Both sides dig in over cutting food stamps

While battle lines harden, at least 234,000 fewer people are collecting the benefit from December's peak. That might not appease critics.

By Aimee Picchi May 15, 2013 12:27PM
A sign on a frozen food case indicates that Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) and food stamps are accepted at the Dollar General Corp. store in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, U.S., on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Updated at 4:36 p.m.


A fight is simmering over food stamps, one of the nation's most used social welfare benefits and a lightning rod for both conservatives and liberals. 


The number of Americans tapping the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reached a record in December, bringing the program under fire for last year's $74.6 billion in spending. That's more than double what the program paid out before the Great Recession. 


As a result, both the Senate and House are debating measures that would shave the program. The Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday approved the Farm Bill, which would cut the SNAP program by about $4.1 billion, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, the House Agriculture Committee is considering its own version of the Farm Bill, which would trim about $2.5 billion a year. 


The fight over the proposed cuts is coming from two sides: those who think the reductions don't go far enough and those who believe they will devastate already struggling families. 


But lost amid the debate is the fact that demand for the benefit is easing from its December peak, when a record 47.8 million people received the aid. Since then, the program has shed about 234,000 people from its rolls, according the most recent data from the Department of Agriculture, which has posted figures through February.


While only a small improvement, it does suggest the program is helping some families get by until they're able to boost their incomes and get off the rolls.


The fighting over food stamps, though, is likely to ratchet up as the legislation progresses, with some Republicans, such as Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., complaining that the cuts are inadequate. Some critics also complain that the program allows people to buy unhealthful food such as Coca-Cola's (KO) sweetened soft drinks or Mondelez's (MDLZ) Oreo cookies. 


"We believe we have to start moving in a direction that gets the spending trajectory of these programs down to a more reasonable level," Thune said, according to The Wall Street Journal.


Meanwhile, some lawmakers are fighting the cuts, with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., saying in a statement that the reductions will "literally take food away from hungry children."


Despite the recent decline in food stamp recipients, the number of Americans receiving SNAP benefits remains well above the levels seen just a few years ago. That means the debate won't die down anytime soon. 


Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi. 


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850Comments
May 15, 2013 1:09PM
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Food Stamps are one of the most abused and wasteful social program this country has ever developed. A family of four receives more money monthly then my family of five spends a month on food. The amount paid out each month should be cut by at least one third. Purchases by food stamps should be (if not already) restricted to the following: Fresh/frozen non prepared meats & fish, fresh/frozen non prepared vegetables, deli meats/cheeses, canned goods, breads, non sweetened dairy, and juices. The following should always be banned, and processes need to be in place where not already, to restrict: Soda, bottled water, power and energy drinks, coffee, tea, ice cream, candy, energy bars, any pre-prepared meals or sandwiches, snacks/junk food. If these rules would be followed, no one would be hungry and we the taxpayers would save billions.

May 15, 2013 1:44PM
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Close the foodstamp program down and replace it with boxes filled with sugar, flour, cooking oil, some veggies and fruits, dried beans, powdered milk, cornmeal, etc.  People can pick up their boxes at the nearest school or post office.

 

If that's too difficult to coordinate, then make it more like WIC...you get a voucher listing specific items you may have--like 3 lbs hamburger, 2 gallons milk, a bag of oranges, etc....they can use that at the grocery cash register.

May 15, 2013 1:51PM
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I know people who have been on food stamps and free medical care for them and their children for over a decade.  There is nothing wrong with these people except they do not want to work.  Also, did you know you can use food stamps (card) at Burger King?  I don't understand why/how people can be on government assistance and not need it for years and years other than pure laziness without being cut off.  I work for a living and drive an hour each way to get there.  Get off your rear lazy people and get a job.
May 15, 2013 1:46PM
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How many times I've stood in a grocery line watching teens using food stamps to purchase junk food and soda now numbers into the hundreds. Cut the food stamp program and limit to elderly, families and handicapped - and limit items to REAL FOOD!
May 15, 2013 1:44PM
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Food stamps should only be good for food that needs to be prepared. No 'ready to eat stuff'-Chips snacks, soft drinks, candy,....

 

And eliminate the cash benefit part or separate it from the SNAP program.

May 15, 2013 1:46PM
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These females should stop laying on backs having children and expect the system to give food stamps and welfare. The system should make them get off they lazy **** and get a job and i am talking about the males to.
May 15, 2013 1:47PM
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Food Stamps were never intended to total feed your family . they were to supplement and help to feed your family .  People are getting 500 to  600 plus dollars in food stamps , they buy some food but sell at least 50% of them as income .  Children get free lunches , free breakfast  so why do they still get  500 600 a month that should be cut since they get  2 meals a day free and NOW they get free breakfast and lunch thru the summer also . Know wonder they can afford to sale most of them . And What about the  people who are borderline not qualifing  they are the ones who need a little help . Free lunches at school would help them .  Quit arguing and cut the d---- food stamps in half. They won t starve  they have plenty of resources .
May 15, 2013 1:55PM
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I think they should give drug tests for people on Food Stamps. I live in S.Louisiana. I know people, on Food Stamps, that buy groceries for other people, to get the cash, to buy drugs.            Also, I do know people that deserve the food stamps.
May 15, 2013 1:49PM
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Any "entitlement" program should be occasionally audited.  Send a letter to every recipient notifying them that they will be visited by a program administrator at their home, that they have one month to schedule this visit, to take place within the next 3 months, and if they have not scheduled this visit within the month their benefits will cease.  Most of the fraudulent recipients won't bother, and those who do can be evaluated by the administrator and approved for continuance if they are deemed to meet the criteria.

