Just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the federal government will cut food stamps.
My friends at the South Dakota branch of Bread for the World note that the boost we gave the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the 2009 stimulus expires November 1. In six weeks, we will have to tell 104,000 hungry South Dakotans to get by with less.
The total cut is $5 billion. South Dakota will lose $11 million in food assistance. That's $11 million of straight economic stimulus which folks who can't find work or who can't get Walmart to give them full-time work at a living wage won't likely replace.
Individual recipients will lost $11 per month in SNAP payments. A family of four will have to subtract $36 from its monthly food budget. In July 2013 (the most recent month with stats available), the average SNAP benefit per enrolled South Dakota household was just about $305. For a household relying heavily on food stamps, the November cut easily translates into losing three days of food in one month.
So tell me which day of the week you'd want your child to go without food.
South Dakota's increasing number of hungry residents can't count on Congress to help. Senator John Thune and Representative Kristi Noem view their SNAP-receiving constituents as liars, cheaters, and wasters. Noem and her House colleagues are working this week on cutting another $4 billion from SNAP by (among other things) eliminating the power of governors to waive food stamp work requirements (yes, such requirements exist) in areas with high unemployment or few available jobs. The House plan kicks millions of people off SNAP.
If we had decent Congressional leaders like Tom Daschle and Bob Dole, we wouldn't even be talking about the House's food stamp cuts. Daschle and Dole take to the Los Angeles Times editorial page to remind us of our wealth and our obligation to our neighbors:
We are a country with ample resources, especially the plentiful supply of food produced by our farms. As Americans, we have always used this abundance to help those who are hungry, both here and abroad. For generations, the United States has welcomed new Americans escaping famine and hunger in their homelands.
All of us benefit from the efficiency of our farmers and ranchers. We enjoy a safe and plentiful food system for less than 10% of our disposable income. In fact, Americans spend a smaller percentage of our disposable income on food than people in any other country. As a nation blessed with a bounty of food, we are a nation with a duty to fight hunger [Bob Dole and Tom Daschle, "Stop Playing Politics with Hunger," Los Angeles Times, 2013.09.16].
The House's proposed SNAP cuts are bad policy. So are the November SNAP cuts coming from the final stimulus expiration. If Dole-Daschle sanity can't prevail, maybe we can bankroll a little Syria peace dividend to forestall the November cuts... because taking help away from our hungry neighbors is a rotten way to say Happy Thanksgiving.