N.Y. Times, Sept. 8, 2013
By the Editorial Board
Among the many scars of the recession, the most intolerable should be the pangs of chronic hunger that still assail a stunning 14.5 percent of the nation’s households, according to the Department of Agriculture’s latest survey. A decade ago, the figure was 11 percent — a group defined as regularly suffering food “insecurity,” or having 26 percent less to spend on food than households not going hungry. The survey shows that food insecurity rose with the recession and has remained stubbornly high.
Instead of providing aid for the hungry, House Republicans want to reduce the food stamp program — the most basic part of the social safety net — with $40 billion in cuts across the next decade. A showdown vote over this cruel plan is expected this month. The House majority leader, Eric Cantor, is leading a propaganda drive that invokes reform as its cause while blaming the victims of hunger simply because the food stamp rolls had to double to nearly 48 million people in the crunch of recession.
The Cantor plan would force an estimated four to six million people to lose the food stamps that now sustain them. It would invite state governments to ratchet benefits back further because they could use savings wrenched from the pantries of the poor for various other programs, including tax cuts. The measure’s “work requirements” provide no job training funds yet mandate that able-bodied, childless adults who cannot find at least part-time employment will lose their food stamps after 90 days, even if the local unemployment rate is prohibitively high.
Even without the House conservatives’ turning of the screw, the hunger of the working poor was starkly described by Sheryl Gay Stolberg in The Times last week from Tennessee. Parents told of how they must regularly skip meals to feed their children and hunt game when the food stamp allotment falls short of monthly needs.
The falsehood that cutting food stamps is about saving government money is evident when the House plans rich increases in crop insurance subsidies for farmers. Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, a Tea Party favorite who wants food stamps cut, collected nearly $3.5 million in government farm subsidies from 1999 to 2012. Yet he declared in a debate over food stamps, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
The Republicans play up a few abusers of the program to mask the central fact of their plan: the tens of millions of Americans who rely on food stamps are children, the disabled, the elderly and low-wage families. For their sake, Congress should reject the Cantor proposal as the national embarrassment it plainly is.
N.Y. Times, Sept. 8, 2013