Is It Mean Spirited to Cut Food Stamps?

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, columnist William Galston writes “In Defense of Food Stamps” that “food stamps reach their intended targets, poor and near-poor Americans. The large increase in the program’s cost over the past decade mostly reflects worsening economic conditions rather than looser eligibility standards.  Since 2000 the number of individuals in poverty has risen to 46.5 million from 31.6 million.”
Mr. Galston also states that “the number of able-bodied adults without dependents receiving benefits under the food stamp program has risen to nearly 5.5 million from under 2 million since 2008 even as work requirements for those individuals have been relaxed.  Here the critics have a case: the federal government should reconsider the waivers of current requirements it has extended to 44 states and the District of Columbia and it should consider toughening those standards.”
Congressional Republicans have proposed cutting $40 billion from the food stamp program over 10 years, or $4 billion per year.  Since the total food stamp budget is $80 billion per year, this amounts to a 5% cut.  And this 5% cut is directed precisely at those 5.5 million able-bodied adults without dependents.  Expecting these people to find a job, even if minimum wage, in return for receiving food stamps, is not asking too much.  It is really just “tough love” more than anything else.
Putting a substantial portion of these 5.5 million able bodied adults back to work would also be a big boost to the economy.  One of the biggest drags on the economy at the present time is the low labor participation rate which has dropped from about 66% to 63% since the recession began in 2008-2009.
Trying to make the food stamp program more cost effective is really just an example of what should be done across all programs of the federal government, routinely, as a matter of sound operating procedures.  It is unfortunate that ideology and political partisanship get in the way of such common sense!

2 thoughts on “Is It Mean Spirited to Cut Food Stamps?

  1. What does the participation rate mean? Wh is included in that group and how big is the number. What does 63% mean. What is the make up of the other 37%.

    Steve

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