House Republicans pushed through a bill on Thursday that would cut billions from the nation’s food stamp program, even as families struggle with debt, unemployment, and poverty. The bill passed 217-to-210, despite objections from Democrats and President Obama’s threat to veto the bill.
Written by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), the bill will cut $40 billion from the program over the next 10 years and require adults between the ages of 18 and 50 without children to find a job or enroll in a training program to receive benefits, which would only last three months. Lottery winners wouldn’t be able to receive benefits (?) and recipients would have to submit to drug tests. People in social welfare programs wouldn’t automatically qualify for food stamps.
Even with the cuts and additional requirements, the food stamp program is going to cost $700 billion over the next decade.
Recent Census Bureau numbers say food stamps kept four million people out of poverty this past year, and many more were kept from more severe poverty with this aid. Nearly 47 million people live in poverty in this country. And, as we reported this morning, the nation’s poorest are children of color.
Writing about the report, The New York Times notes that, left alone, the number of people receiving food stamps would decline by 14 million people, or 30 percent, because of economic improvements. In the meantime, however, 13.6 percent of Americans received federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits last year, up from 2011. (USA Today also provides other findings from the Census report.)
In comments, House Speaker John Boehner said, “This bill makes getting Americans back to work a priority again for our nation’s welfare programs.” However, as we’ve noted a few times, the jobs that are being created are largely low-wage ones in the retail and fast-food industries. The Economic Policy Institute, in a press release we received, called the cuts “irresponsible” for that very reason.
“Majority Leader Eric Cantor seems to think that cutting these benefits will make people more self-sufficient, but today’s economic problem is not that Americans are unwilling to work, it’s that there are not enough jobs. At a time when unemployment is still above 7 percent, Congress should instead be working to deliver a jobs program for Americans, not cutting the few resources going to families that need them most,” the blog post said.
Continuing with the cuts, House Republicans pushed through a spending bill today that cuts all funding for Obamacare with a vote of 230-to-189. According to another story from the Times, this sets up another fiscal fight in Congress. So get ready folks. It’s deja vu all over again.