The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the food stamp program lifted four million Americans out of poverty last year, if you counted the benefits as income. Food stamps help Americans who have little disposable income save money for rent and other necessities by essentially providing these people with vouchers to buy food.
Slashing the food stamp program in half doesn’t just cut out people who should be in the workforce, it makes people who need to be on this program go hungry. The government could have just changed qualifications, but by significantly decreasing the funds, there won’t be the same amount of food stamps—which give access to the most rudimentary of food supplies—left for even the people allowed to remain within the program.
It also means that people who were lifted out of poverty last year through food stamps will be plunged right back in, so four million and more will now have to pay not only for rent, electricity, and gas, but also have the financial burden of food on an extremely limited budget.
Some states still have high levels of unemployment that are above the national average. Cutting unemployment benefits will particularly hurt the people in these areas. This demonstrates that the adjustments to a food assistance budget should be carried out on a state level rather than a national one, because each state will hopefully do its best to work in the interests of its citizens. A federal cut doesn’t have that same discretionary ability.
Children especially will be affected by this cut because they are the least likely to be able to provide for themselves. They are at the mercy of their parents’ and guardians’ habits and ability to provide for them. If the food assistance budget is slashed, they will be the most vulnerable. As a democratic state, founded by the people, for the people, we have the responsibility to take care of our own.
Not only did the waivers during the recession keep about four million people above the poverty level, but they also prevented millions more from falling into poverty. With 47 million people currently living in poverty, one of the highest levels in the past two decades, I would argue that there is still a place for a rigorous food stamp program. After all, Oliver Twist did not ask for more soup because he was lazy, but because he was hungry. He had no other access to food except through the institution.
So instead of leaving Oliver out in the cold, let’s continue to scrupulously defend the food assistance programs.