I know, that makes for an interesting debate for a Friday morning…or any morning for that matter. The issue of cutting food stamps can be a politically charged discussion, but my desire is to try and look at this from both sides. If I offend anyone, please know that’s not my intention. I simply want to have a discussion of whether or not we should cut food stamps.
What is the Push Behind Wanting to Cut Food Stamps?
I was reading a few articles online this week that discussed the House voting to cut spending on food stamps by five percent. That five percent sounds like a harmless amount but how much does it equate to? The answer is $3.75 billion dollars. Yes, you read that right…billion. Just how much do we spend on food stamps as a nation? Take a look below:
- $75 billion is spent on the food stamp program
- That is up from $21.3 billion in 2003
So, the spending on the food stamp program has a little more than tripled in ten short years. I would guess that the skyrocketing price has a bit to do with the desire to cut food stamps. Beyond that, you have the fact that there are ways to game the system and get food stamps even if you don’t truly qualify under the letter of the law.
We see this in the poster child in the argument to cut food stamps, a 29 year-old surfer from San Diego. As a San Diego native, Mrs. Frugal Rules has met more than her fair share of “surfer dudes” and says he definitely fits the bill. Being able bodied, he chooses to collect food stamps and was essentially gloating in the fact that our hard earned tax dollars are providing for him to go on “food stamp binges” that allow for him to buy things like lobster and sushi. Apparently, numerous officials saw the interview he gave and it used it as motivation to push for food stamp spending cuts. I’ll let you read the aforementioned article to come to your own opinion, but suffice it to say, this individual is not who comes to my mind when I think of those on food stamps.
Who Benefits From Food Stamps?
With any government program you have the risk of it becoming bloated with spending – especially here in the States. However, there are real individuals who’re benefitted by some of them. Here are the numbers:
- There are just under 48 million individuals on food stamps
- 68% of those are either children, disabled or elderly, or are not expected to work
- 13% of those are employed
- 19% are not employed
As you can see the majority of individuals receiving food stamps are either children or those who are not expected to work for one reason or another. It really doesn’t surprise me, but I believe it’s a crying shame that those who’re impacted the most are children or those that may not be able to provide for themselves. There are many reasons for that, and I won’t get into it here, but it’s a shame. That said, I believe that a big reason for the push to cut food stamps is that the system can be and is gamed – and done so regularly. So, essentially, those gaming the system are making it more difficult for all involved. On one level, I’d say cut something like defense first and not food stamps, but I know that would still allow the system to continue to be gamed.
Should We Take the Axe to the Program?
Like I said at the beginning, this can be an incredibly politically charged debate. However, the abuse of the system, as highlighted in the article from MSN Money shows that changes are needed – not that we didn’t know that already. I am certain there are arguments to completely gut food stamps and understand that on many levels, but how do you do that and not impact children?
Beyond whether or not we should cut food stamps, I think this whole issue is yet another reason to help improve financial literacy in our country. That will not solve the entire issue by any means, but certainly would help towards allowing individuals to learn how to manage their finances appropriately and avoid things like credit cards to live off of. Which really should be the real desire for those that are able to get off food stamps – seeing them grow to the point where they do not have the need and be able to provide for themselves. At the end of the day, there are many reasons why someone would be on food stamps, and regardless of what approach is taken I think it’s one that requires cool heads to tackle and make a decision that is best for all.
Before I let you go, make sure to sign up for the $150 cash Giveaway for Frugal Rules’ first Birthday – there are only a few more days left to win!
Would you cut food stamps? What do you think should be done to help prevent gaming the system? Do you have anything fun planned for this weekend?
Photo courtesy of: Guigo.EU