Approximately 49 million Americans live in a situation where getting fed isn’t necessarily a guarantee. Additionally, 75 percent of food-stamp participants are families with children; more than one-quarter of participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities. In spite of all that, some legislatures are advocating significant cuts in government programs assisting low-income families. Two hundred sixteen (216) House Republicans who voted for the agriculture bill decided move funds farm subsidies, with no food stamps component at all. And all 216 Republicans voted for it.
In truth, American taxpayers currently spend more than $20 billion per year on farm subsidies. The vast majority of these funds flow to the largest and wealthiest farming operations. The US General Accounting Office reported that in 2011 more than 50 farms received over $500,000 in crop insurance premiums. Many of these farms also obtained additional benefits from other subsidy programs, such as the Direct Payments program.
Under the Direct Payments program, payments to land owners and farms are unrelated to their actual production or crops raised. In other words, farmers receive the payment even if they have a great year with crop prices near record highs, as they are now. Additionally, many of these farming operations are organized as partnerships that typically own multiple farms and thousands of acres of cropland. The families associated with these partnerships are much wealthier than the average American household.
The full text of the legislation is not yet available, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has dropped hints as to where the additional $19.5 billion in cuts might be found. In a memo distributed to House Republicans on September 3rd, Cantor hopes the bill “restores the intent of the bipartisan welfare reforms adopted in 1996 by ensuring that work requirements for able-bodied adults without children are enforced—not waived—and eliminates loopholes exploited over the last few years to avoid the program’s income and asset tests.”
Here’s what that means: any able-bodied adult without dependents who do not meet the revise SNAP requirement are only eligible for three months’ worth of food stamps every three years. The current Republican proposal would eliminate any federal waivers of this revised legislation. This will cause approximately 4 million people to lose full eligibility and prohibit states from relaxing some of the federal government’s other eligibility rules, as most currently do.
Looming cuts to federal programs and shrinking state budgets mean that charity will have a bigger void to fill. To bridge the divide, it has been suggested that private churches and charities to somehow nearly double their current food assistance. While Republicans prefer charity to taxes, local charitable organizations will be unable to meet the demand. In other words, doubling current food assistance via private charities is basically impossible.
In the Dhammapada, the Buddha stated “Hunger is the worst illness.” When people go hungry, life becomes degraded. The body loses mass and withers and the prognosis for chronic hunger is grim: debilitating illness accompanied by early death.
We cannot end hunger unless we end poverty. Some food bank programs do a good job of alleviating hunger but we as Americans do little to end poverty. Private citizens have a big role to play. “We can’t rely on the government for all of this.”
“In giving food, one gives five things to the recipients: one gives life, beauty, happiness, strength, and mental clarity. In giving these five things, one in turn partakes of life, beauty, happiness, strength, and mental clarity, whether in this world or in the heavenly realm.”
~ Anguttara Nikaya 5:37 ~
————————– Updated 9/19/2013 ————————–
The Republican-run House of Representatives voted to cut spending on food stamps for the poor by $40 billion over 10 years on Thursday (September 19, 2013), defying a veto threat from the White House in the name of fiscal reform. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the driving force behind the legislation, said it was “wrong for working, middle-class people to pay” for abuse of the program, whose costs have skyrocketed in recent years. Democrats pointed to nonpartisan estimates that the bill would end benefits to 4 million needy people in 2014.