Farm Bill, Food Stamps, It’s Time To Go Your Separate Ways

The Heritage Foundation explains that the number of Americans on food stamps is at historic highs.  At no other time in our nation’s history has one in seven Americans received food stamps.  This high food stamp participation costs American taxpayers nearly $80 billion per year.

Strangely, this spending is authorized by the so-called “farm bill,” 80 percent of which is for food stamps.  It would be more aptly named the Food Stamp Bill.

Many who want to maintain the farm and food stamp bill status quo erroneously argue that Congress shouldn’t touch food stamp spending at all.  In fact, some argue the food stamp program is actually a form of economic stimulus!  Heritage explains that that argument is complete nonsense:

First, food stamps are intended to serve as a temporary safety net for those who face economic hardship, not as an economic stimulus. To justify food stamps as a stimulus to raise government revenue ignores the long-term economic consequences of welfare spending.

Not only can high debt from increased spending reduce opportunity, but welfare spending itself can impose substantial non-economic costs: discouraging work, rewarding government dependence, and eroding personal dignity.

Additionally, the food stamp program is riddled with fraud and abuse; the federal government has loosened requirements for food stamp enrollment; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture actively recruits people to become dependent upon food stamps.

None of the above is okay.  But until the farm bill and food stamps are considered separately, these issues will not be resolved.

The reason food stamp policy has not been successfully reformed is because food stamps are tied to the farm bill and have been for years.   Farm policy has not been properly reformed for that same reason.  For too long, food stamps have helped the farm bill get passed, and politicians are well aware and ready and willing to use this to their advantage.

Dan Holler explains:

[L]awmakers from deep-red states seem intent on locking in another five years of exorbitant and reckless food stamp spending. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) has said he is “proud” of his bill. Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, has called the Senate bill a “job creator.”

Why are self-styled conservatives doing this? The answer is as simple as it is cynical. Cochran recently explained that “purely from a political perspective” the inclusion of food stamps “helps get the farm bill passed.”

Cochran’s logic is not unique, but it is time to put this type of thinking out to pasture. The inclusion of massive food stamp spending is one reason a five-year “farm bill” was derailed last year, which therefore begs the question: Could $80 billion in food stamp spending be reauthorized if farm subsidies weren’t?

This unholy alliance is bad for all Americans – farmers, food stamp recipients, taxpayers and consumers alike.

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