While Congress obsesses over the imagined perils of rich bondholders – aka “the debt” – real Americans struggling to feed their families got another kick to the teeth this month. On November 1st the federal government rolled back food stamp benefits for all 47.6 million people who receive them.
The 5.5% reduction in benefits will pull about $5 billion in federal spending out of the economy over the coming 10 months — $457 million in California alone. Those were borrowed dollars, so the savings bring Washington one small step closer to fiscal sustainability.
Behold $5 billion. A bookkeeping error in a country that has blown $6 trillion (with a T) on wars of choice.
The cuts also come at a time of historic poverty, unemployment, and stagnant wages. And contrary to public perception about selfish and lazy people taking advantage of an overly generous system, many people on food stamps work full time, including members of the armed forces.
A Department of Agriculture report last year showed that more than 5,000 of the 48 million Americans receiving Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps) listed their employment status as “active duty military,” the Pentagon officials said.
But since the argument for cutting food stamps is a lack of affordability and fears of perpetuating a culture of dependency, perhaps we should throw a glance over at our friends in the corporate sector. According to one estimate, the average American family pays $6,000 a year in subsidies to Big Business. What happened to self-reliance?
That of course excludes the incredible generosity, extracted at virtual gunpoint, the Wall Street banks received with the $700 billion TARP payments from Congress and the $1.2 trillion worth of loan guarantees from the Federal Reserve.
So much for moral hazard and dependency. If anyone needs to take a haircut to help us balance the books for bondholders it’s not people who need food stamps to survive.