Thoughts On SNAP Reform

The Washington Post has put together an excellent story about Rep. Steve Southerland and his efforts to move a bill reforming the federal requirements to qualify for food-stamps through SNAP. I shared the story yesterday on Twitter and wanted to follow up with a longer post on my reaction. You may link to the story here

I MIGHT AGREE WITH SOUTHERLAND on food stamp (SNAP) reform if I believed a large percentage of people sit around watching television while eating chips paid for by tax payers. The substantial surge in SNAP recipients – people receiving government assistance to purchase groceries – is a result of many factors. 

Upward mobility is a challenge when the ladder of success appears severed. Those at the top shout down below words of encouragement instead of lending a hand or a rope to help pull others up. The middle-class just above the divide struggles to hold on to oiled rungs. Hard working citizens watch in fear as colleagues are laid-off from good, living wage jobs. They read the stories from life at the bottom of the ladder. Minimum wage workers who cannot afford higher education, thanks to its escalating cost, work multiple part-time jobs to put food on the table. They make ends meet with assistance from the government and in return for their efforts are labeled “free-riders” who don’t take responsibility.

Southerland believes “being dependent makes you more vulnerable,” but how many of the 47 million people enrolled in SNAP choose to be dependent upon their neighbors? Southerland cites data from the Agriculture Department indicating that half of food stamp recipients have stopped looking for work. Logically, he feels taking away food will encourage these discouraged workers. The argument can also be made that the only means of climbing the broken ladder is with assistance from above or below. While I can see the good intentions behind Southerland’s plan, he is proposing to take away both.

Our economy is barely hanging on, attempting to pull up out of the trenches of the Great Recession. Actions must be taken to succeed, but stepping on the hands of millions of people may only cause us to fall further. It takes billions of dollars to fund safety net programs. However, imagine the greater costs to society if we allow a large part of the American population to fall through.


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