Last week, House Republicans pushed through legislation to reduce spending on the federal food stamp program known as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The caterwauling from some objecting to the cut conjured up images of the waifish Oliver Twist being shouted down when he asked for seconds during mealtime at the orphanage.

Massachusetts Democrat James McGovern called the legislation “one of the most heartless bills I have ever seen.”  Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee said the House was tossing hungry children into the abyss.

Not quite.

SNAP’s annual budget has increased four-fold in a little over a decade, from $18 billion in 2000 to $80 billion today, with one out of seven Americans receiving food stamps. The Great Recession drove more people to food stamps and that accounts for most of the increase, but also Washington—Democrats and Republicans—changed eligibility requirements to make it easier to get food stamps.

The Republican proposal cuts $40 billion out of SNAP over the next ten years, which amounts to about five percent, and these are not reductions that take food out of the mouths of hungry children.

Half of the savings will come from tightening requirements for able-bodied adults between 18 and 50 without dependents.  Under the 1996 welfare reform law passed during the Clinton administration, those adults were limited to three months of food stamps out of any three-year period without working at least 20 hours a week or participating in a job training program.

But over time, various waivers to those requirements expanded eligibility. According to the Congressional Research Service, the number of able-bodied adults without dependents on SNAP rose 164 percent from 2007 to 2011, accounting for 10 percent of all recipients in 2011 (the latest CRS year available).

The legislation saves another $11.6 billion by eliminating “categorical eligibility;” that’s where individuals automatically qualify for food stamps if they’re already getting other federal assistance, such as welfare or SSI.   A General Accounting Office report found that 39 states or jurisdictions using categorical eligibility had no asset test at all, meaning it was ripe for abuse.

Individuals enrolled in other safety-net programs can still qualify for food stamps, but they have to sign up and meet eligibility requirements.

The legislation also closes the so-called “heat-and-eat” loophole.  Currently, if a low income household receives any assistance with their heating bills, they qualify for an increase in their SNAP benefits.  Some states abuse this provision by sending $1 or $5 to the home which, according to the formula, can trigger as much as $130 a month more in food stamps.

The bill is now headed to the Senate, where it will likely fail. Even if it passes, President Obama will veto it.  All the while, critics of the legislation will trot out the worn hyperbole about starving children.





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  • Conchop

    Looks like a lot of your powerful neocon masters have won in their efforts of dividing those of us in the middle-class. Many of us are one payday away from the poor house.

    Yet I seem to read so much in your right wing commentary that condemns the poor. Any spoonful of sugar for the poor's bowl of gruel is not acceptable to many of you Bible Thumping neocons.

    You spend your time sensationalizing and inflating claims of wrongdoing by a few of of the needy to the point that one would think that everyone of them is a parasite to your holier than thou vision of society.

    Yet your neocon masters live in a level of society that none of us can imagine. Extravagant homes, yachts, luxurious jewelry, servants, jets, ad infinitum. Plus they and their corporations dodge, manipulate, and evade taxes to the point where they receive refunds worth billions of dollars.

    Funny; you neocon goobers don't say a thing about that. You're far happier with your perverse sense of spiritual satisfaction when you get to trash the poor people. You end up offering a kick down and never a hand up.

    You should be ashamed of yourselves.

    A better character trait would be to never look down on anybody, unless you're offering them a hand up.

  • rich

    Hoppy obviously went to the Medical Marijuana presentation and smoked some samples before writing this column.

  • RB

    Our government rewards worthlessness and punishes success! How much longer can our country continue to do this is anyone's guess.

  • Bim

    As long as the govt gives money to people, the beloved pentagon, states, cities, etc. People will take advantage of it. Look at doctors and hospitals stealing millions from of all things medicare. You guys are talking about someone with 50 dollars in foodstamps trading for 25 dollars worth of cigarettes and beer! This is like a sign of brilliance beyond a wv education.

  • Bim

    From reading some of these negative comments about the poor, I now know why churches can not support the widows and children like taught in the Bible. Many of you making these comments are the members of those churches. Have any of you lowered yourselves to go spend time with welfare assisted people to get some kind of understanding of how life is on Welfare Street. The examples given are a small percentage of those unfortunate. It like saying everyone with a gun is a killer. It reminds me of the wonderful program of drug testing all welfare recipients. The result was less than 2% and millions of govt money was wasted on program. But as always, the lobbying drug testing companies made millions, laughing all the way to the bank, making fools out of the ones that wrote and voted for the bills.

  • WorkerBee

    Better late to the party than never...
    You see, I work during the day.
    1st: Max amount of FS a household of 4 can receive is $668/mo:$526/mo for 3; $367/mo for 2 and $200/mo for 1 person.
    2nd: SSI standard amount is $710/mo
    I have no knowledge of HUD. I just see it a lot.
    3rd: There is no asset test for food stamps. So, you can own a Lear jet and still be eligible.
    Fraud is rampant.
    But, it is a social work mentality at DHHR. The culture of DHHR is such that whatever benefits the receipient the most is what takes precedence above most federally mandated policies.