The program will shrink significantly.  Great Britain recently did something similar for disability payments and saw their payout fall by over a third.

The same should be done for WIC, SS disability and welfare as well.

May 15, 2013 1:52PM
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There is so much abuse in this program it's ridiculous. I was in a store just the other day the lady paid for all here food products with the government provided card. While on her finger dangled at least a four carrot diamond ring. She proceeded to use her debit card to purchase a candy bar and get $40.00 dollars cash. There are just way to many people on this program who aren't deserving.

May 15, 2013 1:54PM
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Food stamps are out of control. A year and a half ago, I was suddenly laid off, and I had a family of 6 to support. I applied and was awarded food stamps. Even while I was receiving unemployment and my wife was working (not enough to cover our bills and food, which is why I applied), I was given more per month in food stamps than I had ever spent before. I was able to use them for about 3 months after I stopped receiving them. I got them for 6 months, which means I was receiving at least 50% more than I needed - for a family of 6! And since I had it, I won't lie, I bought what I wanted. That was the best my fridge was ever stocked and I had money to spare. Multiply this out by millions and you have a ridiculous problem. I see people every time I go to the grocery store with carts twice as full as mine paying with food stamps. Most of these people are supporting smaller families than mine. It is quite sickening.
May 15, 2013 1:34PM
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Whoever came up with giving stuff away and people not having to work should be tortured.  This is no in grained into our society and this cancer will be the death of us if we cannot reverse course.
May 15, 2013 1:54PM
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"Meanwhile, some lawmakers are fighting the cuts, with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., saying that the reductions will "literally take food away from hungry children.""

 

No, I think it's more about taking food away from lazy adults.  Maybe we should give them all a month's supply of military MRE's.  Once they get tired of those, they might think about getting a job, not making a baby every year and getting off the public dole.

May 15, 2013 1:49PM
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This program, like a lot of things, has outlived its capacity and existence overall. Was it helpful when it was initiated? Probably. People were in too deep, sometimes by no fault of their own. Now? Are you kidding me? With men and women popping babies like it's candy out of a jar, then asking the rest of the society to help pay raise the kid. I don't think it should be reduced. It should be completely terminated, along with Section 8 (housing) and all other welfare programs. Trust me; other countries do not have this, and people still live and prosper.

 

Besides, where is the incentive? If you work no hours, you end up with unemployment, section 8, food stamps, gas/energy/water/phone assistance, heck, even free internet. If you go out and *gasp* work, all those goodies go away or get reduced. So, which one to choose?

 

Last, some of the people in this generation are 3, 4, even 5th generation food stampers. It is a given to them. Who are we to tell them to stop leeching and get off their butts and work? Oh, yeah. We're the ones PAYING THEM!

May 15, 2013 1:54PM
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Shave away... this program is used and abused.

 

in 2009 when the recession was pretty deep I got laid off and had to go into recover mode... Sold alot of  my assets and personal property to make sure I could pay bills and rent. I often had to as for rides to Food Banks & Sacred heart to get anything I could and was always appalled at the (and I do not say this to be racist or mean, but because this is what I actually observed) high number of heavy set folks ( Mostly hispanic in my area)  in line with 4-5 kids getting as much as they could while having the kids make run after run at the bread rack, while they spend time texting or chatting on their fancy iPhone...

 

These same offenders would then get their food, and proceed to load it into a Cadillac, or other luxury SUV ( I'm not kidding) and drive off. meanwhile the old folks that stayed at the housing consortium would often get nothing cause these lazy welfare suckers with nice carts could drive and get in line faster than the old folks with the cart...

 

At the Social Security and Food stamp offices you see these same suckers with the fancy phones and cars lined up getting more freebies.

 

The issue as I see it is they on paper look poor, who is going to force them to pay taxes on what is speculatively illegal income or unreported income.

 

It is clear to me that as long as there is an under-regulated handout, the lazy and fraudulent ones who pretend they are poor are going to show up in droves for the freebies while the old bag lady gets nothing. This system is jacked up. I say cancel it...

May 15, 2013 1:47PM
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We need to go back to soup lines. That way we cut the costs and fraud. Only the truly needy will benefit.

May 15, 2013 1:49PM
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It's $76.4 Billion per year spent on food stamps, not million as in the article. That's with a BBBBBBBB! Makes a difference.
May 15, 2013 1:52PM
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I'm sure the food corporations lobby hard so that almost all foods, junk, whatever can be purchased with the stamps.
May 15, 2013 2:26PM
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How about this?  The Boston bombers and their parents received not only food stamps, but welfare - not even citizens at the time.  The one in prison now is the only one who became a citizen, just in 2012.    The parents received over $100,000.00 in welfare.    If we are giving every immigrant family here that kind of money, no wonder we are broke.   The same people who are all for this are against the elderly receiving Social Security and Medicare which they have paid for all their lives and Medicare premiums still come out of their measly Social Security checks.  On top of that they pay another premium for an insurance policy to try to cover medical expenses that are left after Medicare pays its part.    Way to go Americans, boot your Grandma's and Grandpa's in the butt and embrace the illegals coming here for "their" benefits.
May 15, 2013 1:50PM
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"those who think the reductions don't go far enough and those who believe they will devastate already struggling families"

Hmm...can we tell which side is which?
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