Back From the Future - Conservatives Force Cut in Food Stamp Program [222*7]
MAYBE WE SHOULD RETURN TO THE 1800s, FOR AN OBJECT LESSON
IN MARCH 2009, THE SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP), otherwise known as Food Stamps, was increased as part of President Obama's stimulus program to prevent a depression and start American on the path to recovery. This was particularly effective in that every cent in additional assistance went immediately and directly back into the economy from whence it came (and has a multiplier effect when the economy is slow). Since that increase expired at the end of October 2013, $20 billion will be taken out of the American economy annually and 448 million less meals will be consumed each month!
Who is going to hurt by this Congressional failure?
- 5000 active duty men and women, plus their families, who receive food stamps
- the 900,000 veterans who live in households receiving SNAP
- 21 million children who receive food stamps will miss meals or get less nutritious meals every month.
- 4 million elderly (over 60) will be in the same boat as the children
- the 8 million disabled who participate in SNAP
In my hub "How-Much-of-Your-Tax-Dollar-Really-Does-Go-to-Help-the-Free-Loading-Indigent-Ought-to-Get-a-Job-Americans", I show that $0.13 out of every income tax dollar goes to a true assistance program like food stamps. Of that 13 cents, I estimate roughly 3 cents or less goes to support the food stamp program. That has now become less. For comparison purposes, prior to 1933, federal government assistance to its citizens was close to 0 cents of your tax dollar; and during the frequent 2008-size recessions or depressions (once every 6 years or so) Americans were left destitute and, in many cases, starving.
I think this is important enough to put this misery into context that you might understand, given most of you watched or actually suffered through the 2008 Great Recession because just saying how tough times were during the Long Depression of 1873 - 1879 doesn't really impress anybody.that the average American then was destitute, people have a Pollyanna view of what times were like back then when America was supposedly booming with no end in sight. That simply isn't the truth, even in good times, people, except for the lucky few, struggled.
Everyone should know by now that employment fell by 8.8 million jobs because of the Great Recession. But many millions more than that lost their jobs, at least for awhile, during that three year period ending in 2010. But they had it good, almost everyone of them, compared to their 1873 counterparts. Just imagine what Christmas 2009 would have been like without unemployment insurance; something the Right would like to severely limit or deny Americans. Well, that is exactly what it was like the Christmas of 1874, 1875, 1876, 1877, 1878, and 1879.
This is just for starters, for during this depression, one of four between 1850 and 1900 that were nearly as bad as the Great Depression, there was no disability insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, nor was there Food Stamps; there was nothing! This was life in the 1800s, a far cry from the relative walk-in-the-park Americans suffered through in 2008. This is the world the Conservatives are trying hard to return us to; and I want nothing of it.
In other words, back from the future with the future being now and "back" being prior to 1933.
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING
WHAT PROMPTED THIS HUB was an article in CNN Money titled, 'Our family will lose $44 in food stamps', by Jennifer Liberto @CNNMoney November 1, 2013: 12:28 PM ET. In it were two anecdotes of people who will be hurt by the expiration of the SNAP stimulus increase and will be devastated if House Conservatives have their way in zeroing out or drastically reducing the SNAP program. It was followed by reader comments who, at least for the first page anyway, castigated and denigrated those people the authored highlighted as receiving food stamps; it was a jaw-dropping experience.
The first example was a Ms Joyce Lewis of Spring Hill, FL; her family will lose $44 per month in SNAP assistance, money she spent immediately in grocery stores. Her family consisted of herself, presumably her working husband (not mentioned), a pregnant adult daughter, and an adult daughter with a newborn. She receives $800.month in food stamps to supplement whatever other income the family earns (unstated); these stamps do not last a month even though the meals largely consist of rice-based simple recipes. If $800 doesn't cover it, then how is $756?
You might ask where does she waste (since she is taking assistance, she must be a dead-beat, right?) the rest of her money? My guess it is rent, utilities, insurance (oh yeah, probably not, she has a pre-existing condition, emphysema, developed from a lifetime of breathing second-hand smoke working in social clubs, e.g., Elks, Moose, etc; she doesn't smoke herself, btw), transportation, and an occasional spare-rib. Did I mention the emphysema has totally disabled her, tying her to a breathing machine which she had to give up not to long ago because she couldn't afford to run it. (Actually she hocked her wedding ring to keep it running until the SSI payments started coming in,)
Questions asked, legitimate ones actually, in the comment section wondered why the expecting mom (she has another 8-weeks to go) and the mom with the newborn (grandma can babysit, after all), go to work (the lazy bums was the implication); assuming, of course, there was work to find. Also, no information was provided as to why they couldn't or wouldn't work. Nor was anything said about the husband (except the first comment which assumed he was a deadbeat as well) and why he wasn't earning the $50,000/yr or more needed to keep them all above the poverty line.
The other example was Hugh Sewell, 54, who, in 2010, earned $25/hr; he has a family of three. For two years, he looked for work, finally landing a $12/hr job as an auto technician. While looking for work, he drew $526/month which is soon to go down to $497. With the $526, he was able to let his family feast on beans, rice and potatoes; until the end of the month when all they could afford were meals in a box, pasta, and sauce. Now they can probably do without the sauce.
The ironic thing is Hugh had to ask his boss for a pay decrease to $9/hr. The reason is, at $12/hr, for a family of three, they are in a much worse financial position than at $9/hr because, at $12/hr he loses his Medicaid, and becomes uninsured, plus he loses his food stamps, To me, that is a stupid state of affairs and makes me want to rethink how I pay my employees because we start in the $10 - $12 range; fortunately, we do offer a very good benefit package, even though we are not large enough to have to.
- 76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits.
- SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130% of the federal poverty guideline (many of whom do not apply for it), but the majority of households have income well below the maximum: 83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013), and these households receive about 91% of all benefits. 61% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 75% of the poverty guideline ($14,648 for a family of 3 in 2013)
- The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744; net monthly income of $338 after the standard deduction and, for certain households, deductions for child care, medical expenses, and shelter costs; and countable resources of $331, such as a bank account
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2011. and Feeding America.
LET ME ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN the above chart, I do understand it is hard to read with all my text boxes scattered about.
REAGAN-BUSH 41 PERIOD:
In this 12-year period, America experienced two recessions, the first in 1981 was second in severity to the Great 2008 recession, albeit, a distant second; the 1992 recession was relatively mild. Both unemployment and the number of food stamp recipients were increasing leading into the recessions but, instead of SNAP increasing with a skyrocketing unemployment in 1982 as it normally would, President Reagan cut the Food and Nutrition Assistance programs from $16.2 billion to $15.6 billion. As a consequence, the number of people who would normally receive assistance during a severe recession was suppressed driving the number of users in the wrong direction.
In 1990, with the beginning of that recession, SNAP increased normally, slightly lagging the increase in unemployment. You would expect this as people are laid off, the need for Food Stamps naturally would increase a little time later; as you can see, it did, markedly.
Unemployment started coming down shortly before President Clinton taking office, not soon enough to save President Bush 41's bid for re-election, however. Notice though, Food Stamp recipients kept increasing until 1994 before starting to come down as the economy recovers. This should also be expected as well since the economy doesn't turn on a dime, in fact a downturn builds up its own momentum which takes time to slow down and then reverse; much like trying to physically stop a large pendulum from continuing on its path after it starts on the upswing (try stopping your child in a swing, for example); stopping the ramifications of a recession works much the same way. This is why people didn't stop needing food stamps until after 1994.
Reliance on nutritional assistance kept declining as the economy accelerated. It didn't stop this trend until 2000, when the economy entered into a downturn, which ended up in a recession a couple of years later. Just like it did the previous time, those needing food stamps began to increase not long after unemployment began increasing.
ENTER BUSH 43:
Things changed dramatically with President Bush 43. He found himself with a weak economy which, because of a combination of the tech bubble bursting, 9/11 and the response to it, and the Bush tax cut, the economy entered into a very mild recession; unemployment increased only 2% before coming back down again in 2004. But here is the difference, instead of turning back around in, say, 2005, those on the rolls of nutritional assistance kept climbing, dramatically. It didn't turn down until 2007, and then only for a moment for unemployment began rising to heights not seen since 1982. This characteristic would be indicative income inequality where the rich-get-richer and the poor-got-poorer. In other words, mainstream Americans did not benefit from the economic growth of that period; only a select few did.
Enter stage Right, the Great Recession of 2008 (it actually began Dec 2007). Unemployment began to rise again in 2007. SNAP began increasing a short time later and hasn't stopped yet, although it slowed down considerably in 2012.
THE OBAMA PERIOD:
Things take time to work, time Obama's enemies weren't about to give him; going back to metaphors Obama trying to stop this near depression was like a 200-pound running back trying to stop a charging 300-pound tackle in football. That is exactly what happened, a 200-pound stimulus was used to stop and reverse a 300-pound recession ... it just isn't going to happen anytime soon,
The 3-year stimulus package began in March 2009, the stock market, an emotion-based enterprise immediately stopped declining; hiring exceeded firing in January 2010; and the economy began an anemic, politically-suppressed growth of between 1% and 3% in the years that have followed. As a result, you have food stamps increasing 11% from 2010 to 2011, but, as growth, poor as it was, continued, only 4% from 2011 to 2012. Keep in mind, even though the recession officially ended in June 2009 in terms of the economy declining, but, this was a doozy of a recession, coming close to entering depression territory.
Then you have the political drama of the Republican Party's historic obstruction to the sitting President's program to bring the Nation out of a massive economic catastrophe; an attack so severe it has never before seen in American politics since George Washington was President. So, is it reasonable for the need for food stamps to still be increasing, given the slow decline in unemployment? Of course it is!
IT IS NOT, I BELIEVE, IN THE CONSERVATIVE'S AGENDA to help the average American out in the time of need. To overstate it slightly, Conservative's feel that if one person abuses assistance, then assistance should be withdrawn from all; it is part of the American Dream to be self-reliant unto death after all,, no matter who is responsible for throwing sand in the gears of such a Dream. Such is the case with Food Stamps, The appropriation for nutritional assistance is part of the Agriculture Bill ... agriculture-nutrition, get the connection? Well House Conservatives, as well as their counter-parts in the Senate, feel this is wrong, that nutrition programs should not be part of a nutrition bill. Given they will probably lose that fight, they want to cut the SNAP program back dramatically, a la President Reagan, because they feel keeping people fed is a drag on the economy and the recipients don't need it anyway ... most of them are cheaters, after all.
If I sound bitter in my sarcasm, it is because I am; being a Libra and one who believes in fair play has its drawbacks in a society of John Waynes. "Fair Play", them's (sic) are fighting words; fair play for who? 'Why should I have to pay for someone else's problems', a common refrain I hear. Why? Because you are human, because you are an American, because it is to your long-term advantage to do so, that is why. (.Long-term', shudder, what does that mean, doesn't sound good does it.)
The 'short-term' is like the lungs, liver, and kidneys telling the defective heart to go it alone, we will help you only if we feel like it. They say, we have no responsibility for you. We are especially not going to help because the brain tells us to. The problem with that scenario is it takes all three to keep the heart going, if any one of the three turns selfish, they all die. That is a 'short-term' view of life as we know it, and Conservatives try to practice it. (keep in mind, btw, my rant is about conservative philosophy, not the Republican Party.)
This is what the nutritional programs, including SNAP, do. It is the lungs, liver, and kidneys working together to try to keep the heart going. But it is rare in life that individuals can work together in efficient or effective harmony if each is doing it their own way; a brain is needed to try to keep things synchronized. That is why there are federal assistance programs in addition to countless charities, each trying to help in their own way.
It is my view from years of observation that Conservatives want to take the brain out of the picture and let the lungs, liver, and kidneys do their own thing.
CURIOUS MINDS WANT TO KNOW
Do you think nutritional assistance programs ought to be in a separate bill and not part of the Agricultural Bill?
Do you think Food Stamps and other similar programs are
DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY #1
Do You Lean Politically
DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY #2
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When I say
AMAZON ON NUTRITIONAL ASSISTANCE
© 2013 Scott Belford