I mentioned yesterday that a conservative group was targeting Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford for, among other things, not going along with the Republican Party’s war on food stamps. They are pushing for big cuts in the program, while Crawford has championed legislation that includes outlays for food stamps. If Paul Ryan has his way, food stamps will be strangled into a block grant program. Also at risk is the program that provides supplemental nutrition for pregnant women and infants.
Farm state representatives have tended to be friendly to food stamps because they help people buy stuff produced on, yes, farms.
The food stamp program — which these days actually uses debit cards, and is officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — tries to provide modest but crucial aid to families in need. And the evidence is crystal clear both that the overwhelming majority of food stamp recipients really need the help, and that the program is highly successful at reducing “food insecurity,” in which families go hungry at least some of the time.
… So what do Republicans want to do with this paragon of programs? First, shrink it; then, effectively kill it.
The shrinking part comes from the latest farm bill released by the House Agriculture Committee (for historical reasons, the food stamp program is administered by the Agriculture Department). That bill would push about two million people off the program. You should bear in mind, by the way, that one effect of the sequester has been to pose a serious threat to a different but related program that provides nutritional aid to millions of pregnant mothers, infants, and children. Ensuring that the next generation grows up nutritionally deprived — now that’s what I call forward thinking.
And why must food stamps be cut? We can’t afford it, say politicians like Representative Stephen Fincher, a Republican of Tennessee, who backed his position with biblical quotations — and who also, it turns out, has personally received millions in farm subsidies over the years.