The House budget cuts at least $133 billion over the next decade from SNAP, the federal government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. According to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), the cuts will squeeze "inefficiencies" out of SNAP — "it's basically closing loopholes and tightening things up," he said. Among the 46 million Americans who receive SNAP benefits today, 90 percent have a total annual income under the poverty line ($10,890 per year); more than 50 percent live on $5,500 or less.
SNAP advocates point out that enrollment is so high because of the poor economy and the rise in unemployment and poverty that came along with it. As the economy improves, the number of people getting SNAP will recede. In addition, they say, SNAP actually works as an economic multiplier: For every $5 spent on SNAP, $9.20 is added to the economy, from grocery store jobs to food processors to farming. In fact, a recent USDA study (PDF) found that from 2000 to 2009, SNAP considerably reduced the amount, depth and severity of poverty in the United States.
In its reconciliation report, the GOP members of the House Budget Committee said their cuts in SNAP would eliminate "a loophole that has allowed individuals to qualify for food stamps on such flimsy pretexts as receiving a brochure from another government program," as well as a loophole that "allows individuals to increase their food-stamp benefits by as much as $130 a month for receiving as little as $1 in federal utility assistance." To control "runaway, unchecked spending" on SNAP, the Budget Committee also repealed automatic increases in food-stamp benefits enacted as part of the 2009 stimulus law.
But the proposed SNAP cuts get much closer to the bone than loophole-closing and automatic increases, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) points out. The cuts are not only deep, but also broad: Every SNAP recipient is affected. Two million people would lose SNAP entirely. The other 44 million now getting help from SNAP would suffer sharp cuts. By September 2012, every family of four would see its benefits slashed by $57 a month.
Rep. Ryan doesn't appear to see any problem with this. In April, he told the Christian Broadcasting Network that it's not the government's responsibility to lift its citizens out of poverty — it's the obligation of the citizens themselves. Should the House of Representatives budget go into effect, Democrats respond, there will be far fewer Americans able to support themselves than there are today.
Also of interest: Helping Georgians apply for SNAP benefits.