In a replay from last year, the Senate voted Monday on a new farm bill that, among many things, would trim spending on food stamps — currently $80 billion a year — by about $400 million a year for the next decade. That’s not great news, except compared to plans in the House that would shave five times as much.
The economy has picked up a little steam over the last year, but some 45 million Americans still qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance. Without that help, they’d be hungry. Or they wouldn’t have enough money to pay their rent, heat their homes or buy clothes for their kids — unacceptable tradeoffs.
Lawmakers who support programs that subsidize farmers with crops like corn, sugar, soybeans, wheat and rice — which this farm bill does — have a lot of nerve cutting food stamps. Before they do, they should all be required to live on a food stamp budget for just a few days to see what it’s really like.
People on the lower rungs of the income ladder often stretch their meager food allowances by loading up on unhealthy foods like chips and soda. These may keep their children’s bellies full, but they create health problems. If the food stamp program were properly augmented, with rules prohibiting purchase of unhealthy foods, the government would recoup the added cost and then some through lower health care bills. Spending a little to save a lot: smart.