Last week, the House voted and approved a $33 billion cut over 10 years for food stamps budget. Although the vote was highly partisan with many Democrats apparently opposed as well as anti-poverty groups, the cut was still approved by the U.S. congressional panel. In an economy where 45 million are on food stamps, it seems illogical that any cuts can be made to such an essential program, but the House of Representatives Agricultural Committee reduces the spending anyway. In the first year alone, the cuts would take about $7.7 billion in funding, and by five years, it would be cut by $19.7 billion, continuing up to $33 billion by 2022.
However, the Senate vastly controlled by Democrats will likely down vote the cuts. The vote still speaks to the Republicans’ preference for domestic spending cuts over defense cuts or tax hikes, since many are still trying to avoid the automatic cuts that will take effect next January. Representative Jean Schmidt used the reports of a Michigan lottery winner who remained on food stamps as one of the reasons for the cuts.
“There are those that have benefited from this that may not truly need it,” said Schmidt.
Isn’t this fear mongering over one incident? Certainly 45 million Americans can’t be lottery winners, and who are the Republicans representing if this much of the population is benefiting from the program that they plan to dramatically cut? There were other concerns in the House involving the farm bill, which also had an inclusion to provide more support for SNAP benefits at farmer’s markets.
“I would contend this entire process is a waste of time,” said Collin Peterson, the House committee’s top Democrat, in his opening remarks. “Taking a meat ax to nutrition programs that feed millions of hard working families in an effort to avoid defense cuts is not a serious way to achieve deficit reduction.”
While Republicans on the committee commented that they don’t want to hurt families on SNAP, the program has loose rules that allow people to use food stamps who do not really need it. Chairman Frank Lucas said that some states qualify all households receiving low-income assistance for SNAP instead of judging eligibility by income or assets. In others, the Chairman said, that payments counting as part of a home energy assistance program count as income deductions—allowing households to receive higher benefits. Again, this is situational at best, and doesn’t speak to 45 million Americans who are using food stamps because they don’t have the money to buy food.
Food stamps are just one of many federal spending programs that are on the table for cuts as budget planners try to figure out a way to avoid $98 billion in automatic cuts due to the failure of the debt-reducing committee of last year. However, the reasons for the cuts on food stamps, have not yet satisfied the anti-poverty groups or Democrats. Without doing so, the cuts will not be approved, and at least for now, food stamps will not be cut drastically in the foreseeable future.
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