-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
The Food Stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is a target for Republicans who voted to cut $40 billion from the program. The reasons that Republicans have given are so divorced from reality that one can reasonably suspect their true motivations lie elsewhere. The primacy of fantasy in the GOP has been recently evidenced by Michele Bachmann who sees signs of the End Times, a wished-for global apocalypse.
First up on the list of fantasies is by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas) who said “the food stamp program [grew] exponentially because the government continues to turn a blind eye to a system fraught with abuse.” In reality, SNAP participation closely tracks the long term unemployment rate, prolonged by Republicans. The sale of SNAP benefits for cash, called “trafficking,” has been cut to $1 in every $100 of SNAP benefits. The reality is a one percent abuse rate, the fantasy is SNAP is “fraught” with abuse.
The next fantasy is that able-bodied people are getting food stamps instead of working. The reality is that 83% of all SNAP benefits go to households that include a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. The average individual gets $133 a month in SNAP benefits. It is ridiculous to imagine that a person is going to quit their job for $133 a month that can only be spent on food, but Republicans bear ridicule well.
The next fantasy is that SNAP recipients use their benefits to buy cigarettes and alcohol. The SNAP program uses Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, similar to debit cards, that can be used in the supermarket checkout line only to purchase food. The Right likes to point to Jackie Whiton, a Peterborough, New Hampshire, store cashier who declined to accept an EBT card as payment for a pack of cigarettes. In reality, the EBT card contained state assistance money, not SNAP benefits, which can be used to purchase tobacco products. The store she worked for has a policy of accepting EBT cash benefits. In reality, Whiton was fired for violating the company’s policies.
The Republican war on programs that benefit Americans in need isn’t based on a philosophical commitment to small government. If it were, the $20 billion in farm subsidies, a welfare program for agribusiness, would be near the top of their hit list. According to a Greenberg report, the Republicans “are very conscious of being white in a country that is increasingly minority.” The report goes on to say that the “race issue [is] very much alive.” There you have it. Obama is taking their money and giving it to “Those People.”