A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Friday, November 30, 2012

Food Stamp Use Rises

In the last budget the Republicans proposed they wanted to not only cut free lunches for poor school children, but tried to slash the amount of money that would go toward providing food for families still hurting from the Great Recession -- the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (more commonly referred to as the Food Stamp program). It just goes to show how out of touch the GOP members of Congress are with the America that exists outside the Beltway.

Those same Republicans would like voters to believe that most food stamps are going to minority people living in urban slums -- and they inferred as much in the last election. But it's just not true. Most food stamp recipients are white people, and the biggest growth for food stamp use these days is in the suburbs and rural areas. And a lot of the growth in food stamps is among the millions of people who lost their jobs when the Bush recession hit. These are people who have worked all their life, and would still love to be working -- but there just aren't jobs available. Many other food stamp recipients are working, but are paid so little they still fall below the poverty level.

Those in Congress (too many in both parties) have fallen into the trap of believing this country is doing much better, and an economic recovery is underway. While that may be true for corporate executives and Wall Street bankers, it is certainly not true for Main Street America. Most Americans (whether poor, working class, or middle class) is still mired in the recession -- the recession that Washington wants us to believe is over.

If you need proof of that, just look at the Food Stamp program statistics. Newly released census data shows that the number of households using food stamps rose by nearly 10% from 2010 to 2011. In 2010, there were about 13.6 million households (or about 11.9% of American households) using food stamps. In 2011, that number had grown to 15 million households (or 13% of all households). In short, the number of people experiencing food insecurity in this country is still growing -- not shrinking.

And remember, those are households -- not individuals. The Department of Agriculture (which runs the Food Stamp program) says that last August (of this year) there were 47.1 million individuals using food stamps -- a record number. And of course, that includes more than 20% of the children in this country.

The congressional Republicans should know these figures. They are no secret, and are available to anyone who reads or watches the news (except probably for Fox News). And yet they obstinately want to give the richest people in this country massive new tax cuts, and pay for it by slashing funds from that growing Food Stamp program (and other programs helping hurting Americans). I personally can't think of anything more hard-hearted and mean-spirited than that.

If they really wanted to get people off of food stamps there are ways to do it without taking food out of the mouths of starving children and adults. A couple of ways that instantly come to mind are -- raising the minimum wage to a decent level (over $10 an hour), and pass the president's plan to rebuild this nation's infrastructure (which would create many jobs. Both of these would not only reduce food stamp use, but would put more money into the economy to increase demand -- and thus create even more jobs.

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