A few days ago, the Economist reported on the rapid growth in the number of Americans on food stamps. Participation in the food stamp program has soared since the recession began. By this April, 45 million Americans were dependent on the government for their daily bread. The program’s cost almost doubled between 2008 ($35 billion) and 2010 ($65 billion). Last year, then, each American contributed about $200 to the program. That’s right — $200, or about 55 cents per day.
This trivial amount is too much for Republicans.
Republican leaders in the House of Representatives want to rein in the programme’s runaway growth. In their budget outline for next year they proposed cutting the amount of money to be spent on food stamps by roughly a fifth from 2015. [Emphasis added] Moreover, instead of being a federal entitlement, available to all Americans who meet the eligibility criteria irrespective of the cost, the programme would become a “block grant” to the states, which would receive a fixed amount to spend each year, irrespective of demand.
What about the demographics of the recipients?
About half of them are children, and another 8% are elderly. Only 14% of food-stamp households have incomes above the poverty line; 41% have incomes of half that level or less, and 18% have no income at all. The average participating family has only $101 in savings or valuables. Less than a tenth of recipients also receive cash payments from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programme (TANF), the reformed version of welfare; roughly a third get at least some income from wages.
More and more people are or will soon be receiving their last unemployment checks. More and more people will need food stamps. How, in the name of our common humanity, can the House Republicans propose gutting the program? Are they the descendents of those who, during the Great Depression, believed that the poor had only themselves to blame for their plight, and that the provision of government assistance would undermine their morals and their willingness to work?
Appalling. It’s cruel and unusual punishment. Send them to the poor house. Let them eat cake.
Who can now dispute the Democrats’ contention that Republicans want to balance the budget on the backs of the poor?
I try to keep my emotions out of my blogging. But, in this case, I couldn’t — and shouldn’t.