Food stamps are one of the most divisive issues in this country, with both sides posting very strong opinions on the matter. Are food stamps needed? If so, how much? How can the population grow from needing food stamps to becoming 100% self-sufficient citizens? Should the government play a role in food subsidy, and how large?
But recently, Greg Bannon, the Republican Senate candidate for North Carolina has likened the Department of Agriculture—and the SNAP program, by extension, as it comprises $76 billion a year—to slavery.
In an interview, Bannon is quoted as saying the following: “We’re taking our plunder, that’s taken from us as individuals, [giving] it to the government, and the government is now keeping itself in power by giving these goodies away. The answer is the Department of Agriculture should go away at the federal level. And now 80 percent of the farm bill was food stamps. That enslaves people. What you want to do, it’s crazy but true, teach people to fish instead of giving them fish. When you’re at the behest of somebody else, you are actually a slavery to them [sic]. That kind of charity does not make people freer.”
But as in the article in which this quote appeared, let’s examine Bannon’s argument premise by premise, and see exactly why and how it doesn’t work.
“The government is keeping itself in power by giving these goodies away”—If the only source of income to the government came from the DoA and food stamps, this premise might be true. But a quick look at any government budget from the last 10 yearsshows that $2.5-3.5 trillion was spent in a variety of ways. This is also ignoring the fact that governments keep themselves in power in more than one way: democracy, monarchy, oligarchy, dictatorship, etc.
“The answer is the Department of Agriculture should go away at the federal level”—Federally deregulating agriculture means that it would be controlled at the state level which, as seen with healthcare, civil rights and liberties, education, defense and other sectors, creates an uneven balance where a person’s home can dictate how safe, free or thriving/maladjusted they feel.
“That enslaves people”—Bannon uses a bit of a mixed metaphor here as he compares the doling out of food stamps to slavery, which Mother Jones describes as “a system of labor exploitation in which people were literally worked to death.” Food stamps recipients are much likelier to compare receiving SNAP benefits as being enslaved in a cycle of poverty than they are to say the government’s allowance of it is enslaving. Actually getting food stamps, for many, is the one thing that enables them to stay in their own homes and retain a modicum of independence, instead of losing the benefits and living on the street.
“That kind of charity does not make people freer”—In a complete opposition to Bannon’s last premise, study after study after study has shown that “that kind of charity” does indeed make people freer. Receiving assistance helps people eat healthy (cutting down on health care costs, increasing focus and attention—also important in school), get back on their feet after becoming unemployed (instead of being forced to use savings on food), increases the chance that children will succeed in the future (by giving them a solid childhood and chances to go further), and gives this country excellent odds at solidifying its position as a world superpower.
Children are the future and if they go hungry, the rest of the country can’t grow.
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