  • Rafael Cruzzz

    For every cut in the food stamp program raise the minimum wage by 50 cents an hour.

  • leroy j gibbs

    Wow hoppy.over 100 responses.good article

  • Gary

    Hoppy and his boss,JR, are two peas in the let them eat cake. In their eyes the less fortunate are worthless, lazy cheats who our depriving the rich of their entitlements.

  • Gary

    Just wish the good Christians among us would volunteer at the local food pantry or serve a meal at a soup kitchen to get a better look at the plight of the ever increasing under-class in this country.

  • Fentanyl Bomb

    All in all, there are quite a few good points made here today.

    I will just add that the demonization of the poor and working poor receiving these benefits are just red meat for the extreme Right to gin up the base.

    The Republican party will do nothing significant about the SNAP program because their largest donors receive the lions share of these benefits, not the anecdotal 20 something in a hopped-up ricer.

    Do you honestly think that ConAgra, Nestle, Pepsico, WalMart or any of the other entities involved are going to diminish the shopping power that is granted through this program?

    The Corn lobby alone will ensure that soft drinks will never be touched, even at the expense of the health care costs incurred by diabetes.

    It is all about the almighty dollar. Same as it ever was.

    • bulldog95

      Apparently you didnt read anything on this site since you said demonization of the poor is to just gin up the base.

      Where did anyone say they dont want anyone to have foodstamps? Where did anyone say they want people to starve?

      What I read from people is they dont want those people that refuse to better themselves, that spend all their money on wants instead of needs, and those that cant work but have no problem dragging a dear out of the mountains to not get foodstamps. I think it was clear that people on this site wants the abuse stopped, while those that truly cant provide for themselves to be helped.

      • Fentanyl Bomb

        I read everything on this site and understand that this discussion does not occur in a MetroNews vacuum.

        While this site may be centrist in it's politics, there are plenty of sites that like to let their Right wing hang out.

        Stay away from Free Republic, though, they have a hive-mind that does no one any good.

      • GregG

        I have to agree bulldog95. And I am all for getting control of these types of programs. But with the said, I want to see government hand outs to big business in the form of "tax loopholes" and subsidies stop also. And stop rewarding big business for taking jobs overseas.

  • mntnman

    Yeah, we wouldn't want poor people to eat -- yeah, just because they're adults, they shouldn't eat and they are obviously deadbeats -- yeah, because they are on assistance of some kind, they are getting enough and they are obviously deadbeats -- Yeah because they have the audacity to own a TV or a computer, well they are well off and shouldn't get food, because they are obviously deadbeats.

    I'll tell you what -- give me a day, let me take you places and show you things -- perhaps your mind might change, perhaps it won't. But all this talk as if you know exactly what is going on -- it actually sickness me; you have not been in their shoes. Let me take you to some places where they do not have floors in their homes -- they have compacted dirt floors. Let me take you some places where they don't have running water -- Let me take you places where they use outhouses for a bathroom. Yeah, that all still exists in these hills. (I grew up in a poor community, the son of the local doctor. He taught me daily to thank God for my blessings.)

    Let me take you some places where they have to garden to get by, and they do. Let me take you places where people work at what they can, where they can; but can't make it because of health problems, medical costs, sick children, etc, etc, etc. Blaming the poor for being poor? Really. Sure, there are bums out there. But for every abuse you can show, I'll show you 100 real life stories of poverty. I usually don't do this, because it just isn't me, but this one has me miffed -- shame, shame, shame.

    Let them eat cake, I say -- Let them eat cake. (Had a bad week; kinda sick of all the whining and crying, particularly among those who have decent lives and enough to live on -- Quit your belly aching. Work hard, pay your taxes and feel blessed that you have all those things. You coulda' been the sick kid raised by impoverished parents. Yeah, yeah, I know, you've worked so hard, you built this, saved your money -- you did it all on your own with no help from no one -- blah, blah, blah . Give it a rest. Don't begrudge others their poverty -- they earned it the hard way. But for the grace of God...)

    Sorry for the rant, but I'm glad to get that off my chest. Very cathartic. Have a great weekend all. Enjoy what you have!

    • WVU 74

      mntnman, again you rationalize for the literate posters to this board.

      Since we're in travel mode, let me take you to: San Juan, Puerto Rico.

      In Puerto Rico the main currency exchanged is the US dollar, followed by US Food Stamps, followed by the Commonwealth Peso. You can pay for your taxi from the San Juan Int'l Airport to the HoJo Hotel in downtown San Juan with Food Stamps if you want to.

