Oh SNAP: Program slims down
Providing food stamps is not a government responsibility, and cuts will save Americans billions of dollars
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.