Late last week the Republican-majority US House of Representatives passed a draconian measure to cut nearly $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; colloquially known as the “food stamps” program) over the next ten years.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nearly 47 million Americans received SNAP benefits in 2012, and 72 percent of SNAP beneficiaries are families with children. That same year, the SNAP program cost American taxpayers around $81 billion, about 92% of which went directly towards purchasing food – meaning SNAP is an extremely efficient program. While $81 billion certainly sounds like a lot of money (mostly because it is, and because enrollment spiked post-recession), we also have to realize that – when broken down – we’re spending very, very little on each recipient: about $4.45 per day.
The bill – which passed, for all intents and purposes, along party lines (217-210) – thankfully will die in the Senate (and if it doesn’t, it would almost certainly be vetoed by President Obama), but that really isn’t what matters right now. What matters is that 217 (mostly Republican) members of congress believe that taking food off of the tables of some of the poorest American families is fiscally responsible, while simultaneously campaigning all over the country urging Americans to forego Obamacare – to live uninsured.
The juxtaposition of these two messages is horribly ironic, though altogether unsurprising. We have, for years, been exposed to the conservative disillusion of America’s existential battle between the Takers and the Makers. The “Takers” are those Americans enrolled in what conservatives love to call “entitlement” programs (SNAP, welfare, Medicaid, etc.) – who in their minds are overwhelmingly black and Latino, though they are split about evenly between black and white in the case of welfare – while the “Makers” (sometimes known as the “Job Creators”) are those who Mitt Romney describes as “hard-working Americans” – otherwise known as “white people.”