In September a bill pushed by Reps.Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor will if passed cut off food assistance to 2-4 million of America’s poorest citizens.
House Republicans will be voting on a Cantor/Ryan bill in early September that will double the cuts to the food stamp program (SNAP) to $40 billion over ten years.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities these cuts would literally push millions of Americans deeper into poverty:
Shortly before Congress adjourned for its August recess, House Republican leaders disclosed that they plan to move a bill in early September that doubles — to $40 billion over ten years — their proposed cuts to SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) and immediately cuts 2-4 million more low-income individuals from the program. The new cuts come primarily from eliminating waivers that states can use, during periods of high unemployment, to ease the severity of a harsh rule that limits SNAP to three months of benefits out of every three years for people aged 18 to 50 who aren’t raising minor children and are unemployed, regardless of how hard they are looking for work.
Under the new House Republican proposal, if such individuals can’t find at least a half-time job, they will summarily be thrown off the program after three months — irrespective of how high local unemployment is. The individuals in question are among the poorest people in the United States. SNAP program data show their average income is just 22 percent of the poverty line, about $2,500 a year for a single individual. For most of them, SNAP is the only state or federal income assistance available. On average they will receive about $160 a month in SNAP benefits in fiscal year 2014.
The individuals at risk of losing basic food assistance are a diverse group. More than 40 percent are women. One-third are over age 40. Among those who report their race, about half are white, a third are African American, and a tenth are Hispanic. Half have a high school diploma or GED, and another fifth have some college education. They live in all areas of the country, and among those for whom metropolitan status is available, about 40 percent live in urban areas, 40 percent in suburban areas, and 20 percent in rural areas.
As a result of the proposed cuts, many of these individuals would fall deeper into destitution. Some would likely experience hunger as well as homelessness; money spent on food isn’t available to pay the rent, and with income this low, it can be very difficult to do both.
I am sure that Cantor and Ryan think that they are targeting urban minority Obama voters who in their minds are the ultimate “takers,” but the reality is that the majority of the people that they will be harming are white people in suburban and rural areas. These people are also known as the kind of voters who Republicans are supposed to be wooing in order to win elections. Every election year, the media proclaims the importance of the suburban vote to Republican candidates, so Cantor and Ryan are about to shoot themselves in the foot with these very same people. (These cuts will also harm Hispanic voters, but the House Republican position on immigration has virtually made getting Hispanic voters back into the Republican coalition a lost cause.) Cantor and Ryan have been laying the groundwork for this attack on the poorest Americans for weeks.
Paul Ryan recently told NBC News, “I think it’s insensitive to not have a work requirement for food stamps, and what I mean when I say that is: our goal in these programs is not to make poverty easier to handle and tolerate and live with, our goal in these program ought to be to give people a temporary hand so that they can get out of poverty.”
What Ryan didn’t mention was that his proposed work requirement would mean that people have three months to find a part time job or they will be thrown off the program.
Cantor told Fox News Sunday that denying poor people food is all about fairness, “And we’re going to bring a bill forward under Chairman Lucas’ leadership, that actually says about food stamps, we want the people who need those food stamp benefits to get them. But you know what? It’s an issue of fairness. If they are able- bodied people who can work, they ought to do that in order to receive a government benefit. That’s the proposal we are bringing forward.”
The vast majority of Americans who receive food stamps are children, the elderly, and the disabled. Children make up 45% of those receiving food stamps. The disabled are 20% of those receiving help, and the elderly are 7.5% of the participants in the SNAP program.
It seems unfathomable that elected officials would willingly try to deny food to some of the poorest members of our society, but this is exactly what Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan are trying to do.
What the House Republicans are trying to do is redistribute any resources that are spent on people at the bottom of the economic pyramid back to those at the top.
In Cantor and Ryan’s worldview, the rich get richer while the poor get to starve.