Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Politics of Scare Tactics

From the July 15 Tampa Bay Times-

Editorial:  Ignoring the hungry in the U.S. House

"Hungry Americans should long remember the vote taken last week by the House to endanger the nation's food stamp program."

"Hungry Americans?"

Who are they? Where are they? Certainly the homeless go hungry. The elderly, the infirmed, the small children of abusive or drug addicted parents often go hungry. But according to the Times Editorial, the hungry Americans are the 47 million recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 

SNAP recipients are roughly 50/50 children to adults, which means for every single parent with 3 or more children receiving food stamps there are 2 or more adults with no children also receiving benefits. 

The growth of food stamp spending, a program begun in the 1960s, has quadrupled since 2000: Increasing spending from 19.8 billion in 2000 to 37.9 billion in 2007, and since taking office, the Obama Administration has more than doubled spending on food stamps again. Spending rose from $39 billion in 2008 to a projected $85 billion in 2012. As the Times Editorial stated, part of that growth is due to the "Great Recession," but under Obama’s proposed budget, food stamp spending will not return to pre-recession levels when the economy recovers. 
No one denies that means-tested welfare is the fastest growing part of government spending. Hopefully, no one would argue that the 50 year-old  food stamp program is in desperate need of reform, as is the Farm Bill, with it's subsidies, price guarantees and skyrocketing cost of crop insurance, and the costs being added to the American tax payers' already budget busting tab.

The only way these separate programs will ever be subjected to long overdue reforms is to separate them through legislation.

And the use of scare tactics by House Democrats and the Times Editorial staff criticizing a bill for what is not in it is like criticizing the school lunch program for not dealing with spending on the infrastructure. Nothing in the Farm Bill passed by the House does anything to reduce food stamp spending.