Last month, I wrote a column about Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), the congressman who represents Gainesville, and his support for cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps. Yoho, along with 216 of his fellow House Republicans, displayed that support on Thursday when he voted to cut the SNAP program by $40 billion over the next 10 years.
SNAP provides low-income, elderly and disabled Americans with monthly subsidies that help them put food on their tables.
The average monthly SNAP benefit was about $133 per person in 2012, small but critical subsidies for the nearly 48 million Americans who currently receive them.
Many supporters of the SNAP cuts argue these spending reductions are designed to root out waste and abuse in the program.
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who also voted for the cut to SNAP, said the bill would help “get the aid to those who need it most in their hour of need, without the kind of rampant waste and abuse that you see.”
However, experts on the SNAP program assert that the proposed cuts would have no impact on any waste or fraud in the system but would instead harm millions of Americans who rely on the program to purchase food.
The SNAP cuts proposed by House Republicans would have devastating effects on millions of low-income Americans.
In 2014 alone, 2.1 million people from low-income families would lose their SNAP benefits, and their children would also lose access to the federally subsidized free school-lunch program. The adult members of these families are employed but are simply not earning enough income to afford food for themselves and their families.
The problem of employed Americans relying on SNAP could be largely solved by increasing the minimum wage to a level that allows workers to provide for themselves and their families.
Of course, raising the minimum wage is universally opposed by congressional Republicans.
If the supporters of SNAP cuts are truly concerned about waste and overspending in the budget, they might start with the massive subsidies the federal government is currently providing to large and highly profitable factory farms and agribusinesses.
Between 1995 and 2010, farm subsidies averaged about $52 billion a year. Although this amounts to significantly less than the $80 billion spent on SNAP in 2012, 75 percent of those subsidies went to just 4 percent of the businesses, including large and profitable corporations like Archer Daniels Midland Company and Monsanto.
In contrast to the benefits provided by SNAP, which go entirely to low-income Americans who cannot afford food on their own, these taxpayer dollars are being provided to massively profitable corporations that need no assistance from the government.
One explanation for the support in Congress for cutting food stamps while allowing farm subsidies to grow is that some legislators benefit directly from the farm subsidies.
In 2012 alone, 15 members of Congress received a total of about $238,000 in farm subsidies, including crop insurance and disaster relief payments.
The family of House Committee on Agriculture chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), which strongly supported the massive cuts to SNAP, has received more than $40,000 in farm subsidies from 1995 to 2012.
Fortunately for the millions of Americans who rely on SNAP, the bill passing by the House containing the SNAP cuts is considered dead on arrival in the Senate.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, called the bill passed by the House a “divisive, extremely partisan political exercise” that “is going nowhere.”
Providing massive government benefits to large corporations while millions of Americans go hungry is both immoral and harmful public policy.
The support among Congressional Republicans for cutting SNAP while maintaining current levels of farm subsidies is shameful and unconscionable.
Elliot Levy is a UF public relations and political science junior. His column runs on Wednesdays. A version of this column ran on page 7 on 9/25/2013 under the headline "Congress’ cuts are hypocritical"