Sunday, November 24, 2013

Nicholas D. Kristof: Food Stamp Cutbacks Are Infuriating

The slashing of food stamps mostly affects children, the elderly and the disabled. Meanwhile, subsidies to wealthy executives and big agriculture continue. Nicholas D. Kristof comments on this Congressional cruelty:

Some 47 million Americans receive food stamps, including some who would otherwise go hungry — or hungrier. A recent government study found that about 5 percent of American households have “very low food security,” which means that food can run out before the end of the month. In almost a third of those households, an adult reported not eating for an entire day because there wasn’t money for food.

Meanwhile, 14 percent of American toddlers suffer iron deficiency. Malnutrition isn’t the only cause, but it’s an important one — and these children may suffer impaired brain development as a result. This kind of malnutrition in America is tough to measure, because some children are simultaneously malnourished and overweight, but experts agree it’s a problem. We expect to find malnourished or anemic children in Africa and Asia, but it’s dispiriting to see this in a country as wealthy as our own.

Let me take that back. It’s not just dispiriting. It’s also infuriating.

...Food stamp recipients already took a cut in benefits this month, and they may face more. The Senate Democratic version of the farm bill would cut food stamps by $4 billion over 10 years, while the House Republican version would slash them by $40 billion.

More than 90 percent of benefits go to families living below the poverty line, according to federal government data, and nearly two-thirds of the recipients are children, elderly or disabled.

Let’s remember that the government already subsidizes lots of food. When wealthy executives dine at fancy French restaurants, part of the bill is likely to be deducted from taxes, which amounts to a subsidy from taxpayers. How is it that food subsidies to anemic children are more controversial than food subsidies to executives enjoying coq au vin?

Meanwhile, the same farm bill that is hotly debated because of food stamps includes agricultural subsidies that don’t go just to struggling farmers but also, in recent years, to 50 billionaires or companies they are involved in, according to the Environmental Working Group, a Washington research group.

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