A sign announcing the acceptance of electronic Benefit Transfer cards at a farmers market in Roseville, California. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
As expected, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a measure Thursday night that cuts nearly $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If signed into law, the bill would push at least 4 million people off food stamps over the next ten years, including many poor and unemployed Americans.
In case you haven’t been following the extensive food stamp debate in Congress this year, here’s the basic rundown: Republicans proposed a farm bill in the spring with deep food stamp cuts: about $20 billion dollars over ten years. That wasn’t enough for hard-core conservatives, who helped kill the bill in June while demanding deeper cuts.
So Thursday night House leadership came back with double the reductions, and passed it this time.
The Republican argument is based on the premise that food stamp funding has exploded over the past few years mainly because people are ripping off the system, and mainly because the “food stamp president,” in the nomenclature of Newt Gingrich, is letting them.
Said Representative Rick Crawford, a Republican from Arkansas, on the House floor Thursday: “Throughout the Obama presidency, we’ve seen the food stamp program grow exponentially because the government continues to turn a blind eye to a system fraught with abuse.”
But that’s just not true. The program has a rigorous payment error oversight program; 98 percent of SNAP benefits were issued to eligible households in 2011. Food stamp use, and thus expenditures, boomed because of the great recession:
And the program is scheduled to reduce outlays all by itself over the next several years, as the economy recovers: