House GOP's Attempt to Gut Food Stamps Would Gut Economy, Too

Food stamps
Getty Images
First the good news: a farm bill passed the House of Representatives on Thursday, suggesting that -- two years after the last farm bill expired -- a replacement may be nigh. On the bright side, the House's bill could circumvent silly food crises like last year's milk scare. On the dark side, it would also pull the legs out from millions of Americans, leaving them without sufficient funds to feed themselves.

This isn't to say that the Farm Bill, which passed the house by a vote of 216 to 208, isn't generous: it's packed with about $195 billion in price supports, crop insurance, and subsidies that will largely benefit huge agribusinesses. So, in other words, the farm bill, which has been delayed for two years, is showing up late, and is packed with -- no pun intended -- a whole lot of pork.

But for poor people, the bill is a lot less generous. It doesn't contain any money for food stamps. At all.

In 2012, 46.6 million Americans took part in the food stamp program -- AKA the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP -- receiving an average of $133.14 per month. As The Atlantic's Derek Thompson reported, that's about 73 percent of the monthly food cost for the average man -- assuming that he's shopping on the USDA's "thrifty" plan.

Doesn't "thrifty" sound better than "hungry"?

This move doesn't just affect the families that rely on food stamps. After all, as the numbers above would suggest, families on food stamps aren't squirreling away their benefits. The $74.3 billion that the government currently distributes in food stamps goes back into the economy almost immediately, creating jobs in supermarkets, discount stores, fast food establishments, farms, and nearly every other industry of the country that deals with food. (This, incidentally, helps explain why a nutritional program is part of a farm bill.) In other words, by cutting $74.3 billion out of the budget, Congress is also cutting $74.3 billion out of the economy, a move that will likely have major ripples.

It isn't hard to see why many Republicans want to rein in food stamps. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of people enrolled in the program increased by 70 percent, and federal expenditures on food stamps are now the highest that they've ever been. Then again, during the same period, the unemployment rate increased by 97 percent. And, while unemployment has dropped in the last two years, the majority of the jobs that have been created have been low-wage and low-benefit -- in short, the kinds of jobs that can leave hardworking Americans struggling to put food on the table for their families.

Republican lawmakers in the House claim that they will pass a separate bill specifically allocating money for food stamps. However, given that farm bills tend to be a compromise between the farm subsidies that Republicans prefer and the nutrition benefits that Democrats champion, it's hard to imagine that Republicans will be inclined toward generosity when they get around to allocating money to SNAP.

The House's farm bill probably won't ever become law. To begin with, it's doubtful it could be reconciled with the Senate's farm bill, which guarantees food stamp funding. For that matter, President Obama has promised to veto any bill that doesn't address food aid -- and with the bill having passed by a squeaky 8-vote margin with 11 House members not voting at all, the bill's supporters have no chance of being able to find the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto. Still, as a glimpse into the worldview -- and priorities -- of congressional Republicans, the farm bill gives a lot of food for thought.

Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings editor. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

How to Avoid Financial Scams

Avoid getting duped by financial scams.

View Course »

Getting out of debt

Everyone hates debt. Get out of it.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

Is it a normal behavior [the religious right] to push for a pro life agenda and then turn around and vote to stop food stamps and health care for these babies and their mothers. Could these actions lead to the killing and abuse of these babies. Save your wind about adoption, that is for white babies with a good mother. You may think God agrees with you but wait till judgement day and you will differently.

July 17 2013 at 7:55 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to ljnace's comment

When did this vote happen?

July 17 2013 at 8:46 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
h.hughjardon believe in God? Judgement day?

July 17 2013 at 8:48 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

The unemployment rate is not 10% like it was when Bush left office. This country was losing over 500,000 a month back in 2008.

And we added 1.1 million in September 1983 under Reagan's first term. Now that's a recovery.
Median income grew by over $4,000 under Reagan as well.

July 16 2013 at 9:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The House Senate Conference on the farm bill should be fun. This is another chance for the do nothing Congress to excel.

July 16 2013 at 3:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So why is the seperate vote bad?

July 16 2013 at 3:18 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to h.hughjardon's comment

I wish all votes were stand alone.

Wouldn't this help take the politics and pork out of legislating?

July 16 2013 at 3:20 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to h.hughjardon's comment

Go pull your pork somewhere else, spongebob.

I won't ask if you don't tell.

July 16 2013 at 8:53 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down

Social security can go away just like the food program the GOP wants. We must be careful how we vote. President Obama is doing a fine job cleaning up the mess from bush jr.

July 16 2013 at 2:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to toosmart4u's comment

By are a smart mothereffer...SS is going away all on it's own.

July 16 2013 at 3:07 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

It is the Koch brothers [and his kind] that want to do away with food stamps, health care for the poor, S/S and Medicare.

July 17 2013 at 7:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ljnace's comment

The koch brothers...and HIS KIND?

July 17 2013 at 10:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

No matter the issue whether it be food stamps or healthcare the real issue is jobs for without them all else fails.

July 16 2013 at 2:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

they don't want to gut the food stam program-just get it out of the farm bill and fund it from welfare-which is what it is.

July 16 2013 at 2:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

END ALL WELFARE NOW. Its personal accountability folks! Those are your kids, not mine. My money is needed to feed my own. I didn't create them, nor should I be robbed to pay for them. If you can't feed em, don't breed em.

July 16 2013 at 2:06 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Read about the Bishops of Winchester Cathedral because 2 carry my family name and 1 is said to be of the same blood.

July 16 2013 at 1:58 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

When you see young inexperienced people running at the mouth and harrassing older workers that's age discrimination. When you see young thugs beat up on older workers yet your young managers close their eyes that's discrimination. If the FBI and the labor department allows it to go on the corporations will never see the truth of what goes on because the young managers are gangstas themselves.

July 16 2013 at 1:54 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply