Food Stamps

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Recent news of eight states, with Massachusetts being the latest, finding their own ways around the cuts to food stamps in the recent Farm Bill. At first glance, this seems innocuous enough, as though states were just taking care of their residents. But upon closer inspection, the amount of money each state kicks in works out to far more in federal aid. The question is: should this happen?

It Makes No Financial Sense

The latest Farm Bill seemed to close the “Heat and Eat” provision by stipulating the new floor would be $20. Eight states (Connecticut, Montana, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont) have taken matters into their own hands by kicking in the $20 for SNAP recipients who were otherwise cut off, ensuring they’d continue to have access to extra food stamps provisions.

Using Massachusetts as an example because they’re the most recent state, when the state kicks in $20 per person (times 163,000 families in Massachusetts receiving aid) they’re spending $3.26 million, which works out to $13.04 million in federal aid. An extra $10 million for Massachusetts, plus the millions that the other seven states’ residents will get, is just not something the federal government can afford.

How Can We Let Our Countrymen Go Hungry?

Perhaps the question shouldn’t be “can the country afford this?” but “how can the country not afford this?” A recent New York Times article drew parallels between Paul Ryan’s recent remarks and England’s non-reaction to Ireland’s potato famine.

The author of the article, Timothy Egan, writes, “[Grain and livestock were] produced by Irish hands on Irish lands but would not go into Irish mouths, for fear that such ‘charity’ would upset the free market and make people lazy...but it was also England’s excuse for lethal negligence.” Egan draws Ryan into the conversation by saying the congressman’s remarks are only directed at poor “lazy” people, and not rich “lazy” people who don’t earn every cent to their name. The author says, “You can’t make these kinds of heartless remarks unless you think the poor deserve their fate -- that they have a character flaw, born of public assistance.

Who’s Right?

Where you argue from almost always depends on how you were born and raised. If you support the economical argument, chances are you grew up comfortably and never had to know what it meant to constantly have an empty stomach and a non-choice between food and other necessities.

But if you believe a dollar price can’t be affixed to ensuring people get enough food to stay alive, then you understand how complex poverty and food stamps can be.