In the latest round of atrocities committed by conservatives, Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee sent to the House floor a farm bill on Wednesday that offers little food for families while dishing out corporate subsides. In protest, organizational leaders and activist met with elected officials on Capitol Hill to demonstrate opposition to cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).
The proposed $21 billion in cuts to SNAP would cause nearly 2 million low-income Americans—among them people with disabilities, children, seniors and struggling parents— to lose an average of $90 per month. The bill also axes funding for nutrition education and eliminates program performance bonuses.
A new report, set to be released in the “Social Service Review” next month, reveals that in 2011 an estimated 1.65 million families lived on less than $2 a day per person; this figure includes 3.55 million children. How do these individuals survive in America on a Third-World income? The report finds they rely on the social safety nets that caught millions as they were falling because of the recession. This is also the same net that deficit hawks seek to whittle away at. As the wealthiest and most powerful nation, it is downright dirty that we let anyone go hungry and fail to provide for those in need.
Benefits already average less than $1.50 a day for each meal. You try living on that (I have, it’s called the Food Stamp Challenge). Although meager, SNAP is still our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. Rep. Barbara Lee, (D-Calif.) professed that when she was a single mother, food stamps “were a bridge over troubled water while I was struggling.”
Who will feel this funding void? “If divided evenly across Feeding America’s national network of food banks, every food bank would have to provide an additional 4 million meals each year for the next ten years, and that is just not possible,” said Bob Aiken, president and CEO of Feeding America. “There is no way that charity would be able to make up the difference. We are already stretched thin meeting sustained high need, and we simply do not have the resources to prevent hunger in all of the families who would be impacted by these cuts.”
At a time when 50 million individuals are hungry, 17 million being children, “we should be talking about how we improve and expand SNAP,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. His view is not only supported by research, such as that of a recent Institute of Medicine report that finds the program needs to be strengthened, but also by the majority of Americans. Seven in 10 voters say that cutting food stamp funding is the wrong way to approach deficit reduction. The Alan Simpson-Erskine Bowles deficit commission didn’t even recommend cutting SNAP to reduce the deficit. It is also important to note that just this week the CBO said the “deficit disaster” is now solved for the next 10 years.
Yet, Republicans continually ask our most vulnerable to pay while safeguarding corporations and bankers. “The pattern that is happening here is really diabolical.” said the passionate Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. Although she is a representative of the nation’s wealthiest state, one in seven children go to bed hungry in her district.
“If you think this is the right path, you don’t live in the same America I do!” said Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio.
Aside from the moral imperative, the SNAP program helps our economy and is fiscally responsible. In 2011, SNAP lifted nearly 4 million Americans out of poverty, including 1.7 million children and 280,000 seniors. Economist at Moody’s Analytics and the Department of Agriculture estimate that for every $1 spent on SNAP benefits, there is an economic return of $1.73 to $1.79. Inflicting more hunger on our nation worsens health, causing higher health cost that the taxpayer will have to pick up, and reduces our educational outcomes.
Feeding our nation while spurring our economy is a vision we all should be able to agree on. No one wants to live on welfare; people want jobs. Until our government can actually put in place policies that will produce jobs, the least we can do is make the wise investments in programs like SNAP, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to support the economic recovery and future success of financially struggling Americans.