Why Congress Should Approve a Farm Bill that Doesn't Slash Food Stamp Benefits
We have a moral obligation to care for each other
In the United States, one of the richest nations on Earth, millions of families struggle with hunger every day. This is why we have a social safety net that includes benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), sometimes known as food stamps. It ensures that our neighbors have food to eat during hard times, economic downturns or when a sudden crisis crops up.
Today, SNAP benefits are at risk for millions of people as Congress prepares to consider legislation that would slash over $20 billion from the program. The danger with this is that SNAP provides meals to more than 40 million Americans, half of whom are children, seniors, and people with disabilities.
It is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in the U.S., lifting more than 8 million families out of poverty. SNAP provides the support people need to take care of themselves and their families in an economy that continues to grapple with stagnant wages, escalating grocery prices, expensive housing, costly health care and massive shifts of wealth to the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class.
Just last month, the new tax law that Congress approved in December was implemented, giving every millionaire in the nation an average tax break of over $48,000 this year alone. That’s three times more than an employee paid the federal hourly minimum wage of $7.25 earns working full-time.
In total, the tax law gave a $2 trillion cut to the richest 1% of households while the proposed funding cuts to SNAP would take food away from 2 million people, including families with children, veterans, people with disabilities and the working poor.
Many working adults who depend on food stamps to feed their families have jobs that don’t pay them enough money to make ends meet. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found that three-fourths of low-wage workers qualify for food stamps even though they are working. The majority of households that receive SNAP benefits have incomes at the poverty line and 56 percent have incomes at half of the poverty level (about $10,390 for a family of three in 2018).
Yet, the proposed changes to SNAP in the House Agriculture Committee farm bill (H.R. 2), which action is expected on this week, would actually cost more in new red tape and bureaucracy by requiring that low-wage workers prove they are working instead of ensuring that they have enough food assistance to feed their families. The bill does nothing to raise wages or create better-paying jobs that would allow employees to support their families without food stamps. It also fails to roll back the massive tax breaks that actually reward companies like Walmart and McDonald’s for paying so little that their employees have to depend on public benefits. Over the next 10 years, Walmart will receive over $20 billion in tax breaks thanks to the new tax law—that’s enough to cover the cost of these proposed cuts to SNAP in the farm bill.
The current House proposal to slash food stamp benefits is nothing less than a violation of our most fundamental moral values. While the richest people and Wall Street corporations expand their net worth by stuffing their pockets with money from tax breaks they don’t need, single mothers, people over 50 who are struggling to find jobs, and the working poor are persecuted and punished under this legislation.
In the United States, we can and must do better. Any Congress member who professes to be a person of faith should reject this bill and return to the bipartisan negotiations that for decades have kept Americans from going hungry. It’s time to pass a farm bill that protects SNAP benefits and ensures that everyone can feed their family.