Saturday, January 11, 2014

Conservatives Need to Reevaluate Thinking about Food Stamp Participation

Conservatives tend to think that the food stamp program is a wasteful government welfare program given to lazy and deliberately nonproductive people. But I think that mindset needs to be modified.

Currently, 47,637,407 people in America are receiving government aid in the form of food stamps. Participation in the food stamp program increased by 955,574 from July 2012 to July 2013, but over the past year, participation has remained fairly stable—monthly numbers of participants has vibrated up and down slightly. About one in seven people in the U.S. receive food stamps. The receipt of food stamps has gradually increased since its low point of 16.9 million in the year 2000 Admittedly, this high usage of food stamps among our people is alarming; but it must be pointed out that the number of unemployed and underemployed in our society is about the same number as the number of people on food stamps, i.e., one person in seven. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) Clearly, food stamps seem to be going to those among us who really cannot afford to buy adequate food for their families.

Forty-seven percent of food stamp recipients are children, and 26% are adults living with those children. Income for the typical family with children on food stamps stands at 57% of the poverty line—about $10,875 for a 3-person family. Ninety-one percent of food stamp dollars goes to families living below the poverty line.

The reason for the increase in food stamp distribution is that our population has a lot more poor people now. Five years ago, 11.3% of the population was living below the poverty line; now 15% live at that low-income level. According to the Census Bureau, there are 2.9 million more poor individuals today than in 2009. The number of households with income below $25,000 has increased by 3 million since 2009.

One legitimate case conservatives have for their complaint about food stamps is 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. Since 2008, work requirements for these individuals have been relaxed. The federal government should reconsider the waivers of current requirements it has extended to many concerning the criteria for receiving food stamps.   

The observed increase in yearly participation numbers demonstrates that food stamps continue to be an important nutritional safety net for people all over the country, especially as unemployment and underemployment rates remain high. The disagreement between liberals and conservatives seems to be about the extent of our collective obligation to the least fortunate Americans and what is the best way to answer their needs.

Although I am an advocate for helping people out of a difficult situation, I do think that the food stamp program has reached an excessive state of liberal distribution. I believe that the free access to food stamps is now contributing to prolonged unemployment. This free government support in food stamps and prolonged payment of unemployment benefits is causing welfare dependency, which eats away at the heart of American bread winners.

It is my recommendation that the food stamp distribution program should be modified. I believe that we all should write our Congressmen and Senators to encourage them to increase the work requirements for those recipients who are able-bodied and without children. Some end to free distribution of food stamps must happen, or else our people will continue to increase in their government/welfare dependency.

(Much of this blog post was redacted from the Wall Street Journal of 11/6/13, page A13.)

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