The Trump administration has recently proposed an overhaul of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as Food Stamps. The plan would replace some recipient’s free choice benefits with a “Harvest box” of pantry staples such as peanut butter, pasta, canned milk, vegetables, and fruits.
This proposal would effectively slash the cost of SNAP by $129 billion over the next ten years but must be approved by Congress for proposed 2019 implementation. Cutting the fat, right? Sure it will, if we think government can make better decisions than consumers and deliver on what they’ve promised.
The current SNAP system assesses income, assets, and dependents, among other criteria. The process is simple; once a month, an EBT card is loaded with the amount allocated to each individual and is then readily available to spend at retailers who accept the EBT program. Simple, yet not without the occasional misuse and fraudulent mishandling by recipients. Sure, some will sell their benefits each month for cash. Alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs are not on the list of acceptable purchases. It’s called food stamp trafficking, and it accounts for about 1.5% of SNAP card holders. And yes, we have all been in line with the family who spends their entire allotment on Nacho Cheese Doritos, Mountain Dew, and Oreos, but that’s their nutritional business, not ours.
Trump’s proposed change will cut the amount loaded on the EBT card and supplement that with “Harvest boxes” shipped right to their door. Sounds marginally okay, right? Sure, if you don’t want to allow people to make choices when the age-old question is asked, “what’s for dinner?” And no one seems to embrace the box idea. Just ask Joel Berg of Hunger Free America, who is scratching his head over the proposal:
“They have managed to propose nearly the impossible, taking over $200 billion worth of food from low-income Americans while increasing bureaucracy and reducing choices.”
The system serves 42 million Americans, and most are hard-working low-income families that need a boost or disabled or elderly people on a fixed income. Remember – only about 1.5% are getting high and drunk on our tax dollars!
Currently, SNAP is a fairly free market model. This allows local retailers to also reap a financial benefit. While the proposed program could help separate the chaff from the wheat, appeasing the detractors who need that 1.5% of frauds to be dealt with, it may toss Elsie the octogenarian out of her budget numbers forcing her to cook something she doesn’t much want. And, the details on the cost of shipping the unwanted shelf-stable items are muddled in budget language that states, “substantial flexibility in designing the food box delivery system through existing infrastructure, partnerships or commercial/retail delivery services.” Which means what exactly?
SNAP is a program that our country must have in place for our most vulnerable Americans. But it can be overhauled with much less in-your-face tactics than the proposal coming out of the White House. Nutritional foods should be covered: fresh vegetables, meats, fruits, dairy. Canned milk? Ick. Get rid of the allowance for sugary drinks and nutritionally-absent foods, but let’s allow for a bit of personal choice.
I understand the outrage of hardworking Americans who believe everyone on food stamps is a fraud. But that is nowhere near the truth. However, with a bit of research, they would understand the need for the program.
Abuses should be investigated and whittled down to much less than the estimated 16 million people who legitimately cannot qualify for assistance or who abuse the system. If you apply the math of an average family of four whose monthly benefit is $254 per month ($1.40 per meal) and multiply that by 16 million freeloaders, well there’s a savings of $4 billion right there. Yes, that’s a simplistic calculation, but the point is this: we cannot punish the poor while we spend billions on illegal immigrants (yeah, I know I wandered into immigration).
C’mon, President Trump, this is a program to be tweaked, not eviscerated. This is an opportunity to really be the America First president.