Our View: Recent food stamp cuts missing point

With October being the month of the food drive, CFHS students have the opportunity to understand the realities of hunger and experience the importance of helping aid the hungry in the community.

However, last month, (just weeks before the government shutdown due to lack of budget, I might add), the House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill that cuts billions of dollars from the food stamp program. The bill stands no chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate, and President Obama has also promised a veto, but the bill narrowly passed in the House, 217 votes to 210.

Representative Marlin Stutzman, a Republican from Indiana, assured the House that the bill “eliminates loopholes, ensures work requirements and puts us on a fiscally responsible path.” And these are obviously good things, but isn’t there a way to do this without cutting off millions of people who desperately need food stamps?

The food stamp program, recently renamed the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), has grown more than usual lately: in 2007, 26 million Americans were enrolled; now, almost 48 million people are enrolled in the program. Republicans, especially tea-party conservatives, have argued that the program, which costs nearly  $80 billion per year, was growing out of control.  While some people might take this as a bad sign, economists point out that the food stamp program has to grow in hard economic times in order to keep millions of Americans out of poverty. However, according to the federal budget office, the number of food stamp recipients, left unchanged, would decline by about 14 million people, or 30 percent, over the next 10 years as the economy improves again.

Yes, increased spending hurts the economy, but SNAP spending helps the economy too. By keeping 4 million Americans out of poverty in 2012, SNAP stabilized the economy and prevented the poverty rate from skyrocketing even higher. As the economy improves, the number of SNAP recipients will go down.

But to jumpstart the economy, we need to create jobs for needy people, not cut off their aid and hinder their ability to work. Many Conservatives, such as Paul Ryan, say food stamps lull able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency. And, yes, measures should be placed in the bill to ensure no one takes advantage of the program, but cutting off people who really do need help is not the way to do it. In Iowa alone, 400,00 people receive SNAP benefits. Nearly half of them are children.  Are we going to deny children sustenance and risk their physical, emotional and academic growth just because some people misuse the program? It’s not our children’s fault that the economy is bad. If we nourish them well, they can grow up to complete an education, fill jobs and even improve our national situation.

So, if you’re wondering why the Food Drive is such a big deal, or if bringing a can or a couple dollars will make any difference, think of all the people in the Cedar Valley who will benefit. Think of the parents who will be able to serve their children a hot meal after long spells of going without, and have something for themselves too. Think of the kids who won’t go to bed hungry just waiting for school lunch the next day.

And while we’re busy collecting the food, we should remind our elected officials of the people all over America who not only benefit from food stamps now, but who will better the economy because of the aid they receive. Cutting funding from the food stamp program won’t improve our economy, but taking care of our citizens will.

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