Something to talk about: food stamp benefits cut today

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The political chattering class will spend their day talking about a rumor: was President Obama going to replace Vice President Joe Biden on the ticket with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? A new book out details this rumor in one of its chapters. But this rumor is the worst kind of rumor, a lot like that leftover Halloween candy you’re eating. Your kid’s trick-or-treat candy tastes delicious but fills you up with empty, fattening calories and provides nothing healthy or substantial at all. This rumor-chattering is terrible for the same reasons: it feels fun to talk about, but  it is empty of substance and meaning. Not only was it never going to happen, in actuality it did not happen. So what on earth is the point? 

The political story with real impact can be found at the Florida Department of Children and Families website, contained within a message on their homepage:

Effective November 1, 2013, Food Assistant benefits will decrease due to the ending of SNAP increases from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also known as the Stimulus Plan).

To conservative and Republican readers of this blog, allow me to make a quick plea before you navigate to away to the next SaintPetersBlog story.

The Clinton/Biden swap non-story story affected two people (three, if you count Obama). And it is a story — a rumor — that didn’t even really affect them, because it didn’t happen. 

The cuts in SNAP benefits happening now will impact one in seven Americans

Whether you agree with the need for federal food assistance programs or not, can we at least agree that many, many more Americans will be impacted in some measure by the dramatic cuts in these programs, versus a story about something at the highest levels of politics that didn’t actually happen?

No matter our political affiliation, let us agree: as people with a passion for the political, as candidates, public servants, government staffers, and whether we are Democrats, Republicans, independents, or something else, our first allegiance is to the people of this country. That is what politics is for, that is who we are here to serve, that is why we do what we do.

These are cuts which were built in to the 2008 stimulus bill — but they impact more than just the poor. The non-profit food bank community (including many in the faith-based community who do this good work) are preparing for what promises to be a crush of people in need. And right at the start of the holiday season. 

Reliance on food assistance programs has increased recently. Here in Florida, these cuts are expected to impact one in five of us. 

This is a real-time political story, happening now, today, impacting millions of Americans and Floridians. We might find political differences in how to best serve those in need. But I would hope we could agree that today — and every day — this should be our most important work.