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Editorial: Cuts in food assistance increase misery

The cans are on the store counters. Charitable appeals drop through the mail slot daily. But the reality is, that no matter how much Good Samaritans put in the can or the bell-ringer’s kettle, no matter how big a check they write to a soup kitchen or food bank, it will never be enough to offset the cuts Republicans have forced on the food stamp system. And that’s just in the first round of $40 billion in cuts to come over the next decade to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that helps feed some 47 million Americans, if Republicans get their way. The Democratic version of the stalled farm bill calls for $4 billion in cuts, most from programs other than SNAP.

To make up for last month’s $5 billion in cuts created with the expiration of more generous benefits granted during the recession, the nation’s food pantries will have to increase the amount of food they distribute by at least half. That’s a goal most don’t expect to meet, so this promises to be a hungry holiday season for at least 5 million households.

Nearly half of all food stamp recipients – benefits are no longer distributed in the form of stamps but electronic benefit cards – are children. An additional 20 percent or so are elderly or disabled. They are the nation’s most vulnerable, and the nutrition assistance they received before the cuts was inadequate to ensure health and keep hunger at bay. In most food stamp households, the larder is bare and the fridge empty long before month’s end.

The cuts, ostensibly made in the name of encouraging work and self-sufficiency, are not just cruel but profoundly counterproductive. As Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote in The New York Times recently, they are just one aspect of an illogical American policy toward food.

Every year, taxpayers pay billions of dollars in farm subsidies, most of which go to wealthy individuals and corporations. The subsidies encourage some farmers to plant too much of a crop like corn and reward others for not growing crops they had no intention of growing. They depress global food prices, push subsistence farmers off the land and into cities, increase soil loss and destroy native grasslands and other habitat.

Meanwhile, SNAP allots a person with no income $4 per day for food. Recipients with incomes, even if the income is too small to cover rent and heat, get reduced nutritional assistance. The subsidies make unhealthy products like sugar and corn syrup cheap. That promotes obesity among the poor, which too often leads to diabetes, cancer and heart disease, an outcome that costs taxpayers a fortune in health care costs. Minimal food assistance means that children often go hungry and hungry children can’t pay attention in school. They’re unlikely to achieve their potential, which means that they will earn less, pay less in taxes and require more public assistance. That waste makes us a less strong, and less compassionate, nation.

America’s food policy, Stiglitz says, “actually distorts our economy by promoting the kind of production we don’t need and shrinking the consumption of those with the smallest incomes. There is no moral justification either: It actually increases misery and precariousness of daily life for millions of Americans,” Stiglitz says of the Republican-backed farm bill. “For these proposals to become law would be a moral and economic failure for the country.”

The cuts are already doing damage, so if you can, give generously to food banks, pantries and soup kitchens. And tell every member of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation to reject the misguided farm bill and craft one that makes sense.

Legacy Comments17

Did anyone even have a care about the farm bill, a set of subsidies that have cost taxpayers about $168 billion in the last 10 years? Supporting the small farmer is noble. However roughly all of these subsidies go to corporate or millionaire "farmers". Not to mention how many of the original tea party faithful have been recipients of our largess. As for food stamps, if we were to cut out fraud and waste in just the farm subsidies and military contractor fraud we could recoup that money that goes to primarily women and children as food assistance. Mind you I did not say to cut defense spending, simply eliminate the fraud and waste. Then again, what do I know as a low information voter? dont know how to use a source for your claims.

Pray tell, which claim was false?????????? Enlighten me o' wise one.

Reply to gdn1....didnt the obama admin issue the contract for the obamacare website to a canadian company?

don't you remember Nancy Pelosi promising that NObamaKare and more food stamps would create millions of NEW jobs

Sources, sources - CGI Federal, is the U.S. division of a global IT services company, boundaries are getting meaningless by the year. This company is well connected regardless of party affiliation, doesn't mean they are competent by any means. Have had military contracts for many years and many many friends. All the Obamacare fiasco points out is that Washington is not able to combat private sector thieves.

Reply to the Skier...I've been around here a long time...and I remember just a few short years ago, "Where are the jobs????????" was the mantra of the left. Groups like the Pick up patriots, people like Arnie A were saying it constantly. Well? How come it wasn't snark when they said it..but it is now? Oh...yeah, now I get it...

If you believe the above editorial then you are what is known as a low information voter. The food stamp program has been recreated as a stand alone bill. It has been rescued from the agriculture bill to create a better more efficient less bureaucratic democrat cronyism mess that is the Dept of Agriculture. The new food stamp program is the type of smart responsible Republican reform that will return freedom and liberty to Americans instead of the heavy hand of Big Bad Massive bureaucratic democrat cronyism govt. Then again there are actually a few people that actually think Big BAD Massive Govt is on the right track....the existing mess is perfect for them.

Come on Sail, your losing it! Your normal comments are much nastier than this. Put some spark into it! You'll soon be taken for a soft lib! Look to GW for some biting snark.

