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Guest Column: Noem Fans False Fears of Fraud to Excuse Food Stamp Cuts

Last updated on 2013.02.13

Kristi Noem may see the political sense of getting rid of campaign money from convicted felons. Alas, she still wants to take money away from hungry people. Economist Reynold Nesiba and Rev. Anna Madsen of Sioux Falls submit the following guest column on Rep. Kristi Noem's hard-hearted and hard-headed desire to cut the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program based on false fears of fraud:

The US Census Bureau estimates that 824,082 people called South Dakota home in 2011.

In the last four years, the number of people receiving the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly referred to as Food Stamps—has increased from 63,655 in July of 2008 to 104,279 in July of 2012 (the last month on record). Not only do these numbers indicated that 12.65%—more than one in eight!—of our state's population depend on food stamps for their daily bread, they also show that the need for assistance has increased 63.8% over the last four years.

These are shocking statistics.

Earlier this year, during an offering of letters at our church, our family wrote letters to Representative Kristi Noem, asking her to please retain funding for this key program. Our eight-year-old daughter put her own crayon to paper too, and sent off her request that Rep. Noem protect hungry children by protecting SNAP from budget cuts. While we were pleased that Else received a response from Rep. Noem, we were stunned at what that letter told her. "Loopholes and fraud in the current program have lead [sic] to federal spending on SNAP to increase by 270 percent over the past ten years," wrote Rep. Noem.

As an economist and as a theologian, the two of us were dumbfounded.

Based on both economic and basic moral grounds, Representative Kristi Noem couldn't be more wrong.

Is she unaware that December 2007 to June 2009 marked the greatest recession since the Great Depression, an economic event that clearly parallels the increase in SNAP dependents?

Is she unaware that according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities there is almost no fraud in this program? Since 2008, despite obvious increase in SNAP benefits, the overpayment rate of 4% was reduced to 3% in 2011 (the last year on record); the underpayment rate went from 1% to .9%; the combined error rate in 2011 was only 3.8%; and that the overpayment rates are counted as errors even when recouped?

Is she unaware that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office points out that one-fifth of the increase in SNAP monies from 2007-2011 comes from the temporary allowance of higher benefits through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and that higher costs of food and lower earned wages during the recession play a key role in the difference?

Is she unaware that a wide range of religions leaders, including the National Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops, Bread for the World, a long list of Christian clergy leaders from the Baptist, Methodist, United Church of Christ, Mennonite, Orthodox, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reformed, Evangelical, Disciples of Christ, Non-Denominational, and Salvation Army traditions all through a document called "The Circle of Protection," and the Jewish community in a variety of forms—all just for starters—have advocated for SNAP and against the Paul Ryan Republican Budget she supports? They stand against her and her Republican colleagues, precisely of the Budget's hostility toward the poor.

Is she unaware that her statement in this letter to our daughter directly insults more than one-eighth of her South Dakota constituents by suggesting that the primary reason for the increase to SNAP is because of loopholes and fraud?

It should not be overlooked that SNAP is rolled into the very Farm Bill stalled in Congress by the Republican leadership. SNAP because part of the Farm Bill because it is not only a nutritional assistance program. It is an agricultural assistance program. Feeding hungry people also means feeding farmers, by way of compensating them for their work in the fields and on the farms.

We have farmers in South Dakota.

We have hungry people in South Dakota.

Unfortunately, we have Kristi Noem in Washington DC failing to protect either group.

For the sake of hungry people, for the sake of South Dakota farmers, and for the sake of honest public discourse, vote Noem home.

Dr. Reynold F. Nesiba serves as Associate Professor of Economics at Augustana College. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent those of the college. The Rev. Dr. Anna M. Madsen is an ordained Lutheran pastor and proprietor of OMG: Center for Theological Conversation (


  1. larry kurtz 2012.10.10

    Methodists Include Lutheran Farmers....

  2. larry kurtz 2012.10.10

    How's that trickle-down workin' for ya, South Dakota?

  3. Rorschach 2012.10.10

    Noem is a living, breathing GOP talking point. You throw the desired conclusion out there & spin the facts to fit the conclusion. Then hope people don't pay too much attention to the facts.

    Man, I miss Stephanie! When most of congress is people like Noem on one side or the other it's people like Stephanie that really made a difference.

  4. Charlie Johnson 2012.10.10

    A former president once said, "If we can not take care of the many who are poor, we will not be able to save the few that are rich."

  5. Jerry 2012.10.10

    The "unaware" question gives me cause to answer that. Ms. NOem is not aware of anything other than her paychecks. She has shown from the loot she gets for her hunting camp to the loot she makes sure her hubby gets in the insurance racket and lastly, to the looting that she is collecting for not working. She is really a taker and not a maker of any kind. Do you kind of get the idea that I think that she is a huge dud? Well then, you would be correct. She has got to go and we need someone in her place that knows what hard work is for those who he serves.

    There is early voting now, go be that person who wants South Dakota to be respectable to those who have given so much to our state. Our elderly worked all their lives for an opportunity to live without the worry of going hungry and we owe that to all who are needy. How can she allow that indifference? Go be that person who votes for Matt!

  6. Joan 2012.10.10

    My guess is that Noem or any other polititician has ever went through the process of applying for food stamps and have no idea what all the government has to know about the family. A couple weeks ago I emailed Noem's office and suggested that due to the way groceries are going up in price, maybe the monthly allotment of food stamps should be increased. One of her staffers called me a few days later and thanked me for contacting them and informed me that the allotment was increased, only two years ago. Apparently they haven't noticed how the grocery prices are going up on, at the minimum a weekly basis.

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