Okay. Enough people in Congress despise Obamacare (aka, the Affordable Care Act) enough that they’re willing to shut down the government and perhaps disrupt the national (and even world) financial system to try crippling its rollout. But Obamacare, unfortunately, isn’t the only policy target the fate of which has major public health implications. So-called “hard Right” Republicans seem insistent on dismantling what’s left of the economic and social safety net protecting society’s most vulnerable – the poor, disabled, children and elderly.
A key component of this (badly frayed) net is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), still commonly known as “food stamps.” House Republicans are demanding major cuts to SNAP as part of a general strategy of forcing reductions in federal expenditures. Advocates of SNAP cuts will point to the rapid increase in expenditures and invoke anecdotes of waste and fraud in the operation of the program. Regarding the spike in spending, the reason is evident – poverty rates are going up, making more people eligible for assistance. As for instances of waste and fraud – they are beyond question the exception, not the rule, and surely no justification for damaging reductions in spending.
Make no mistake about it – Cuts to SNAP will hit the growing number of the nation’s poor (nearly 50 million at this point) very, very hard, and will undermine the public’s health by depriving tens of millions (many of the them children and the elderly) of support for sound nutrition, and, it follows, good health. We should be expanding, not contracting, health services and supports for the poor and vulnerable, especially during a period of protracted economic downturn. It’s sound policy based on good science, and, in the long run, good economics.
Not to mention good morality. According the “Feeding America,” a national food bank organization, 20% of our children do not know where their next meal is coming from; cuts to SNAP will bump that number up significantly. Anyway you slice it, that is a moral outrage.