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Opening Arguments

Snap judgment

The ulttra liberal Washington Post, believe it or not, fact-checked the claim that food-stamp recipients have to get by on $4.50 a day and found it wanting:

The average monthly benefit for one person is $133.44, which is where the $4.50 a day figure comes from. But note that the name of the program refers to “supplemental” assistance. SNAP is not intended to be the only source of income for food. According to the USDA, about 75 percent of SNAP participants use their own money, in addition to SNAP benefits, to buy food.

USDA data show that only 20 percent of SNAP participants have no income, while the rest either earn wages or receive government assistance. (The SNAP benefits are reduced according to a formula that lowers the maximum benefit by 30 percent of net income; about 32 percent of households with children receive the maximum benefit.) The data also show that SNAP recipients spend a larger share of their overall income on food than nonparticipants with a similar income.

Moreover, the maximum monthly benefits can quickly climb as the size of the household grows. A family of four, for instance, could receive as much as $668 a month for food. Indeed, households with children receive 71 percent of all SNAP benefits.

The real food stamp, er, SNAP, story is how the program has grown explosively, to 47 million recipients, an increase of 70 percent just since 2008. Hard to believe there are quite that many hungry people in this country, and, guess what, I don't.


Thu, 06/20/2013 - 2:17pm

So Leo don't believe there are that many hungry people out there. Maybe Leo needs reminded the economy just experienced the worst crash since the Great Depression and jobs have not recovered.  The majority of jobs that have been created are low wage "McJobs" that don't pay what the jobs that were lost did.

Marlin Stutzman and South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune  introduced legislation aimed at cutting $30 billion in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program over a decade.  “Since President Obama came into office, SNAP participation has increased at 10 times the rate of job creation, the annual spending on SNAP has doubled, and one in seven Americans now participates in SNAP,” Thune said in a statement.

“This explosive growth in both the SNAP enrollment and federal cost of the program is alarming and requires lawmakers to take cost-effective legislative control measures,” he added. Here's an idea. how about passing a jobs bill so people won't need SNAP instead of hacking the program to pieces?

Of course, while Marlin wants to cut SNAP he would increase the farm subsides he recieves.  On one hand, he decries federal farm subsidies and states, “I think it’s time to get rid of farm subsidies.” “The subsidies only manipulate the market.”

But on the other hand, he accepts these subsidies for his agribusinesses – a total of $179,370 in his name alone – the bulk of which went to Michigan farming. And, when you include the $819,202 paid to his “partner” father, Albert Stutzman, the subsidy total jumps to just shy of $1,000,000. Pretty nifty gift considering Stutzman opposes subsidies.

 But Marlin's an amatuer compared Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of Frog Jump, Tenn., is the ugly face of the feed-the-rich public policy. He is a seventh generation millionaire agri-businessman. He raked in $3.5 million in federal farm subsidies from 1999 to 2012. That averages out to $269,000 a year in farm welfare. It makes him one of the largest farm welfare recipients in Tennessee history as well as among members of Congress.

This politician, who thrived on the government dole, raking in $738 a day in farm welfare over the past 13 years, is among the loudest advocates for increasing subsidies to agribusiness by about $10 billion and slashing food stamps by $20 billion.

That would take food from 2 million poor people. They get an average of $133 a month in food stamps. That's less than $5 a day for the poor -- not the $738 a day that Fincher got.

Fincher justified taking food out of the mouths of poor people by quoting the Bible, 2 Thessalonians 3:10, to be specific: "For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat."

Citing that verse shows a frightening level of cluelessness. First, Fincher took it out of context. It was intended as an admonishment of those who'd stopped working in anticipation of the Second Coming, not as a castigation of generic non-workers.

Second, 49 percent of those receiving food stamps are children. Would Fincher have five-year-olds work for their supper? How about infants?

Rising income inequality and wage stagnation threaten the future of America's middle class. While corporate profits break records, the share of national income going to workers' wages has reached record lows.

Walmart provides the perfect example of that. The corporation made $17 billion last year, while paying its workers poverty wages. As Walmart workers use government programs to get by, the six Walmart heirs now have more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined. Between 2007 and 2010 the wealth of the six richest Walmart heirs rose from $73 billion to $90 billion while the wealth of the average American declined from $126,000 to $77,000.

This results from government policy. The government doesn't require Walmart to pay a living wage. Instead, the government uses taxpayer dollars to minimally subsidize low-paid Walmart workers while cutting taxes on the wealthy Walmart heirs.

The government ( read as your tax dollars) subsidizes Walmart the way it does millionaire famers like Fincher. Though low-income workers receive the food stamps, essentially that government aid is welfare for Walmart. A food stamp applicant must prove poverty to qualify for government aid. But not big business. Not agri-business.

The number of food stamp recipients increased dramatically since 2008 because of the great recession, an event caused by reckless gambling on Wall Street.  Gambling that was made easier to do because of deregulation and lack of oversight, all policys pushed by the GOP since the days of Reagan. House Republican policy calls for the victims of the recession to suffer and the perpetrators to continue receiving low interest federal loans.

This policy, this funneling of money to the top, increases inequality and decreases opportunity. A child who goes to school hungry,  has a very hard time learning.

Universal Studios is among the corporations that have institutionalized inequity. At its parks, middle-class parents and their children wait for hours for entrance to attractions, but the wealthy and their scions simply cut in line. The children of the wealthy don't have to wait. Universal facilitates this with expensive VIP tickets that entitle rich children to park privileges. The VIP package includes hand sanitizer in case a rich kid accidently touches a "regular Joe" kid, as Universal called them. Also, VIP families get exclusive breakfast and lunch service.

America feeds the rich. Equal opportunity is dead.


Rebecca Mallory
Thu, 06/20/2013 - 7:47pm

I'm always amused at Joe's selective "erudition" on economic matters.  Here's an interesting comment on the Gini Index and Obama policy.