Last week the House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill that would slash $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program over the next decade. The food stamp program is costing more than it ever has due to more Americans enrolling than ever before. However, the argument has taken on a nasty tenor that unfairly characterizes the people that the program was set up to help.
The big story making the rounds on the news is a Fox News report about surfer Jason Greenslate, who receives $200 a month from SNAP.
Greenslate does not work and was shown in the report buying sushi and lobster on his SNAP card. He seems to have become the poster boy for why SNAP needs to be reformed.
Greenstlate, however, is not representative of the majority of Americans who are on SNAP.
In the difficult economic times most Americans are facing right now, some assistance is needed, especially for families with children.
But it is not enough that people are worrying about what to eat, there are some who think they must also feel ashamed by it.
“That’s the entire purpose of these programs now, to take away the stigma so people don’t feel guilty. Maybe people should feel a little guilty,” said Gerri Willis on Fox News.
If people are supposed to feel guilty for getting money to buy food, how guilty are banks supposed to feel after getting $700 billion?
They do not seem to feel all that guilty about it since New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman claims that Bank of America, Wells Fargo and others have violated the agreed upon terms to end mortgage abuses.
It seems more and more that government assistance is okay if you are a large corporation as we have given them crazy tax breaks and bailed out both the banking and auto industries. But if you are an individual that is struggling, you are a drain on the government and need to start working harder.
“The vast majority of people that receive food stamps are in really tough financial situations. Many of them are either generational poverty, they received food stamps when they were children, they’re receiving food stamps now and their children will probably receive food stamps, or situational poverty– they lost their job and they are stunned they are in this situation,” said Damien Paletta to “PBS Newshour.”
The reasoning behind the cutting back on SNAP has been that there is a disconnect between the fact that the economy as a whole is growing yet more people are applying for SNAP each year. Of course, this does not take into account the rapidly growing inequality of wealth in this country.
Since 2009, income for the top 1 percent of wage earners grew by 31.4 percent according to a study by University of California, Berkeley. Incomes for everyone else, however, only grew by 0.4 percent. Far less than even the rate of inflation.
The sad fact is this cut to SNAP is going to effect millions of people. With any luck it will cut out the Greenslate’s from the program. But more than likely, the government will be making it even harder for the families that are suffering the most.