How Much is Enough? The Price of Partisanship in the Farm Bill
A $20 billion cut to SNAP, the amount proposed in a House farm bill that failed earlier this year, is equivalent to eliminating half of all the charitable food distribution by churches and food banks over a 10-year period. The legislation that is currently being drafted doubles those cuts (Rick Reinhard/Bread for the World).
Last year it was $16 billion, but that wasn’t enough. Earlier this year, the number was $20.5 billion, but even that wasn’t enough. Now, the House of the Representatives has proposed $40 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) over 10 years – a horrifying amount that would substantially increase the suffering of the 47 million Americans who depend on SNAP to keep hunger at bay.
The Hill reports that the House is expected to vote on the bill in September after returning from August recess. The proposal is the product of a working group convened by House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in an effort to attract conservative votes and pass the stand-alone nutrtion title of the farm bill on partisan lines.The farm bill proposed by the House Agriculture Committee earlier this year "would have cut SNAP by $20 billion—which would have kicked 2 million people out of the program, reduced benefits for more than 800,000 families, and left 210,000 children without school meals,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in a statement released earlier today. In the current bill, the House doubles the number of people hurt. Beckmann calls both proposals "truly cruel and unacceptable."
During a period of continued high unemployment where there is only one job available for every three applicants, this proposal would increase work requirements, meaning that people who want to work and are looking for a job, but haven’t found one, would see their benefits cut –benefits that help feed children. Ninety-nine percent of households receiving SNAP live well below the poverty line and have no room to absorb these cuts in their household budgets.
In the effort to cut benefits, much has been made of the increased participation in the SNAP program. SNAP participation has closely followed poverty and unemployment rates and has responded quickly and effectively to the recession. As the economy recovers, the Congressional Budget Office projects the participation rates will drop to pre-recession levels.
For Christians, feeding the most vulnerable among us is not a partisan issue – it’s a moral call. We know there is enough for everyone. A proposal to cut $40 billion from a program that offers much-needed food to so many is distressing.
"Assuring government’s obligation to advance the common good, ensure fairness, and defend the most vulnerable is good religion and good politics," said Rev. Beckmann. "Massive cuts to SNAP are neither."
This month, members of Congress will travel home to hear from their constituents. What they do upon their return – pass a farm bill that guts food assistance or cut social programs deeper while protecting defense spending – will depend entirely on what they hear from you. If they hear nothing, expect more proposals that, like this one, will hurt hungry and poor people.
To learn more about how you can get involved and specific priorities in your state or district, contact your regional organizer.
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