Your snide comments are nothing more that a liberal trying to suppress the free speech of a True American. Way to go

So, the benefits were increased during the recession, but returning to those levels are cuts. And 1/2 of the people receiving benefits are kids...I assume they have parents? Parents that probably could use a good job...Mr Obama and senate democrats...where are they? Where are the jobs?????????????????????

Direct your question toward the job-bill-blocking, Republican held US Congress.

Job Bills are a hoax, they do little than retrain people at best. Most fail. We need fewer regulations, more harvesting of fossil fuels and therefore more jobs (see North Dakota where Wal-Mart workers earn $18 per hour due to demand for workers), a federal budget, less "social spending" and lower taxes. Maybe that question should be directed toward the job-killing progressives in the US Senate and the socialist president named Obama.

Domestic production of energy supplies are at record levels, taxes as a % of GDP are at all-time lows, and you want further tax cuts and less social spending, despite the fact the policies you espouse have been practiced for the bette part of 3 decades, and created a growing underclass and a shrinking middle class. Your solution is akin to applying more leeches and prescribing more blood-letting to cure the patient.

Your comments are disingenuous--at best, both on the issue of jobs--Republicans have blocked further stimulus/jobs programs, and on the fact that House Republicans are voting for big cuts to the SNAP program. "The basic facts on the program. Its size fluctuates with the economy—when more people are working, the number of those on food stamps goes down. This, of course, isn’t one of those times. So right now the SNAP program, as it’s called, is serving nearly 48 million people in 23 million households. The average monthly individual benefit is $133, or about $4.50 a day. In 2011, 45 percent of recipients were children. Forty-one percent live in households where at least one person works. More than 900,000 are veterans. Large numbers are elderly or disabled or both. It’s costing about $80 billion a year. Senate Democrats proposed a cut to the program. A small cut, but a cut all the same: $4 billion over 10 years. The Republicans in the House sought a cut of $20.5 billion over 10 years. But then the farm bill failed to pass. Remember that? When John Boehner didn’t have enough votes to pass his own bill?  After that debacle, the House took the farm bill and split it into two parts—the subsidies for the large growers of rice and cotton and so forth, and the food-stamp program. Two separate bills. And this time, Eric Cantor doubled the cut: $40 billion over 10 years. This number, if it became law, would boot 3.8 million people—presumably, nearly half of them children—off the program in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office. These would come on top of cuts to the program that kick in Nov. 1. The 2009 stimulus bill included extra food-stamp money because unemployment was so high after the financial meltdown that legislators knew more people would be applying for SNAP assistance. So there was a “stimulus bump” in food-stamp spending, but that is now ending. A family of four would see a $46 cut each month.The 2009 stimulus bill included extra food-stamp money because unemployment was so high after the financial meltdown that legislators knew more people would be applying for SNAP assistance. So there was a “stimulus bump” in food-stamp spending, but that is now ending. A family of four would see a $46 cut each month. The proposed GOP cut is such a piddling amount of money, in terms of the whole federal budget and especially when spread out over 10 years. But nearly half of it is quite literally taking food out of the mouths of children. What’s the point? The point really is that Tea Party Republicans think these people don’t deserve the help. That’s some fascinating logic. The economy melts down because of something a bunch of crooked bankers do. The people at the bottom quarter of the economy, who’ve been getting jobbed for 30 years anyway and who always suffer the most in a downturn, start getting laid off in huge numbers. They have children to feed. Probably with no small amount of shame, they go in and sign up for food stamps. And what do they get? Lectures about being lazy."

And to that I say...where are the jobs???????????? If food stamp use is going up..then job growth must be headed in the other direction....

Thanks for trolling by. The post above adds nothing to the discussion (such as it is); all it does is attempt to be provocative by contradiction--notably without providing any information pro or con on the thread at hand. And for doing which, on a very regular (and presumably pro bono) basis, the poster gets her/his feel-good public service jollies. There are ample factual sources available on the Great Recession, its causes, when it ended, accurate figures on job creation, on the decades-long difficulties faced in creating good, well-payng jobs that will strengthen the middle class, on the lack of bipartisanship in the current Congress, on the many obstacles Republicans have placed in the way of measures designed to spur job creation, and so on. None of that is of any interest to the poster though. Those on the right continue to pretend that history started in 2009--everything that came before has nothing whatsoever to do with what has happened since. The actions of Republicans in cutting $40 billion from a program designed to feed the hungry, while leaving virtually untouched farm subsidy programs that benefit wealth corporate owners, is shameful. But all you'll hear from the Carp Per Diem brigade is dissembling and evasion. The party of NO has no solutions, they only offers more of the same policies that created the Great Recession, have contributed to a growing underclass of poor people, and further skew the distribution of wealth-- more tax cuts, and fewer laws that supposedly "hinder" job creation. The fact that they post the way they do--with little more than mean-spirited snark--is a testament to the fact the policies they claim to support have no real defense--except in mean-spiritedness snark.

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