Ugly day in politics: House Republicans vote for deep cuts in food stamp program

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House Republicans narrowly passed severe cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP — also called “food stamps”. The plan slashes close to $40 billion in funding for SNAP and related programs over the course of the next decade, shifting much of the costs of the federal program to states.

Politically, this is being hailed as a “victory” for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. This is the fruition of his strategy, hatched this summer, effectively split the farm bill into two parts: one to consider SNAP funding, and one to authorize crop subsidies.

“Frankly, it’s wrong for hardworking, middle-class Americans to pay for that,” Cantor said. His rank-and-file backed him up. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), said “you can no longer sit on your couch . . . and expect the federal taxpayer to feed you.”

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, (R-IN) was quoted in the New York Times saying without a trace of irony, “In the real world, we measure success by results. It’s time for Washington to measure success by how many families are lifted out of poverty and helped back on their feet, not by how much Washington bureaucrats spend year after year.”

At this juncture, I would like to respectfully interrupt this blog post, and interject a few facts.  

There are 78 million Americans — nearly a quarter of the population — who live in what’s called a food-insecure household. Food security means access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.

Hunger costs our nation $167.5 billion every year. That’s not food stamps — in fact, it specifically excludes SNAP. It is lost economic productivity, expensive public education and poor education outcomes, avoidable health care costs, and the cost of charity to keep families fed. 

76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits.

SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130% of the federal poverty guideline, but the majority of households have income well below the maximum: 83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013), and these households receive about 91% of all benefits. 61% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 75% of the poverty guideline ($14,648 for a family of 3 in 2013).

The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744 — significantly less than, say, a United States Congressman. They average a net monthly income of $338 after the standard deduction and, for certain households, deductions for child care, medical expenses, and shelter costs; and countable resources of $331, such as a bank account.

Here in Florida, by the way, about 1.5 million people participated in SNAP in 2008. Nearly 2 million in 2009. It was more than 2.5 million in 2010. Just over 3 million in 2011. 2012? Nearly 3.5 million people. 

And if you’re wondering about those famous SNAP rip-off artists, well, the error rate in Florida was .87%. Not eighty-seven percent, point eight-seven. Over-payments were even less than that.

76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person, and the error rate in most every state is well below one percent. 

“…it’s wrong for hardworking, middle-class Americans to pay for that”? 

“…can no longer sit on your couch . . . and expect the federal taxpayer to feed you”?

This is your modern Republican Party: crippling programs that feed the disabled, the elderly, the disabled, and calling it victory. 

It is an ugly day in American politics.