      You can use US Food Stamps to purchase gambling chips at any of the hotel casinos if you wish to. Need a prescription filled? No problem, the VA Hospital-San Juan Pharmacy will probably still accept Food Stamps for payment. About the only item you can't purchase with Food Stamps is Lottery Tickets. The Commonwealth Government demands cash for Lottery ticket purchases. Oh yes, one more place -- Customs. You can't pay any Duty Taxes with Food Stamps.

      Food Stamp abuse went out of control in Puerto Rico around 1988 when the Peso collapsed. That was due to President Bush's (1st) budget cuts for programs in the "Land of the Shining Star". When he cut funding, he really cut it, rendering the Peso to the status of toilet paper. Every building that had an American Flag flying from their flagpoles, flew the US Flag upside down. Bush, the first, was hung in effigy everywhere.

      My point -- No one starved to death. The wretched poor are still the wretched poor. The slums ... Oh God, the smell of those places. Being poor or unable to work had very little to do with abuse of Food Stamps. The people just stopped obeying the laws. Plain and simple, this abuse became part of the daily commerce in a US Commonwealth where it was tolerated, if not encouraged.

      If it can happen there .....

      • Mtnman

        No such thing as US food stamps. Debit cards are used now. State issued. Hard to pass them off in a cab these days...

    • bulldog95

      Well I hope you feel all better getting that off your chest. I actually read all of your post too.

      For every dirt floor and hard working person you could show, I could show you just as many non hard working, lazy people that would rather the government take care of them. This instant gratification society, all about me mentality has got to go.

      I was one of those sick children, my brother was one of those sick children, the brother that was miscarried would have been one of those sick children. There was a time in the early 80's when the coal mines were on strike and lay offs were plenty. My father didnt quailfy for aid and the church didnt help either. He went to bed many times on a hungry stomach just so my brother and I had something to eat. The only difference is he didnt take up drinking or drugs. He didnt turn to crime. He toughed it out, paid the bills, eventually got back to work and then paid of medical bills for his two sons that had major asthma problems.

      Then through my previous job I saw folks that point blank told me why get a job when I can get more from the government. Why get a job that might bring in 1200 a month when unemployment is giving me 1500 a month? Why get a job when I would lose my foodstamps? Why get a job when I could go to back to family court and ask for my child support?

      The only difference mtnman is you described a bunch of people like my father, who tough it out, rely on family, and help thy neighbor. What I described is the deadbeats that scam the system, the same people that apparently to many people think are myths or that 1%.

      • Mtnman

        Don't buy it. More honest poor than dishonest poor. Abuse at the level you suggest is a myth. Poor people are mostly honest, mostly doing their best and mostly legitimately need help. IMHO

        • bulldog95

          And theres the problem, you "dont buy it" so it isnt true. Its there. I am not saying that fraud is 99% but more likely 25 to 30%. There is so much that goes into determination for foodstamps from how much income there is, to who lives in the house. Leaving out a little detail to increase the amount seems innocent enough but it is still fraud. We dont hear about because the state doesnt want to find it because it impacts the error rate which in turn impacts money from the feds.

          You dont believe me, fine but do a little research and see why the error rate is low and how fruad can hurt the state from getting federal dollars. Follow the money.

    • GregG

      As always, a great post Mntnman.

    • liberty4all

      I always enjoy your reasonable and well thought out perspective, whether we agree on everything or not. Please keep posting some sanity.

  • stophating

    What is truly needed is for the program to be overhauled. Food purchases with SNAP benefits needs to adhere to set nutritional standards. While I get angry when I'm standing in line and see the person in front of me using the SNAP card to buy steaks that I can't afford, and get even angrier when they have a cart full of chips and cakes.

    Furthermore, why can they purchase soda with SNAP benefits? If hard working taxpayers want soda, juice, or milk--we have to pay tax on beverages.

    • liberty4all

      A lot of times when I am in line at the store and see food stamps being used to purchase processed, unhealthy foods, it is because it is expensive to eat healthy. Quite frankly you can pack more lunches and prepare more meals when you are buying hot dogs and chips than when you buy fresh fruits and vegetables. It also requires education. Most of the problems being "discussed" on these boards are a product of ignorance and economics. Is it any wonder that the most obese states are typically the least educated and poorest as well?

  • Hop'sHip

    What kind of reaction did you expect your comment to get here, Matt? Now if you prefer to be informed rather than popular, you might want to go beyond Fox and Friends in researching the hardships associated with the Great depression.

    • bulldog95

      And if you want to be taken seriously you dont use talking points blaming everything on FOX, Bush, or the Koch brother.

      • Hop'sHip

        Talking points? I was just curious where Matt's reference to the Great Depression came from, and sure enough I found a discussion on this from that program. If that wasn't his source, I apologize and would like a citation of where I can confirm his contention.