Food stamps taking too big a bite
In a recent undercover report, KOVR-TV in Sacramento found two people in the state capital city using Craigslist to sell their EBT cards. Such illegal trafficking in food stamps — which occurs routinely on Craigslist and social media — along with other schemes that defraud the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, cost U.S. taxpayers some $750 million a year, the report said.
Against that backdrop, House and Senate negotiators began talks last week on a new farm bill, with the hope that a deal can be made before Congress adjourns for the year.
Among the sticking points, none is more contentious than proposed funding reductions in SNAP, which cost roughly $80 billion in 2012.
The House Republican version of the farm bill proposed to reduce food-stamp spending by $39 billion over the next decade. Meanwhile, the Senate Democratic version proposed to pare SNAP funding $4 billion over the same span.
What remains to be seen is whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats are willing to meet House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republicans somewhere in the middle.
For while Sen. Reid characterized the House GOP’s proposed reductions in the SNAP program “hateful, punitive legislation,” no one can deny that food stamp spending has gotten out of control.
Indeed, hardly any federal entitlement program — including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — has grown as exponentially as food stamps since the turn of the millennium.
In the 2000 fiscal year, food stamps cost the taxpayers $20 billion. By 2007, outlays doubled, to $40 billion, and, by 2012, doubled yet again, to roughly $80 billion.
That brings us back to the $750 million in food stamp fraud. We realize it doesn’t even amount to 1 percent of federal outlays for SNAP. But, as the late great Everett Dirksen reportedly said, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
The runway growth in food stamp spending is unsustainable. It is blowing such a massive hole in the federal budget it behooves Congress to enact cost-cutting measures, including cracking down on fraud.
The Heritage Foundation has suggested several other cost-cutting measures that merit consideration. They include a federal mandate that states receiving food stamp tax dollars require able-bodied adults to work, prepare for work, or at least look for work, in exchange for their EBT cards.
That also includes the suggestion that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers SNAP, scrap its policy of “broad-based categorical eligibility,” by which a person can become eligible for food stamps by simply receiving a “service” — however minimal — from another welfare program.
By urging Congress to enact measures that rein in the runaway cost of SNAP, that’s not to disparage the 47 million Americans who currently receive food stamps. It’s simply to say that the federal treasury cannot long provide food aid to one-seventh of the U.S. population. Food stamps must be reserved for the truly neediest.
— From the Orange County Register
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