SNAP Debate As A Harbinger of Whether Our Nation Can Come Back Together

With Food Stamp Bill the GOP Once Again Promotes Work Requirements That Don’t Work. “Just as good health is a prerequisite to useful employment, so is good nutrition. Making unemployment an obstacle to getting a decent meal turns this obvious truism on its head. But the advocates of the SNAP cutbacks plainly don’t care. It’s proper to remember that these are the same lawmakers who passed a $1.5-trillion tax cut for corporations and the wealthy.” Michael Hiltzik, Pulitizer Prize winning journalist at the L.A. Times

A battle looms over proposals to cut the SNAP nutritional assistance program by more than $17 billion over ten years.  The proposed cuts are camouflaged in the form of work requirements. It is a necessary battle, but the wrong one. In addition to opposing such cuts, we should be insisting that our growing economy positions us to increase assistance to end hunger and conquer poverty. The modest benefits most SNAP recipients receive are too little to even last the full month.

The work requirement issue is a kind of sleight-of-hand on the part of those looking for politically useful wedge issues that divide rather than unite. The vast majority of food stamp recipients are children, elderly, disabled, or already working. So work requirements are not even relevant, except for a select few. However, they are an example of political misdirection, putting anti-hunger advocates on the defensive instead of championing the even more ambitious efforts needed.

The debate over SNAP and work requirements is important in and of itself. But instead of focusing on the small fraction of SNAP recipients who may be getting what some consider to be more than they deserve, our focus should instead be on the vast majority of SNAP recipients who are not getting as much as they need to lead healthy and productive lives.

Most of all, the SNAP debate is harbinger of whether our nation can come back together on behalf of values that have been so battered and stained – like treating people with dignity and respect.  SNAP is about more than feeding hungry Americans. It is about rebuilding community and national unity.


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