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

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Food stamps
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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 bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.


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ljnace

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
h.hughjardon

When did this vote happen?

July 17 2013 at 8:46 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
h.hughjardon

So.....you believe in God? Judgement day?

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

tom_hill24
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.
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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
clark8642

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
h.hughjardon

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
h.hughjardon

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
h.hughjardon

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
dembaitnswitch

Everyone have a great day, even you dumbed down liberals that failed economics 101.

July 16 2013 at 2:56 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
toosmart4u

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
4 replies to toosmart4u's comment
Iselin007

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
1 reply to Iselin007's comment
dembaitnswitch

Obama doesn't care about jobs. He wants full control over the useful idiots.

July 16 2013 at 2:24 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dembaitnswitch's comment
dembaitnswitch

He didn't have to, his record speaks in volumes.

July 16 2013 at 2:42 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down
paddleman1928

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
stonewolfco

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
1 reply to stonewolfco's comment
dembaitnswitch

That's not going to happen. Besides the government isn't going to let anyone starve or go without a roof over their head. It's only certain individuals that believe the republicans are out to take everything from the people that don't want to earn their own living. Those are the same individuals that have been there taking the handouts from Uncle Sam year after year.

July 16 2013 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dembaitnswitch

The national median income was higher under the Bush administration than it is right now.

July 16 2013 at 2:05 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply