why are Americans working less? While there are a number of factors, the phenomenon is due mainly to a variety of public policies that have reduced the incentives to be employed. These policies include:
• Food stamps. Above all else, people work to eat. If the government provides food, then the imperative to work is severely reduced. Since the food-stamp program’s beginning in the 1960s, it has grown considerably, but especially so in the 21st century: There are over 30 million more Americans receiving food stamps today than in 2000.
The sharp rise in food-stamp beneficiaries predated the financial crisis of 2008: From 2000 to 2007, the number of beneficiaries rose from 17.1 million to 26.3 million, according to the Department of Agriculture. That number has leaped to 47.5 million in October 2012. The average benefit per person jumped in 2009 from $102 to $125 per month.
Compare 2010 with October 2012, the last month for which food-stamp data have been reported. The unemployment rate fell to 7.8% from 9.6%, and real GDP was rising steadily if not vigorously. Food-stamp usage should have peaked and probably even begun to decline. Yet the number of recipients rose by 7,223,000. In a period of falling unemployment and rising output, the number of food-stamp recipients grew nearly 10,000 a day. Congress should find out why.
Wow! People are unemployed because they have incentive to be out of work! If only that socialist Obama hadn’t increased SNAP benefits from an average of $102 to $125 per month per person! Take that away, and those lazy takers will have to get jobs! That’ll teach ‘em!
Never mind that most SNAP beneficiaries are children, often living with single parents, who aren’t part of the labor force anyway. I suppose the Wall Street Journal thinks those kids should be forced to go to work for the good of their characters, too.
It’s true that part of Obama’s woefully insufficient stimulus increased SNAP, benefits, but that increase will be completely phased out before the end of this year, as this article from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities illustrates:
So even Obama thinks that an average SNAP benefit of $125 per person per month is too generous or too unaffordable. I urge the reader to answer this question:
Suppose you’re in a family of three,one adult and two children. Suppose the adult is working as, say, a cashier at Wal-Mart making $8 per hour 35 hours a week on average. That’s $1213 a month gross. Suppose the family’s on SNAP, so they’re getting about $375 a month for food. Suppose the kids are teenagers. Can you feed the family on that much?
If you pay attention to the prices in grocery stores, you know damned well you can’t. And later this year the SNAP benefit’s going to drop by about $70 a month? Surely Wal-Mart will give their hard-working employee a raise. Yeah, right.
There will be a lot of Congressional pressure during the next round of “debt ceiling” battles to cut the SNAP program even more, all for poor people’s own good, of course. So who will fight for Food Stamps?
I know SNAP recipients can’t count on Obama and the Democrats to help them because it’s the right thing to do; their track record proves that. They can’t even count on a conservative government that wants to maintain social stability on the old Roman principle of “bread and circuses.”
I find that disgusting and stupid, respectively.
Who can SNAP people count on? Oddly enough, Big Agra and Wal-Mart and the other corporate grocery store chains, which would take a direct hit in their bottom lines if SNAP benefits are reduced.
I find that sad.