Republicans shouldnât try to have it both ways. They canât excoriate President Barack Obama on the economy, and the paltry job growth that limits first-time and low-skill jobseekers, and at the same time demand cuts in the food stamps the poor and working poor are depending on in this lingering recession.
Whatâs more, cuts to food stamps are meaningless without reform to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, the formal name for food stamps).
Now, several of the rightâs leading think tanks are offering this advice.
âThereâs been an 80 percent rise since 2007 in the number people on food stamps, officially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,â the American Enterprise Institute reports. âLiberal groups are aghast that House Republicans want to cut $40 billion over ten years from the $80 billion a year program. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calls the House GOP bill âharsh.â The CBPP notes that many of the 3 million to 4 million Americans losing benefits are unemployed, childless adults in high unemployment areas and âlow-income families who have gross incomes above the federal SNAP limits but disposable income below the poverty line.ââ
Those are people that even the Republicans acknowledge need help in this economic climate. Thatâs why the GOP shouldnât be in such a hurry to cut food stamps for the sake of cutting.
âIndeed, long-term unemployment remains abnormally and persistently high more than four years after the recessionâs official end,â AEI says. âA recent study on Americaâs back-to-back-to-back jobless recoveries has more questions than answers. If GOPers are looking for budget savings, (economist Tyler) Cowen suggests âmore wasteful targets, including Medicare and also defense spending, not to mention farm subsidies.ââ
The Heritage Foundation, another heavy hitter on the right, agrees that cuts without reform would be ineffective (the next Congress could come along and restore the funding, and weâd be back where we started).
The Foundationâs Rachel Sheffield says the first step should be to separate food stamps from the farm subsidies and guarantees in the rest of the Farm Bill. The next step would be to do what worked so well with welfare reform in 1996.
âThe current bill encourages work among able-bodied recipients but only through an optional program,â she writes. âTo encourage self-sufficiency and independence for all, food stamps should be converted into a work activation program. A new reform should make it mandatory â rather than merely optional, as the House proposal does â for states that receive federal food stamp dollars to implement a work program for able-bodied adult recipients. Similar to the 1996 welfare reform, a new reform should require able-bodied adults to work, prepare for work, or at the very least look for work in exchange for receiving food stamp assistance.â
Is there fraud and waste in the food stamp programs? Of course. But simple cuts in funding will do nothing to reform the system. In fact, as weâve seen in the recent âsequestrationâ debacle, the Obama administration is willing to make sure that cuts âhurtâ to create political pressure for restored funding.