Friday, October 31, 2014

Oh SNAP: Program slims down

Providing food stamps is not a government responsibility, and cuts will save Americans billions of dollars

Vintage — Food stamps have evolved from traditional paper stamps to electronic banking cards.  Google Images

Vintage — Food stamps have evolved from traditional paper stamps to electronic banking cards. Google Images

November saw a cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps, which will reduce benefits for nearly 47 million Americans, according to a USA Today article by Tom Brook.

Unsurprisingly, people are upset, if the comment sections of news websites are anything to go by.

The plan to cut food stamps by $39 billion during the next decade was approved by the House in a 217-210 vote in September. According to Brook’s article, the only reason benefits have shrunk is that President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill from 2009 is expiring.

The government can provide a measure of assistance for basic needs, I suppose, but that is hardly its main purpose for existing. I believe the government should only be involved when people truly do not have the ability to provide for themselves.

More simply, I think the threshold for SNAP eligibility should be higher. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in order to be qualified for SNAP, a household’s income for a family of three must be at or below $25,400 a year.

I will come right out and say that I have mostly conservative beliefs, so I am a fan of that timeless, heartless conservative practice — slashing budgets.

But William Galston, in his Wall Street Journal article, makes an important point.

“Over the past two decades, the program’s overpayment rate has been cut by more than half to three percent, according to the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service,” Galston wrote. “The large increase in the program’s cost over the past decade mostly reflects worsening economic conditions rather than looser eligibility standards, increased benefits, or more waste, fraud and abuse. As the economy improves over the next decade, the number of beneficiaries will fall sharply.”

There clearly are positive changes with SNAP. But when I am home on break, I work in a grocery store, and I see firsthand how people use food stamps.

I become particularly frustrated when someone pays for a large grocery order with food stamps after I see multiple $20 bills in his or her wallet. This is not a rare occurrence.

Perhaps the individual has a completely legitimate reason for carrying so much cash, but it still raises a red flag in my mind.

Years ago, I knew a man who said when he was younger, he made $300 per year over the limit to be eligible for some sort of welfare. To my horror, the man said he went to his boss to ask for a pay reduction so he could apply for government assistance.

Fortunately, the boss did not comply. However, the story made it clear that people will go to great lengths to receive some sort of welfare.

If there is to be any sort of turnaround for the American economy, something has to be cut. There is simply no way to avoid it. People become caught up in complaining about the small cuts that happen now, and they forget that without those cuts, the future reductions would be even more painful.

I often wonder what would happen if the government ceased funding many of its aid programs. I do not advocate the idea, but it would force people to be wiser and more responsible with finances. Families and individuals would have to turn to different outlets for survival.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a better assistance program. From my experience, I found that it restricts consumers to certain types of food, which are almost always healthy. Also, the value of the WIC check is low and possibly prevents the consumer from overspending.

Granted, WIC only covers children until they are five years old, according to the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) website. But if the methodology behind WIC were applied to SNAP, the resulting program would be quite effective.

“WIC is not an entitlement program, as Congress does not set aside funds to allow every eligible individual to participate in the program,” the FNS website states. “WIC is a Federal grant program for which Congress authorizes a specific amount of funds each year for the program.”

In addition to providing access to healthy food, the program provides nutritional education and referrals to other social services, according to the website.

And what happened to the man I knew who wanted a pay cut? He and his family got along just fine.

4 Comments

  1. How else to keep those precious tax cuts for the wealthy than to slash food stamp programs for the poor? I guess this is what “American Exceptionalism” is all about, huh?

    Comment by Chuck Anziulewicz — December 14, 2013 @ 9:27 am

  2. Though it took to reading down to the last half of the article, Mr. Beaston has hit the nail on the head. The government runs two overlapping programs that provide the same basic purpose (nutrition for low-income individuals and families in some form), WIC and SNAP. What we need to do is eliminate one and reform the other. Specifically, I would eliminate WIC and use its methods to reform SNAP. I’m sick of seeing people who use SNAP to load a cart with top grade steaks, pounds upon pounds of potato chips, and cases upon cases of Coca-Cola.

    Let’s reform SNAP to provide a basic menu of eligible foods set at a specific quantity for each individual/family member served by the program. Since the program is now computerized and works primarily in places with point-of-sale systems that already know which products are and are not eligible (box of Rice Chex, yes; box of hot, prepared chicken dinner, no), why not expand the list? Manufacturers can apply for inclusion by UPC and that list would become a matter of public record.

    I’m not saying Coca-Cola can’t be a part of the program. I’m not even saying to cut the program; this would happen naturally when we reduce the amount of Coca-Cola, Ruffles, and Twinkies one can acquire with a SNAP card.

    Comment by Robert B — December 27, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

  3. I live in Maryland and we have what is called the Independence card. I have one and get 201.00/mo. because I have been out of work for almost a year due to a disability for which, up until the ACA kicked in, I had no medical insurance. I have done the exact same thing as the people you see in the grocery store. Use the card when I have plenty of cash in my wallet. This does not mean that people are using the card frivolously. Yes, some people may but I believe the majority of people are using them because they can barely keep their heads above water using what cash they have to pay their essential bills. I also don’t have a bank account because of certain credit requirements or required minimum balances. Also SNAP as well as Independence both supply all recipients with healthy food suggestions, meal plans based on the amount of $$ received, and even simple recipes based on the meal plans provided. As far as the red flag goes, you sound like Reagan and the “Cadillac Moms”. You want some real budget slashing? How about cutting out the $12,000,000,000 approved to spend on rebuilding a nuclear bomb just because it is slightly outdated? Don’t we already have thousands of these to begin with or is the GOP just anticipating having to drop one of them sometime soon. Try listening to some of the most recent comments from the pope when you approve so heartlessly of cutting an additional 39 billion from what has already been cut. How can so many people claim to cherish Christian values and teachings yet have no compassion for the poor or merely struggling? Kinda went in the other direction from what Jesus taught!

    Comment by Lester — January 3, 2014 @ 10:51 pm

  4. I am a 26 year old college student who also has a full time job. I recently was eligible for food stamps due to just giving birth to my daughter and meeting the income limit qualifications. As soon as I go back to work I will no longer qualify which is fine by me. I believe in government helping those when it is absolutely needed. me bein black I can say this: Too many black people want to live off of the gov or someone else. They think the government owes them 40 acres and a mule. Stop living under Jim Crow laws. Those acres belong to our ancestors . We need to work for what we have. People sell their food stamps to get alcohol and cigarettes and God knows what else. They sit at home all day in front of tv or out on porch being nosey when they could be in school. I think there needs to be extra stipulations to qualify for any government assistance.

    Comment by Mabel — January 13, 2014 @ 1:07 pm

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