GOP cuts aimed at poor

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House Republicans passed a bill last Thursday that cuts about $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program, which oversees food stamp distribution.

Republicans claim it is about eliminating loopholes and reigning in a “wild horse” of a program, whereas most Democrats refer to the bill as barbaric.

This is not a bloated budget being cut down or a responsible reeling in of big government. It’s an example of backwards priorities, twisted logic and an elitist perception of reality.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner explained that the bill would make getting back to work a priority for Americans. Nothing quite like the inability to feed your family to light a fire under your ass to get back to work. And this is the party that needs to relate better to the poor and minorities. It’s either sheer arrogance or stupidity or some sort of painful combination.

The argument that food stamps are abused and the program is riddled with fraud holds little weight when compared with other programs. According to an article in The Atlantic, the margins of error in food stamps are comparable with other social programs, hovering at around 3 per cent.

When members of the House advocate for cuts to the program as a way to eliminate fraud or loopholes, they’re actually just cutting funding.

As approximately 47 million Americans experience high levels of food insecurity and rely on foodstamps for meals, 217 members of the House decided that cuts to the program were a good idea.

Republicans could have dug their teeth into a variety of programs that require fiscal trimming, but for some reason chose to create a bill which hurts America’s most vulnerable.

It is difficult to understand how the government can debate a strike on Syria that would come with a hefty price tag in the billions when at the same time cutting social programs on which so many Americans rely.

Obama increased funding for the SNAP program and instances of fraud decreased. By making these cuts, all progress made will be reversed as millions will lose access to meals and jobs will be lost in distribution.

The House wants to put income restrictions in place so high earners cannot receive food stamps. That seems reasonable, but becomes unfair when farmer subsidies, which are typically part of the same bill as food stamps, get overlooked.

Farmers making far more than the average American should not be receiving subsidies from the government, especially when it wants to kick 4 million people off the food stamps program. Insurance coverage encourages farmers to take risks in cultivating land that may not be fertile and, overall, the farmer subsidy program has been susceptible to fraud. However, the farm and insurance lobbies are likely a fair deal more powerful than hungry Americans. This issue is a direct reflection of American priorities and the complicity of interest group donations to political campaigns.

Usually it is a little less transparent and the impact less direct, but this time all those favours owed is resulting in 4 million people losing their meals. The real kicker is that many Republicans want to increase the farm subsidies further.

Farm subsidies are fundamentally very similar to a social welfare program like food stamps, although there is no interest in closing the loopholes when it comes to farmers. Some farm subsidies are even given out to dead farmers.

The Risk Management Agency, which administers crop insurance for farmers, recently paid $22 million to over 3,000 individuals who had been dead for at least two years.

Duke University economist Marc Bellemare and political scientist Nicholas Carnes have a reason beyond the power of interest groups to explain Congress’s agricultural subsidy infatuation.

According to their work, farmers and have disproportionate political sway in key districts.

Whatever the motivation for this latest waste of time and tax dollars, Republicans ultimately lose. It makes them look bad, except to the disillusioned Tea Party-ers who think this sort of thing is responsible governance.

The bill won’t make it through Senate and Obama has already threatened a veto. Republicans come out looking heartless and unnecessarily combative by proposing a bill that they know will not pass.

This is a bad move for a GOP looking for credibility with the American people.

When other countries look with confusion at America, it’s because of government actions like this, which put citizens at increased risk. It wasn’t food stamps that created the deficit and cutting funding for the program won’t eliminate it either.

It’s a shame millions of Americans on food stamps don’t have special interest groups to ensure their jobs. They have to be motivated by an inability to feed their family.

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