Democrats and liberals seem furious that the economy is doing so well, and are quick to complain that President Trump’s reforms to the welfare system SNAP (food stamps) will leave people starving. Of course, others argue that democrats just love playing master and doling out control of people’s lives.
But, there is one fact that can’t be overlooked: before ANY of the new SNAP reforms are implemented, over seven million people have stopped receiving government assistance for food. (Others, perhaps, have been stopped from stealing taxpayer money.)
That statistic alone shows the incredible strides President Trump has made towards American prosperity.
The administration sees it as an accomplishment that food stamp rolls have fallen by 17.5% as the economy has grown and said that further reforms to the benefits will aid families. Democrats and anti-poverty groups, though, warn that the administration’s proposals would further impoverish children, immigrants, and veterans.
Trump’s year-end list of “results” included the boast that “nearly 7 million Americans have been lifted off of food stamps,” which the administration credited to people “being lifted out of poverty as a result of today’s booming economy.”
Indeed, the latest data from the Department of Agriculture shows that 7.7 million fewer Americans receive food stamps now than did when Trump entered the White House. The Agriculture Department administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, but the actual food stamp benefits are distributed by individual states.
The administration said it can further boost employment in the years ahead through reforms to food assistance. But nonprofit groups focused on hunger and poverty and a number of Democrats in Congress said the efforts are based on the stereotype that people on food stamps are lazy and mooching off the federal government and will only harm beneficiaries.
“The Trump-proposed rulemaking looks to limit access to SNAP because of stereotypes that certain people take advantage of the system. They’re demonizing those who are poor and need help,” said Josh Protas, vice president of public policy at MAZON, a Jewish nonprofit organization focused on alleviating hunger and poverty.
Military veterans are an example of a group that is particularly in need of food stamps that has been harmed by these stereotypes, Protas said, as the majority eligible for food stamps don’t use them, perhaps out of shame or ignorance. “Two in three are literally leaving food on the table, going hungry when they don’t have to,” said Protas.
In the past year, the USDA has proposed three major changes to the food stamp program: new rules that would create stricter work requirements for program eligibility, remove the states’ flexibility when it comes to the income threshold of the program, and changing the immigrant “public charge” definition, which can prevent immigrants from getting U.S. visas if they get certain government benefits, to include food stamps.
“The Trump administration has deliberately taken policy actions to reduce the number of needy people getting food assistance under SNAP,” said Olivia Golden, executive director for the Center for Law and Social Policy. “It has gone around Congress to change policies with bipartisan support in order to make people hungrier.”
The agency’s proposed regulation changes could result in almost 4 million fewer people receiving food stamps and millions more having their annual benefits decreased, according to a study by the Urban Institute. This would include nearly a million schoolchildren losing their automatic eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals.
The study also shows that the federal government would save $4.2 billion in a year through its proposed changes to the food stamp program. Due to 7.7 million people coming off the food stamp rolls in the past three years, the federal government spent $13 billion less on the program in 2019 compared to 2016…
It is true, as the administration claims, that the economy has improved, by many metrics. A drop-off in food stamp use would be expected to accompany economic advancement. Most notably, unemployment has gone from 4.7% in January 2017, when Trump entered the White House, to 3.5% in November 2019, the latest month for which unemployment data is available.
“We have had the longest economic expansion in the history of the U.S under President Trump,” said Brandon Lipps, the deputy under secretary for Food Nutrition and Consumer Services. “Employers are hungry for employees, and they have now moved into employment. It’s because they’re employed and above the level of poverty that they no longer qualify for SNAP.”
Yet the administration’s proposed rule changes would lead to people dropping from the rolls because it would be harder to obtain benefits, rather than because they had increased their self-sufficiency.
Lipps said that the proposals are in line with the food stamp program’s purpose of giving people temporary assistance, with the goal of getting them back on their feet and employed so they can “experience the dignity of work.”
Many Democrats and nonprofit organizations involved in hunger and poverty reduction admit that the strength of the U.S. economy and rising employment have resulted in fewer people needing food stamps but are hesitant to give Trump credit.
“The distinction between people who moved off the program because they found gainful work and those kicked off because of the administration’s cruel policies is an important one,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Democrat from Ohio who leads the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations.
“For years, the Congressional Budget Office has projected steady declines in the number of people on SNAP through 2022 as the economy continues to recover. The millions the White House wants to boot off SNAP with its new rules are over and above that,” said Fudge.
Of course, NONE of the reforms that will “boot” people off the lists have taken effect yet, so the scare mongering tactics used by Fudge