Dec 9, 2019
Three separate attacks on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly Food Stamps—have been introduced by the Trump administration.
The first of the three rule changes got approved in December. It will have the effect that in most areas with high unemployment that got exemptions from work requirements after the economic collapse of 2008, now the work requirements will be reinstated.
The federal agency that oversees SNAP, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), estimates this rule will “save” 4.5 billion dollars from the budget over 5 years.
The other two rule changes are expected to be implemented later in 2020. One will change how inflation is calculated, making fewer people eligible for SNAP. The other change will eliminate automatic eligibility for SNAP for kids in the school lunch program.
A right-wing “think tank” that gets funding from the wealthy Devos and Koch families, among others, has lobbied for these three specific rules changes. Called FGA, the Foundation of Government Accountability, this group recently paid for three White House aides to travel to Disney World. Presentations on cuts to Food Stamps were offered, along with fine dining.
Advocates for the poor say the first round of cuts will take away about $75 a month from households, many of which have incomes below $600 a month.
SNAP pays for 10% of all the food in U.S. homes. SNAP provides the highest level of benefits to households with children under age 18. Thus SNAP allows the poorest layers of the working class, despite their low wages, to be able to feed and raise their families.
Over 80% of all SNAP money is spent at superstores like Walmart or large grocery chains. According to an economist at Moody’s, there is nothing worse for the economy as a whole than cutting back on Food Stamps. Every billion in SNAP spending sustains 10,000 jobs.
Work requirements are nothing new for Food Stamps. Ever since the capitalist economic crisis began in the early 1970s, the Food Stamps program has had some form of work requirement. Like all social programs under capitalism, SNAP rules change as the needs of the capitalist class change.
A “shortage of workers” has come to be a major complaint of the capitalist class. In announcing this rule change, the USDA—highlighting the normality of government putting business interests first—said that by cutting SNAP benefits, it will encourage people to work. In reality, they could have said: starvation will be used as a hammer to force more workers to have no choice but to accept the lowest paid jobs, in order to eat.