Op-Ed

After Handing Their Billionaire Donors $1.5 Trillion, Republicans Eye Food Stamp Cuts

Predictably, after handing $1.5 trillion in permanent tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations, Republicans are now pretending to be concerned about debt.

And when Republicans start screaming about the debt, they don’t ask to be reimbursed the money they handed their billionaire donors. 

They don’t dream of raising taxes on the one percent. 

They wouldn’t dare cut off government subsidies to McDonald’s ($1.2 billion), Goldman-Sachs ($207.7 billion) JP Morgan Chase ($485.6 billion), Morgan Stanley ($115.9 billion), Bank of America ($457.1 billion), Boeing, ($8.3 billion), General Electric ($2.6 billion), Exxon Mobil, Shell, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and others. 

Instead, they clutch their pearls over all the “handouts” upon which millions of struggling Americans rely to stay alive.

Conservatives love to blame our economic woes on social safety nets, specifically Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aka food stamps.

They have convinced large swaths of supporters and talking heads on Fox News that by cutting off “welfare” to low-income, mostly minority, Americans they are not hurting but helping by providing an incentive to work harder and stop relying so much on their government.

This has always been their M-O.

So what do we expect now they’re again seeking to tighten restrictions on food stamps?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to institute an income and assets review process to some food stamps recipients would be required to pass to determine their eligibility.

Presently, 40 million Americans, about 12% of the population, receive food stamps.

Those who already receive federal aid via Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) automatically qualify for support.

Introducing income/asset requirements, experts say, will harm three million working families, the elderly, and the disabled

As tens of millions of Americans each year suffer from hunger and food insecurity, experts recognize the SNAP program’s efficacy in reducing hunger, particularly among children.

Policy experts, lawmakers, and commentators warn the change threatens to exacerbate it.

The Senate Agriculture Committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), said in a statement Tuesday the change would “take food away from families, prevent children from getting school meals, and make it harder for states to administer food assistance,” adding:

“This proposal is yet another attempt by this administration to circumvent Congress and make harmful changes to nutrition assistance that have been repeatedly rejected on a bipartisan basis.”

There is a chance the policy change may not come to fruition, however. An initial 60-day public-comment period begins next Wednesday, and advocacy groups are ready for the challenge.

About the GOP’s objective of “incentivizing” the poor to work more, every low-income worker in 28 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands that have expanded benefits, is predicted to be discouraged from working more, accepting a better-paying job, and saving up for education or an emergency, resulting in less independence and more instances of hunger and eviction.

In June of 2017, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) stated the White House intended to impose fees on retailers participating in the SNAP program.

At the time, it was reported the government would assess fees when stores sign up for SNAP, and would require renewal every five years. According to the OMB, these “modest,” “reasonable” fee amounts would depend on retailers’ sizes and types, and generate $2.4 billion in revenue over the next ten years.

The Trump administration then warned it was proposing $191 billion in cuts to the food stamp program over the next decade, coming from tightening work qualification requirements, but details would be left to individual states. The administration also expects states to compensate for some lost funding.

According to the Food Marketing Institute, food stamps accounted for approximately 5.8 percent of an estimated $669 billion in annual grocery store sales. For some retailers, though, it accounts for much more. Walmart, for example, is the largest supermarket in the country.

Let’s not be fooled: this is nothing more than another bald-faced attack on the poor and “takers;” i.e., the most vulnerable among us who require the most help.

Image credit: ttoes.wordpress.com

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been in featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, Straight Forward Poetry, The Broke Bohemian, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to Op-Ed News, Liberal America, and Liberal Nation Rising.

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