Doing the right thing usually requires getting the right information.
When Congress returns in September, one of the important jobs that must be done will be to find a way to pass a fair and reasonable farm bill.
The bill must address the needs of our nation’s agricultural industry and the need to cut an increasingly unsustainable national budget. Involved in that effort will be consideration of SNAP —the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps.
It is unfortunate that some conservative lawmakers, Seventh District Rep. included, see SNAP as the scapegoat. Before the August break, the House of Representatives passed a farm bill that removed the SNAP budget and there are now plans to draft a food stamp budget that would be cut in half.
SNAP’s annual budget is $80 billion. Proposed cuts to that number range from $20 billion over 10 years in the Senate-passed farm bill and $40 billion being considered in the House.
Cuts to the agricultural programs include $20 billion saved by ending or consolidating programs and reducing subsidy spending, including direct payments to farmers.
That is a lot of money. It may be far short of our $642 billion deficit, but it could make a real impact on our nation’s economic health.
The problem is that cutting SNAP could also have a serious impact on the health of our nation’s poor, especially poor children. The face of a hungry child provides a moral metaphor in this debate.
So it is important that lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have real facts upon which to base their votes in September.
An article about this dilemma in Monday’s Springfield News-Leader demonstrates that some lawmakers are rejecting data for what may seem like conventional wisdom —that too many food stamp recipients are cheating the system and that reforming the system would mean even draconian cuts in the budget would never hurt the truly needy.
Long represents the Springfield area, and his belief that the SNAP program is plagued by billions of dollars in “abuse and fraud” is shared by many of his constituents. His call for deep cuts could easily be seen as playing to the crowd who elected him.
But available data doesn’t back him up. Studies show that fraud represents about 1 percent of the program.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for cuts. But it does mean it is important all our lawmakers, as well as the voters, get the facts before cuts are made.
Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission.