Farm bill SNAP reforms a much-needed, small step forward

Like most Americans, the concept of government welfare programs providing a “hand-up” not a “hand out” is probably a familiar one. The idea of food stamps (SNAP) should be to help people in need and not become part of a dependency lifestyle.

Left-wing opponents of reform like Congressional candidate Deb Haaland and New Mexico Voices for Children (to name just two) oppose reform and claim that “tying SNAP to work requirements will hurt people in communities with high-unemployment.”

The fact is that America has record-low unemployment and we need more Americans getting into the work force, not waiting on the sidelines. While there has been a decline in food stamp outlays since the economy took off after the Great Recession, they are stubbornly-high and will likely remain well above historical levels (see below).

Image result for mercatus food stamp 2017

The reforms contained in the Farm Bill (a monstrosity in and of itself worthy of massive reform or elimination) strengthens and streamlines (already existing) work requirements and ONLY only applies to work-capable adults. So, NOT seniors, NOT individuals with disabilities, NOT caretakers of children under 6, and NOT pregnant women.

While voters overwhelmingly support work requirements for food stamps, that support rises from all voters when work requirements are combined with workforce training and volunteer opportunities. Approval for these changes polls as high as 90 percent.

Is the left today opposed to work? Do they now see dependency on welfare programs like food stamps as never-ending (as opposed to the hand-up)?  The House of Representatives will be voting soon on H.R. 2, Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. While we at the RGF are not enthusiastic about the Farm Bill as an overall piece of legislation, it will be interesting to see where Michelle Lujan-Grisham and Steve Pearce (both of whom are running for Governor of New Mexico) come down and, more importantly, how they justify their votes.


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4 Replies to “Farm bill SNAP reforms a much-needed, small step forward”

    1. There has been an evolution in the way unemployment rates are calculated so your point is well-taken. The unemployment rate is quite low nonetheless.

  1. Paul, I totally get the desire to lay it all out in the ‘give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime’ paradigm. There is great wisdom in that. But the truth is, there are reasons people didn’t have the opportunity to learn to fish in the first place, reasons they lack the necessary bait and tackle, and reasons the fish in their neighborhood lakes are so scare (to continue the metaphor). In other words, the barriers to employment for many people extend well beyond the local unemployment rate and a lack of job skills. We lefties want people to be working, contributing citizens as much as anyone. But we understand the nuances and know that they are rarely addressed with one-size-fits-all mandates. Yes, people need more opportunity to increase their education and learn job skills. But even providing people free tuition to such programs doesn’t guarantee access. People still need to cover their living expenses and many need child care. But those considerations are not adequately taken into account in most continuing ed assistance programs. Another barrier is that people may not be ‘disabled’ but they may have a chronic health problem that limits the kinds of jobs they can take. People also need access to reliable transportation in order to work. Many need access to child care in order to search for a job–but people in that position don’t qualify for child care assistance. Another problem with the SNAP work requirement issue is that HSD is NOT the right agency to offer job training. They can’t even follow federal law and process SNAP applications in a timely manner. Their ‘work training’ program will be farmed out to some for-profit company that offers nothing beyond help building a resume. The fact is, most SNAP recipients who can work, do work. They are the people who wash the dishes in the restaurants where you eat, stock the shelves where you shop, and pull the products that you purchase from Amazon. (In that way, benefits like SNAP are actually corporate welfare because they allow companies to pay such low wages by literally helping keep their employees alive.) Work requirements like these will hurt those who are already working because they will have to regularly verify that they are working, and that adds another level of bureaucratic paperwork and is another barrier to people receiving benefits.

    1. Sharon, you say that a “one size fits all” work requirement will hurt people. That may be true. I can see some potential cases. However, I’d say it is 5 to 1 or even more where welfare policies including SNAP, but usually in combination with others, harms people by reducing incentives to work and increase their skills and self-esteem.

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