The Republican war on food stamps is based on one giant lie.
Last month, Republicans in the House approved a bill that would cut a staggering $39 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps, over the next decade.
President Obama has said that he will veto that House bill should it reach his desk, but the damage is still going to be done.
That’s because this Friday, November 1, the SNAP program will be slashed by $5 billion anyway, thanks to the expiration of the 2009 Recovery Act that increased funding to that program.
Ask any Republican on Capitol Hill about these cuts, and they’ll tell you they’re a blessing.
They’ll say that the billions we spend each year on the SNAP program are a waste, and that the program is hurting our economy.
The Republican story couldn’t be any further from the truth.
The 13.6 percent boost in food stamp aid in the 2009 Recovery Act helped to lift more than half a million Americans out of food insecurity, and millions more out of poverty.
Food stamps lifted 4.7 million Americans out of poverty in 2011 alone, and when Americans are lifted out of poverty, the entire economy benefits.
As Christopher Cook over at Mother Jones brilliantly points out, “extensive research shows food stamps are a highly effective investment delivering big returns for all Americans, not just the poor. SNAP not only provides an economic and nutritional lifeline for low-income Americans, it also creates a significant boon to the wider economy.”
In other words, the billions of dollars the government spends each year on food stamps are being reinvested in the economy, and acting as a giant government stimulus.
According to the Department of Agriculture’s Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, for every $5 spent on food stamps, up to $9 is generated in economic activity.
And the food stamps program is putting thousands of Americans to work, too.
For every $1 billion in retail food demand from Americans in the SNAP program, 3,330 farm jobs are created across America.
Even George Bush understood the economic benefits and powerful stimulus effects of food stamps.
In an attempt to help bring America out of the recession after 9/11, the Bush administration doubled SNAP funding between 2000 and 2008, from $20 billion to $40 billion in today’s dollars.
As FactCheck.org points out, 14.7 million Americans were added to the food stamp rolls by Bush. That’s 14.7 million Americans who were able to use the assistance they received from the government to reinvest in the American economy.
But the issue goes deeper than just the economics of food stamps. It goes to the heart of American values.
Do we, the richest country on earth, really want to be a place where people go hungry when capitalism hits its periodic speed-bumps?
Back on January 11, 1944 in his State of the Union Address, FDR proposed his economic bill of rights, often referred to as the “Second Bill of Rights.”
It was in that “Second Bill of Rights” that FDR said that every American should have, “the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.”
Whether Republicans like it or not, access to enough food should be a right in this country, not just a privilege. If the free market fails to provide food for the people, than it’s the responsibility of the government to step in and provide it.
Given the massive economic benefits that food stamps give us, let’s become a more perfect union, by preserving this vital lifeline for millions of Americans.
It’s not just good economics; it’s also the right thing to do.