The House of Representatives in September passed, on an almost party-line vote, a bill slashing $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps, Read about it in the New York Times. The vote may have marked a new high, or low, in mean-spirited political gamesmanship.
If this bill survives the Senate, it would eliminate between 4 million and 6 million people from the food stamp program. As Paul Krugman points out in his blog, the SNAP program has gotten bigger in recent years , and that is exactly what you would expect when the economy is weak and unemployment and underemployment are at high levels.
But would cutting the program have much of a budget impact or reduce American’s taxes taxes? Not likely. The program historically amounts to about one-quarter of one percent of our gross domestic product. Slashing benefits won’t have much effect at all on the overall federal budget.
But the reductions would surely directly affect real people, including millions of the working poor, confirms the New York Times. Former Republican Presidential nominee Bob Dole and former senator Tom Daschle summarized their view of prospects going forward, writing in The Los Angeles Times, “The latest proposal from the House is an about-face on our progress fighting hunger. If Congress lets this bill fall victim to the misguided and detrimental partisan politics we face today, the results for families and children challenged with hunger will be severe.”
And it’s not as if the money spent on food just vaporizes into the atmosphere. Payments go to farmers, grocery stores, cashiers, truck drivers and other workers who produce food and bring it to market.
About 48 million Americans rely on food stamps, and almost three-quarters of the participants are families with children. The idea that it makes sense to try and balance the federal budget on their backs is nothing short of appalling.