Half of Food Stamp Recipients Are Children
Last night, House Republicans passed a bill that cuts $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps, one of the few safety nets available to the 47 million Americans living below the poverty line.
Nevertheless, a majority of our elected representatives seem to view food as a luxury that the poor are unworthy of, which is stunning considering that nearly half of food stamp recipients are children and another 26 percent are adults living with children.
On top of that, over a quarter of SNAP recipients live in households with seniors or people with disabilities.
It’s unbelievable that in the so-called richest nation on earth, where over 16 million children are living in food insecure households, one of the first things on the GOP chopping block is food aid.
The “Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act”, if passed by the Senate, would deny food assistance to 3.8 million low-income Americans in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
According to the Center on Budget Priorities (CBPP), the bill would increase hunger for the following people:
- 1.7 million unemployed, childless adults in 2014 who live in areas of high unemployment — a group that has average income of only 22 percent of the poverty line (about $2,500 a year for a single individual) and for whom SNAP is, in most cases, the only government assistance they receive (this number will average 1 million a year over the coming decade);
- 2.1 million people in 2014, mostly low-income working families and low-income seniors, who have gross incomes or assets modestly above the federal SNAP limits but disposable income — the income that a family actually has available to spend on food and other needs — below the poverty line in most cases often because of high rent or child care costs. (This number will average 1.8 million a year over the coming decade.) In addition, 210,000 children in these families would also lose free school meals;
- Other poor, unemployed parents who want to work but cannot find a job or an opening in a training program — along with their children, other than infants.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the architect of this latest GOP victory, argues that the cuts are necessary because their are too many people “that choose to abuse the system.”
“Frankly it’s wrong for hard-working middle-class Americans to pay for that,” says Cantor.
Economists consider SNAP one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus. Moody’s Analytics estimates that in a weak economy, every dollar increase in SNAP benefits generates about $1.70 in economic activity. Similarly, CBO rated an increase in SNAP benefits as one of the two most cost-effective of all spending and tax options it examined for boosting growth and jobs in a weak economy.
Furthermore, the CBPP notes that “SNAP has one of the most rigorous payment error measurement systems of any public benefit program,” and “Only 1 percent, or $1 in every $100 of SNAP benefits, is trafficked.” So the argument that cuts are necessary to prevent abuse of the program is bullshit at best.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), who praised the bill’s tough work requirements for SNAP applicants, remarked, “you can no longer sit on your couch…and expect the federal taxpayer to feed you.”
Someone should tell Huelskamp that there are currently three unemployed Americans for every one job opening and that the overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients who are able to work are employed, but the wages are so low, they still require food assistance to survive.
If Huelskamp and his Republican ilk are so invested in reducing reliance on food assistance, perhaps they should focus their energy on raising the minimum wage, a move that would surely lower the need for SNAP. But when the House had the opportunity to raise the minimum wage in March, the GOP majority unanimously voted it down. Some in the GOP have even floated the idea of eliminating the minimum wage all together.
I suppose this is what happens when the majority of our elected representatives are millionaires completely disconnected from the daily struggles of their low-income constituents. In the US House of Representatives alone, the average wealth is $6.5 million.
Still, having millions in assets is no excuse for the empathy deficit on display in Congress. Because the ultimate victims of the GOP’s latest attack are pre-school and school-age children. For kids, hunger has serious and irreversible consequences, like poor physical and mental health and lower academic achievement.
The GOP is sending a clear message to these children: tough luck, you’re on your own.