April 24, 2013

Why Are Food Stamps A Growth Industry?

Today in the Washington Post there's an article about how states are trying to grow their Food Stamps (SNAP)  programs to get as many people as possible onto food stamps.  Something is terribly wrong with society when states see Food Stamps as a growth engine.
...In fact, it is Nerios’s job to enroll at least 150 seniors for food stamps each month, a quota she usually exceeds. Alleviate hunger, lessen poverty: These are the primary goals of her work. But the job also has a second and more controversial purpose for cash-strapped Florida, where increasing food-stamp enrollment has become a means of economic growth, bringing almost $6 billion each year into the state. The money helps to sustain communities, grocery stores and food producers. It also adds to rising federal entitlement spending and the U.S. debt.

Nerios prefers to think of her job in more simple terms: “Help is available,” she tells hundreds of seniors each week. “You deserve it. So, yes or no?”

In Florida and everywhere else, the answer in 2013 is almost always yes. A record 47 million Americans now rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, available for people with annual incomes below about $15,000. The program grew during the economic collapse because 10 million more Americans dropped into poverty. It has continued to expand four years into the recovery because state governments and their partner organizations have become active promoters, creating official “SNAP outreach plans” and hiring hundreds of recruiters like Nerios.

A decade ago, only about half of eligible Americans chose to sign up for food stamps. Now that number is 75 percent.

The liberal argument is that the cutoff for food stamps is a really low income level, and 50% enrollment means that the food stamp program is under-serving its target constituency - the poor.  But that argument overlooks an important point -maybe not all of those "in need" of food stamps actually need that help.  They may be relying on family, or private charities like food banks or churches for example.  That point of view also underlines the problem with liberal thinking as outlined for years by conservatives, and eloquently stated by Rush Limbaugh:
Liberalism defines compassion as how many people it is helping.  Conservatism defines compassion as how many people no longer need our help.
In other words, the liberal objective is 100% enrollment among eligible recipients.  The conservative objective is zero enrollment because nobody needs it any more. The latter is not achievable but should always be a target.  The former is acceptable ONLY if it is done in conjunction with the former.  47 million on food stamps is not reasonable.  Growing that number should not be a goal.  2 million on food stamps at 100% enrollment is okay when those 2 million people are strictly temporarily.

Expanding public debt to pay for food for those in need is not a solution - it compounds the problem.  Getting people back to work should be priorities 1 through 5.  The rising federal debt associated with food stamps proves the program is unsustainable as a growth engine.  In addition it is creating yet another dependency class of people.  When that program dries up they will be ill-equipped to fend for themselves.    Food stamps should not be a growth industry.  The very idea is repugnant. 


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