Who crashed the economy? If one turns the pages of Paul Ryan’s spine-chilling budget one sees who conservatives like himself believe to be the biggest threats to the US Economy: Hungry children and pregnant mothers.
Um…not really, but it does serve their purpose of cutting food assistance programs in the nation’s Farm Bill. He and his cohort seek to make the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into a block grant program that would effectively make hunger a constant presence in low-income and struggling families, rather than a mitigated one.
Set to sunset in 2012, the Farm Bill, according to the CATO Institute—a long-time friend of House Republicans and the lion’s share of ineffectual government proponents—was nothing more than a price fixer. The Bill compromised laissez-faire doctrine according to CATO, but politics keep the Bill alive and funded. On that last part, we can agree. Politics and the financial gain of individual Congressmen have kept the parts of the Bill still profitable to themselves, but conveniently seek to phase out the hungry. CATO stills seems a bit disinclined to offer the hungry a modicum of empathy. (No direct link to CATO—you’re on your own)
The House is looking to cut approximately $33 billion from the program. $20 billion of that comes directly from food assistance programs. Oh—but it would leave in place the direct ‘assistance’ to Representatives like Stephen Fincher of Frog Jump, Tenn, a Republican and a farmer, who received $70,000 personally in 2012. Let alone the $265 billion Tennessee farmers received since 1995.
Meanwhile, conservatives continue to tout their belief that public welfare programs are creating, “a nation of takers, and doing stuff like feeding poor children and giving them adequate health care are just creating a culture of dependency.” Economists say this is inaccurate and misleading. The rise in SNAP expenditures came from several factors including the increase in joblessness, the decrease of real wages and the increase in participation in the program by families for whom it is normally intended.
Now, conservatives point to increases in spending in programs like SNAP during the last few years as a trend they can bank on. But they really can’t, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That institute notes that as the economy recovers, the actual proportion of SNAP benefits being paid out will decrease.
One could argue that the increase in usage could also stem from the decrease in real wages as the cost of good and services increased. Families who lost their incomes in the Great Recession, who struggled to find work for consecutive years, did not ask to receive ‘food stamps’. Instead it was the responsible actions parents and breadwinners to apply for and utilize the public benefits afforded them in a time of severe crisis.
As Paul Krugman wrote in yesterday’s New York Times, “If this proposal had been in effect when the Great Recession struck, the food stamp program could not have expanded the way it did, which would have meant vastly more hardship, including a lot of outright hunger, for millions of Americans, and for children in particular. “
So why do House Republicans and their counterparts see a need to address a crisis that doesn’t exist?
Ideology. If children could be nourished on ideology and attend school with their bellies full of it, well, there would be no need for emergency public assistance. But biology tells us differently.