Nov. 1 was a sad day for America. That’s the day the federal government made the first of a series of cuts in funding for food stamps, leaving 47.7 million Americans more vulnerable than they were just a day before, Oct. 31.
Food-stamp cuts will amount to about 5 percent. That doesn’t sound like much to most people, but to people struggling to exist it is worrisome indeed.
Here in Minnesota where 556,000 have received food stamps last year (10 percent of the state’s population), the average monthly amount in stamps was $236. Recipients included 239,000 children and 114,000 elderly or disabled people. The federal government gave a total of $55 million to Minnesota food-stamp recipients in 2012. Those statistics come from Stateline, a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts. For every food-stamp dollar spent, an estimated $1.70 is generated in local economies. Thus, these cuts will adversely affect more than hungry people. In addition, pressures on already strapped food shelves will become extreme.
In some states, mostly in the Deep South, food-stamp recipients comprise as much as 22 percent of those states’ populations. That itself is a sad irony since many of the politicians most opposed to food stamps are from those states.
There are some representatives and senators who want to get rid of the food-stamp program entirely, along with virtually every other social-net program ever invented, including Social Security and Medicare. Their scheme to abolish those programs is to starve them through lack of funding and then, perhaps, privatize them with some help from government-disbursed vouchers.
Food-stamp detractors claim too many recipients are slackers who simply don’t want to work. Statistics, however, show time and again there is a mere fraction of “cheating” going on – 2 or 3 percent at most. The truth is most on food stamps are working people, often stuck in low-wage jobs or temporarily unemployed because of a depressed job market.
Food-stamp detractors like to cite statistics about the huge growth of the food-stamp program. And they are correct; the program has hugely increased since 2008, the year when reckless behavior by the hotshots on Wall Street caused a near collapse of the financial system, plunging this nation into the worst recession since the 1930s. Is it any wonder that human needs – and food stamps – have increased?
In an ideal world, there would be no need for food stamps. Most people, even now in this far-from-ideal world, would prefer to have the dignity of buying their food with their own hard-earned money. But to hear some of the well-heeled demagogues in the U.S. Congress tell it, food-stamp recipients, when they’re not lazy spongers, are people who don’t know how to budget their money. As if they should talk! Some of those politicians receive agricultural and other subsidies to the tune of millions of dollars. They know nothing about the struggles of the working poor and don’t want to know. They cultivate a willful blindness and even contempt toward anyone not in their rarefied class stratum.
These political Scrooges should be ashamed of themselves. But of course they’re not; they’re proud to punish the working poor, and they’re vowing to force more and more cuts. The poor, the hungry, the dispossessed must vote these mean-spirited overlords out of office. That’s the real solution.