Columns

SNAP Is a Beast, Steve Southerland Is Right

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: June 21, 2013 3:55 AM
I Beg to Differ
Steve Southerland's Farm Bill amendment might have erred on the side of a 19th century Dickensian workhouse, but give the Panama City Republican credit: SNAP, America's food stamp program, is eating the national budget alive, reforms are desperately needed -- and Southerland called it. 

He didn't win the battle Thursday when House votes were counted, but he certainly showed us the target.

Consider this:

A record 47 million Americans now rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, available for people with annual incomes below about $15,000. Understandable during the deepest days of the recession, when 10 million more Americans fell into poverty. But four years into the recovery, the program has continued to expand.

Why?  Because state governments and their partner organizations -- Florida included, I must tell you -- have become active promoters, creating official “SNAP outreach plans.”  They've actually hired hundreds of recruiters to seek out sign-ups for free food.

Here, as in other states, recruiters have quotas. Most of them are required to sign up between 100 and 200 people a month. Ostensibly, the goal is to curb hunger and reduce the worst effects of poverty. But cash-strapped Florida has a more controversial reason for jumping on the program's bandwagon: Increasing food-stamp enrollment is now a means of economic growth. It imports from the federal government almost $6 billion a year.


So many get a cut. The money sustains Florida communities, grocery stores and food producers. But it also adds to rising federal entitlement spending, the size of government generally and the U.S. debt.

The amendment Southerland successfully tacked onto the House Farm Bill on Thursday would have allowed states to require most adults who receive or apply for SNAP -- including parents with children as young as 1 year old and many people with disabilities -- to work or participate in a work or training program for at least 20 hours a week, or else have their entire family’s SNAP benefits cut off.

Draconian, yes. But House members spent the week thrashing it out on center stage. And while it might have served in part to doom the $940 billion Farm Bill -- SNAP is funded through the Farm Bill -- the Providing Relief to Individuals Desiring Employment (PRIDE) Act, as the amendment was called, exposed about as glaring an example of Big, Fat Government as we've got next to Obamacare.

As Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said during the House floor debate on Southerland's amendment: "When we see the expansion of the dependency class in America, and you add this to the 79 other means-tested welfare programs that we have in the United States … each time you add another brick to that wall, it's a barrier to people that might go out and succeed."

Which is exactly what Gov. Rick Scott said in a letter of support for Southerland's amendment. It was addressed to House Speaker John Boehner.

"Since 2000, SNAP has grown from $20 billion to $85 billion nationally and has become the second most costly federal means-tested assistance program," the governor wrote late Wednesday. "According to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, half of SNAP heads of households in 2011 had stopped looking for work.

"U.S. Representative Southerland’s proposal recognizes the need to reform long-running government-assistance programs to ensure their availability for future generations while allowing states to modernize and tailor their administration of these federal programs."

Scott wants rules that encourage working-age SNAP recipients -- in fact, recipients of all 79 means-tested welfare programs -- to stay on the job search, to do what it takes to feed themselves and their families without government assistance. SNAP is a doable program, he says, if states are given the flexibility to manage food stamp benefits.

The governor had to be pleased with Boehner, who cast his vote in favor of the bill, amendment and all. Nevertheless, the bill failed largely because Democrats who promised to support it backed off when Southerland's PRIDE Act was tacked on.

After the vote, Dems admitted they could not produce the 40 promised votes because of pressure from their party leaders and the White House, which had threatened to veto the bill over the food stamp cuts.


SNAP is a lifeline especially to millions of elderly and work-disabled Americans, and so it should be. But surely a program that quadrupled in the billions within a decade and a half should raise more red flags among fiscal realists than a Pyongyang military parade.

Fixing this program should be a bipartisan bandwagon. OK, it may not need a gouge, it may need a scalpel. But Southerland and all the kerfuffle his amendment created did Congress a favor. I guarantee you that members who didn't know the good, the bad and mostly the ugly of SNAP certainly do now.



Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. 


 

 

 








Comments (14)

John Burt Caylor
7:30AM JUN 29TH 2013
You're defense of Steve Southerland and Lex Luthor Scott trying to kill the SNAP Food Stamp Program tells me that you are a truly inhumane Bitch who wears Jackboots, Leather and carries a Whip to the bedroom to whip your husband if you have one. You're a Tea Part Nazi who has probably been bankrolled by Karl Rove as part of his disinformation network. So get your butt out there in the streets into the real world where working people are not payed enough and can't work hundreds of hours to feed their families - they can't bow down to another master because most of these people are already working 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet in a new America created by the criminals from the Tea Party and new Nazi Party like you. I've traveled all over America the last 3 years looking at the closed factories and boarded up cities that Bush and you left for us a legacy of destruction, doom and gloom - no hope or prospects of employment and a return to Surfdom. In case you want to chalk this up as opinion, No, I'm a real Investigative journalist and not an Armchair blogger like you, I've been one since 1970 when I quit Jr. College to work for a CBS station at the height of the Vietnam War. So I know where I'm coming from and have written and published hundreds of debunking frauds like you, Lex Luthor Scott and Steve Southerland.
kf
9:55PM JUN 22ND 2013
Your word "Draconian" is a misrepresentation. You write well and I must assume you meant to disparage the proposal. In fact the proposal allows people to qualify by searching for a job, doing comunity servce, or training for employment for twenty hours per week. It d oes nt apply to childrn or the aged or disabled. What is wrong with asking those receiving a benefit to make an effort to participate in society?
bakersacres57
8:11AM JUN 23RD 2013
kf, you must be one of those 'Compassionate Conservatives", do your research first, thousands of Military families on food stamps, they don't do enough?
Jason W.
5:02PM JUN 21ST 2013
Nancy do you think the Speaker of the House or anyone in the House for that matter gives a flying flip for what the Governor thinks about their vote?
Voice of Reason
3:15PM JUN 21ST 2013
"Understandable during the deepest days of the recession, when 10 million more Americans fell into poverty. But four years into the recovery, the program has continued to expand." People don't realize that more are in poverty now due to the new 'normal' for most businesses is hiring part time with no benefits. Many now need to work 2 or 3 jobs just to be even with where they were before the recession. I'm not talking about people who lived in the lap of luxury, but people who were able to put a roof over their heads and food on the table.
bakersacres57
10:27AM JUN 21ST 2013
Does she realize how many on food stamps, are in the Military?
Repubtallygirl
10:15AM JUN 21ST 2013
Proud to call Mr. Southerland my Congressman!
LDouglas
8:35AM JUN 21ST 2013
Oh and I just have to question. Would a couple hundred dollars a month in food stamps really keep a person from looking for a job?

I find that hard to believe....

Oh, and from an article on Grist dot org:

"It is also hard to argue that food-stamp recipients are undeserving. About half of them are children, and another 8% are elderly. Only 14% of food-stamp households have incomes above the poverty line; 41% have incomes of half that level or less, and 18% have no income at all. The average participating family has only $101 in savings or valuables."

However, that doesn't mean I don't think we're spending too much on food stamps. Our spending needs to come down across the board.
LDouglas
8:30AM JUN 21ST 2013
The House version of the bill cut food stamps by $20 billion versus $4 billion in the Senate version. No wonder it failed. But from what I read, it could have passed if the 62 Republicans who voted against it had voted for it. So not that it matters, but you can't hold Democrats fully responsible.

Otherwise, Dean is right. Where is the call to cut the subsidies to what I will reluctantly call Big Ag? The Senate version did cut $41 billion in direct payment but gave most of it back in crop insurance and disaster relief? (Free market insurance anyone?) (And why are we subsidizing sugar and corn made into corn syrup when they are both in part responsible for the rising obesity rates and health care costs associated with it?)

Or better yet. How about pointing out what a ridiculous bill it is in all. Or why Harry Reid wouldn't allow debate on the amendments to legalize growing industrial hemp, saving honeybees, or giving us the right to know if the foods we're feeding our families are natural or had been genetically engineered, or the amendment limiting the use of anti-biotics in livestock.
LDouglas
8:12PM JUN 21ST 2013
>The Senate version did cut $41 billion in direct payment but gave most of it back in crop insurance and disaster relief? <

Just wanted to state I recently read in another article it was $5 billion. So who knows for sure how much they cut but gave back through another avenue.
Jason W.
5:04PM JUN 21ST 2013
I would rather have my money go to those who grow my food rather than pay for certain individuals (not all) from eating it.
LDouglas
8:06PM JUN 21ST 2013
So you're a socialist? ;-) Well I wouldn't mind withholding money to pay for certain individuals to eat too. And I also don't mind subsidies to farmers. But not to certain crops. Because it's ridiculous to make crops cheaper (or more profitable) that in turn harm the health of people that we then subsidize their health care to treat.
(And meanwhile paying higher health insurance premiums because of them.)
wawoo
6:54AM JUN 21ST 2013
Ms Smith does want beggars and starving children on the streets. Actually she wants them out of sight and do not forget that the Paul Ryan Amendment that would have those with more than $2000 and a car would not be elgible for SNAP. Guess we now know when one is wealthy beyond all measure, when one has more than $2000 and an old car.
Dean
6:39AM JUN 21ST 2013
Really. An article showing pride in cutting off snap for people in the same bill that contains big ag subsidies. That is a twisted mentality and the author should be ashamed. Want to save money? Rework the whole ag bill, get rid of ag gimmes and save billions.

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