SDGOP chair Tim Rave has a hyperactive spin cycle. Rather than debating the merits of the farm bill and explaining his gal Rep. Kristi Noem's support for all the corporate welfare therein, he tries to make you think that Democratic challenger Matt Varilek wants to give food stamps to lottery winners. Rave was raving so hard that he neglected to notice the refutation of his absurd insinuation included in his very own press release, a quote from Varilek's campaign website (I offer full paragraph context; the part quoted by the SDGOP is bolded):
The difficult economic conditions of the last few years have led to record participation rates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. The Senate-passed bill takes a reasonable approach to finding $4.5 billion in savings from SNAP largely through reducing waste and abuse of the program. The draft House Farm Bill would cut almost four times as much, or roughly $16 billion from SNAP. Because it goes well beyond eliminating waste and abuse, the draft House bill goes too far, taking away nutritional assistance from eligible children and families just when they need it most. Earlier this year, Congresswoman Noem also voted for the Ryan Budget which would convert SNAP to a block grant and cut more than $130 billion from the program in the process. I agree with the many religious organizations who have decried such cuts as immoral. Though there may be little political upside in doing so, I would defend this program for folks who do not abuse it [Matt Varilek, "Fighting for South Dakota Family Farms and Ranches," MattforSD.com, 2012.07.10].
David Lias duly dings Rave's hyperbole, then turns his attention to just how much waste occurs in the food stamps program. It turns out that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program runs a pretty tight ship:
Just how prevalent are food stamp abuse and waste? In 2010, SNAPâ€™s payment accuracy rate averaged 96.2 percent nationwide. Thatâ€™s an all-time high for the program and includes both under- and overpayment. The error rate drops below 3 percent for overpayment alone.
Egregious fraud happens so infrequently that stronger enforcement being proposed for SNAP isnâ€™t even expected to result in meaningful savings to taxpayers, and it wasnâ€™t scored by the Congressional Budget Office, notes Stacy Dean, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities [David Lias, "Farm Bill Discussion Brings out the Worst," Vermillion Plain Talk, 2012.07.26].
Noem and her House GOP colleagues achieve 70% of their SNAP cuts by eliminating something called "categorical eligibility," which allows states to align food stamp eligibility with criteria for other assistance programs like TANF and Medicaid. Categorical eligibility eliminates administrative costs; eliminating it raises costs and red tape for the 40-plus states that use it. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out other big reasons that cutting categorical eligibility is a completely misguided policy:
The cut would push millions of low-income people off of SNAP.Â CBO estimates that repealing categorical eligibility would eliminate food assistance to 1.8 million low-income people; the Administrationâ€™s estimate is 3 million.Â Most of those who would lose eligibility are either low-income working families with children or seniors.
...Categorical eligibility doesÂ notÂ cause substantial SNAP benefits to go to non-needy families.Â In 2010, only 1.5 percent of all SNAP households had monthly disposable income (i.e., income after SNAPâ€™s deductions) above the poverty line.Â In other words, with the categorical eligibility option in place,Â nearly 99 percent of all SNAP households have disposable income that leaves them in poverty.
...Categorical eligibility hasÂ notÂ been a major factor in SNAP spending growth in recent years.Â Â According to CBO, statesâ€™ use of this option accounts for only about 2 percent of program costs.Â Factors like the severe economic downturn dwarf the effects of categorical eligibility [Dorothy Rosenbaum and Stacy Dean, "House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill Would Throw 2 to 3 Million People Off of SNAP," Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2012.07.12].
Recall the official state crime stats released earlier this month that show that of all the nefarious crimes in our state last year, there were only three cases of welfare fraud.
Rave and the GOP love to burn the poor in effigy, when in fact abuse of public assistance programs by the poor is one of the least of our policy problems. If Republicans are really concerned that anyone above the poverty line may be dipping into the welfare trough, then they should attack the big lottery winners, the recipients ofÂ their own Governor's corporate welfare programs, as well as Rep. Noem's doggedly defended federal handouts for farmers and flyers who surely are making more than poverty wages.