MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On June 10, the Senate passed a farm bill that would reduce food stamp allotments by $4 billlion. It gets worse though, the House wants to, according to The Hill, cut government-issued food stamps by a brutal $20.5 billion dollars.
Both the Senate and the House are presenting their farm bills as "austerity measures." Heck, if Congress wants to stop subsidizing big agri-farmers not to grow crops, that's a cut in tax spending that makes sense. (Although this bill still includes a lot of agricultural subsidies, including â€“ gasp â€“ tobacco.)
But cutting food stamps is purely punitive against the poor. It's the austerity "conventional wisdom" in DC that views poverty as resulting from being a lesser person, of being responsible for being hungry â€“ or it being some sort of divine decision that some Americans have been placed into a state of purgatory.
This is at a time, according to a March 28 MSNBC article, that more US citizens require food stamps for sustenance than ever before: "A record 47.8 million people are enrolled in the program despite the recession's end and a stronger economy."
The war on food stamps is a paradox, because the program's strongest opponents are red state Republicans. But red states generally have the highest rate of food stamp recipients (as well as being the states, in general, that take more from the federal government than they pay in taxes, but that is another story).
As a commentary in policymic.com notes:
Charts of food stamp usage show that while a few Democrat led states have high food stamp usage; food stamp usage is highest consistently across Republican states. What does that say about the Republican approach?
To me, it says that the top down, trickle down theory of economics fails the poor. Under conditions where the poor were helped, one would expect that there would be less reliance on food stamps. People would receive short-term support, a little assistance getting on their feet, maybe some job training, or some assistance paying for community college and would be on their way.
If the poor are uplifted even just slightly then they become tax payers rather than living off food stamps. Republicans are angry about food stamp usage because they have failed to uplift the poor in their states. The top down, trickle down, economic approach has broken social mobility in Republican led states.
For those who lack empathy and are just interested in dollars and cents, the proposed cuts in food stamps (the Senate and House will have to reconcile their differences), there is another hard rock reality: food stamps help the economy. Why is that?
Because food stamps truly stimulate the economy by putting dollars into it that are passed along from farmer, to distributor, to truck driver, to grocery store and beyond.
As policymic.com states: "Economists say that providing food stamps might be the most stimulative action the government can take. Tax cuts for the wealthy ranks around 12th."
How much does one dollar in food stamps add to the economy? Studies vary, but Paul Krugman offered a figure the other day:
Indeed, estimates from the consulting firm Moodyâ€™s Analytics suggest that each dollar spent on food stamps in a depressed economy raises G.D.P. by about $1.70 â€” which means, by the way, that much of the money laid out to help families in need actually comes right back to the government in the form of higher revenue.
That's a 75% return on investment. And most US citizens can only get a .01% in return on their savings accounts now.
So, why would elected officials cut billions of dollars from a program (officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)) that allows people to feed themselves â€“ and returns 75% of its cost to the economy?
When it comes to DC and America's vilification of the poor, it is stupid does in DC as stupid is.