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Food Stamps

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Since the collapse of the economy started almost seven years ago, the recession has been lifting and the country’s been getting back to a familiar world order. But is the presence of food stamps a sign that the depression hasn’t fully disappeared?

Food Stamps Fraud

In a PBS news segment that aired on Nov. 25, 2013, SNAP fraud was discussed as costing American taxpayers $750 million per year. While it only amounts to 1% of fraud, three-quarters of a billion dollars lost to food stamps fraud is money that could be well spent elsewhere. It’s the amount Google paid for AdMob in 2009, it’s the amount that would just about cover tuition for every single student at Harvard for one year, and it’s the amount that could have paid for 75% of the 1984 Olympics in L.A.

The Economy’s Improving

The Economist magazine lists the recession as having ended in the summer of 2009 when real GDP and industrial production resumed growth. However, in the four years since then, food stamps use hasn’t seen the same progress. The Washington Post even goes so far as to say it’ll take 10 years before SNAP usage falls by 30% (14 million), a figure that’s outweighed by predicted job growth. If the economy is improving and jobs are slowly starting to come back, why aren’t food stamps falling off faster? Are people continuing to use them as a crutch?

Republicans’ Response

A current point of contention is the proposed cut to long-term food stamps usage. House Republicans have proposed a bill that would see $40 billion cut over 10 years, while the Democratic Senate has countered with $4 billion over the same length; the bill has been stalled. While Democrats say $40 billion would be far too austere a cut, Republicans have replied that the change (3.8 million Americans pushed out) would be the incentive many needed to become part of the workforce. They have also argued that jobless adults would be cut off if they didn’t enroll in job-training or community service, programs which would theoretically make them of higher contributing value in society.

Republicans are also quick to assure the American public that programs such as the School Lunch Program, one which gives 200,000 children free lunches, wouldn’t be affected by the cuts, arguing that the best offense against child hunger- and hunger in general- is economic growth and a thriving economy.

Right or wrong, food stamps come under a great deal of fire. The size of the program, combined with its prolonged use, constantly brings into question the necessity of it, but one thing can be agreed upon: when nobody is forced to use food stamps, the country will be much healthier.

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