Going Towards the Food Stamps Cliff

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary More than 13 percent of the entire U.S. population is on food stamps. This adds up to 47.1 million people. This number alone is almost the same as all the people who live in 24 U.S. states. When the food stamp program began in 1969, there were 2.8 million people on its rolls. Today, it costs $72 billion to maintain the food stamp program—more than double the $30 billion it cost to maintain the program four years before. One out of seven Americans is on the food stamp program. But the real kicker is that the program is unsustainable.

Known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, food stamps cards now act like debit cards—allowing the recipient to get what basic foods that are allowed. They can only “spend” so much on such cards. Last Thanksgiving, more people than ever had to use food stamps to get the basics for eating on that holiday. It is not hard to figure out why so many Americans need the food stamps cards. They need to eat and stay alive. The fact that so many Americans are on food stamps is because the U.S. government has failed to help tens of millions of Americans with jobs, with cutting taxes, and with reducing poverty. This program is a reflection of that failure. It does not matter whether one is Republican or Democrat. What matters is that the economy is still in deep recession, and the politicians just cannot get their act together. It does not matter whose fault it is. The American people are paying for the failure of what Washington, D.C. does not do. The food stamps rolls would be far smaller if the politicians tried to cut taxes for small and medium-sized businesses to function. This might help get the ball rolling so that such companies can start hiring again.

Government programs like food stamps only work if there not so many people on it and if this type of a program is not a burden to the American people. With an official unemployment rate of 8.1 percent (but unofficially much higher), and American incomes slipping, more people will end up on food stamps. This is only going to increase the costs for all of us who must support this program. And eventually we will not be able to support it. If the U.S. government cancels the program without putting all of these people back to work, then they will all end up starving. Is that a better alternative? But that may happen anyways when (not “if” but when) there are far more “have nots” than “haves.” I can only hope that this situation will change before we get to this unsustainable cliff.

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