We here at Food Stamps try to present a fair, balanced picture of the SNAP program. We readily admit it’s not a program entirely without flaws, as even its 1% fraud rate means millions of wasted dollars that could have been better spent. We also don’t deny that every day, dozens or hundreds or thousands of Americans take advantage of the program, using food stamps to buy luxury foods instead of feeding families. Sometimes the facts work in favor of food stamps, and sometimes they don’t. It’s just how life is. However, we’re also onto a trend put forth by Republicans is their deliberate misuse of facts, with the latest brouhaha coming from Arkansas Senate candidate Rep. Tom Cotton (R), up against Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).
According to Cotton, Food Stamps Program Full of “Long-Term Addicts or Recidivists”
Tom Cotton is a 37-year-old politician who’s part of the House of Representatives, heading to politics after having served in the U.S. Army. It only took him three years to be promoted to Captain, and he received a Bronze Star Medal in 2009 from his efforts in Afghanistan. Later that year, he was honorably discharged from the Army, turned to law for a bit, and then started his politics career in 2012.
To say Cotton is a bright button is an understatement; he was named the Republican “most likely to succeed” by Politico, and many have pegged him as a rising star in the GOP. Further backing his reputation is Senator Marc Rubio backing him for his run to the Senate, giving him more credibility than other candidates.
But none of this can explain how Cotton stuck his foot way inside his mouth on July 8 during a tele-town hall meeting. In his own words, he said (all bolding has been done by us):
I don’t think that we should be using farmers as a way to pack more welfare spending into Barack Obama’s government. Nor should be have a food stamp program that isn’t reformed, that doesn’t have job training and work requirements, that doesn’t have drug testing requirements, so we can get people who are addicted the help they need. Or make sure that long-term addicts and recidivists are not abusing taxpayer dollars.
A History of Criticism Against Food Stamps
This isn’t the first time Cotton’s made critical and unfounded remarks against food stamps. In a statement made last year regarding the then-passed Farm Bill, Cotton had this to say: “President Obama’s failed policies have turned what should be a Farm Bill into the Food Stamp Bill, expanding by $300 billion a food-stamp program riddled with fraud and abuse.”
We’re really quite curious as to where Cotton gets his information because according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, more than 99 percent of SNAP benefits are issued to eligible households. Further, the CBPP has studied that “SNAP error rates declined nearly every year from 1998 to 2008 and have continued to improve since then…”
It’s one thing to criticize a program, as any program in America that starts up and uses taxpayers’ dollars should be open to criticism. Food stamps is like art: once you put it out into the public, it’s there for people to form whatever opinions they’d like about it. But like art, just because someone has an opinion on something doesn’t mean it’s the definitive truth. And what really sets Cotton apart from other opinion-utterers in this case is he’s a public figure, using his platform to sway citizens toward him in an effort to effect change.
While we understand the need to make your position as definitive and attractive to the widest demographic possible when you’re in politics, we draw a sharp line in the sand when it comes to sheer fabrication of facts. Cotton’s a bright boy, which is why we don’t’ understand why he couldn’t have used the disadvantages of food stamps to his favor in a more truthful way.