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September 01, 2014
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editorial

Punishing the poor


Now, a new Farm Bill that would cut food stamp funding is on the table in Congress. The Senate’s version would cut $4.5 billion over 10 years. (In fiscal year 2011, SNAP paid out $78 billion.) The House has not yet voted on a Farm Bill, but the House Agriculture Committee’s version would cut $16 billion over 10 years, and some Republican legislators want to see almost double that figure, arguing that food stamps create a kind of entitlement society. These proposed cuts could mean 500,000 households losing $90 a month, and an estimated nearly two million people could lose food stamps altogether.

To us, this seems counterproductive; all it will do is help create more hungry people and this seems unnecessarily cruel. As we see it, too many Americans have the misguided belief that cutting these benefits will punish a bunch of freeloaders. Welfare reform has already addressed that; 20 years ago, 41% of food stamp recipients received cash welfare benefits, a number that has now dropped to 8%. If there is fraud, we believe it should be rooted out and the criminals punished but, in our opinion, slashing the food stamps program would not be punishing freeloaders or targeting criminals. It merely would penalize people for being poor or disabled and would condemn millions of children to reduced food security.

One measure of a society is how it cares for its weakest members.

This month as Congress negotiates how to keep the country from falling off the “fiscal cliff,” legislators must find other ways to cut spending than on the backs of society’s most vulnerable people.