Remember Jefferson Airplane? Remember this?
“If you want to get to heaven
Over on the other shore
Stay out of the way of the blood-stained bandit
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep” [traditional/Kaukonen]
Now, take a click over to the Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus website and look at the letter from Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2). And, what are Representative Amodei’s concerns about the SNAP program?
#1. He believes it “imperative” to be a “good steward” of “taxpayer dollars.” Any good steward of taxpayer dollars would have recognized by now that for every $1.00 spent on SNAP benefits approximately $1.73 is generated for the U.S. economy. Sounds like a good ‘bang for the buck’ to me. If he’d been paying attention since the January 2008 release of the Moody’s Analytics report by Mark M. Zandi (pdf) he’d have been aware of this. A GOOD steward should seek ways to make those taxpayer dollars stretch. Instead, Representative says of the program: “At this rate the CBO predicts by 2022 the SNAP program will be among the highest non-health related federal support programs for low income families.”
Here’s the portion of the CBO Report he chooses to repeat:
“By fiscal year 2022, CBO projects, 34 million people (or about one in 10 U.S. residents) will receive SNAP benefits each month (roughly the same number as in 2009), and SNAP expenditures, at about $73 billion, will be among the highest of all non-health-related federal support programs for low-income households.”
Here’s the part he left out: (pdf) Outlays for 2012 are set at $80,993,000. While program outlays for 2022 are projected as $72,642,000. Speaking of the actual benefits as a program component we find that the 2012 the cost is $74,849,000 and the projected total benefits cost is $54,912,000. That’s right — the total program costs were projected to be LOWER in 2022.
Grab a calculator the arithmetic is easy, if the Moody’s calculations are adopted, that $64,912,000 in benefits could mean $125,280,160 generated in the American economy. Evidently, Representative isn’t really all that interested in boosting the U.S. economy.
What he gives every appearance of meaning to convey is that the SNAP program is Big Government for Low Income Households … and we can guess what message his constituents will make of that. Does he presume they will have images of Welfare Queens dancing in their heads? Perhaps, because here’s more information he omitted:
“In 2010, about three out of four SNAP households included a child, a person age 60 or older, or a disabled person. Most people who received SNAP benefits lived in households with very low income, about $8,800 per year on average in that year. The average monthly SNAP benefit per household was $287, or $4.30 per person per day. On average, SNAP benefits boosted gross monthly income by 39 percent for all participating households and by 45 percent for households with children.” [CBO] (emphasis added)
Not only do the House Republicans want to slash some $39 billion out of the SNAP program, they’re doing at a time when the commodities markets are predicting about a 3% to 4% increases in grocery prices in the next year. [Navigator] And, allow me to beat this horse one more time: Most grocery stores operate on a profit margin ranging from 1% to 4% per year. Now, take the 10% of their receipts which come from SNAP benefit redemptions out of their calculations and see how good the GOP is at “helping small businesses.”
There’s no way to be a “good steward” of those sacred tax dollars and advocate cutting a program which boosts the economy at the same time. There’s no way to argue that cutting a program benefits us when the result is lower revenues for retailers, who must then pass on cost increases to middle class customers. No, in this instance it is not rationale to look for “reasonable ways to cut costs to federal programs, including SNAP.” (Amodei)
#2. Amodei: “I also agree that it is important for American families to make their own healthy diet choices, which will reduce their health care costs and grocery bills and will improve their quality of life.” What are we to make of this Amodei-ism?
Let’s accept the obvious — the SNAP program is supplemental, and the benefits do not cover all food related expenses for a family. Further, that food purchases constitute a higher percentage of very low income family resources than would be the case in middle or upper class families. A USDA in-depth study (pdf) issued in March, 2013 points out:
“The fundamental reality of most SNAP recipients’ lives is that expenses often outstrip income. SNAP households experience both recurring and episodic financial strain that is eased but not alleviated in full by participation in the SNAP program. SNAP allows families to set aside more easily a portion of their resources—SNAP—for food, and to prioritize a healthier, more consistent diet without compromising as much on obligations such as rent, utilities, transportation, and other basic needs. Families in this study often build their monthly budgets around SNAP, allocating their fungible cash resources toward their bills and other, often urgent, financial needs…” (emphasis added)
Bottom line: If families are to have the resources to make those “healthy diet choices” Representative Amodei promotes, then they have to have the resources to do that without fudging the budget on heat, electricity, rent, loan repayments, water bills, and the like. The recipients find their financial situations “eased” but NOT “alleviated” by the SNAP benefits. Thus the imagery of the “welfare bum” slouched on the front stoop, with all his “hunger” needs provided for by those sacred taxpayer dollars is just that — imagery. Imagination, mythology, and down-right mean-spiritedness.
House Republicans who voted to add about $20 billion to the Defense Department budget in their CR, while slashing the SNAP program missed the lyrics:
Can’t you hear my lambs a’callin
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep