Tuesday, July 02, 2013

SNAP answer

The SNAP answer...  

One of the farm-bill killers was the last minute Southerland amendment.
At 12:14 p.m., the House opened debate on an amendment introduced by Florida Republican Steve Southerland that would have allowed states to increase work requirements for citizens to receive food stamps. Shortly after, Cantor spoke on the floor in support of the amendment. While there were more than 100 amendments debated over the two days of deliberations, Southerland’s amendment was the first and only that prompted Cantor to take to the floor.
At 1:22 p.m., the Southerland amendment was approved in a near-party-line vote, 227 to 198. Only one Democrat went for the amendment, and only six Republicans went against. It was a partisan poison pill, the last amendment of the day. And it was enough to kill the measure.
At 1:54 p.m., the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, colloquially known as the farm bill, was defeated 234 to 195, with 24 Democrats backing the legislation and 62 Republicans voting against it. It was the last in a series of embarrassing defeats for the House Republican leadership, who have struggled for three years to corral the conservative wing of their conference.
After the vote, Minnesota Representative Collin Peterson, the senior Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, said, ”The farm bill failed to pass the House today because the House Republicans could not control the extreme right wing of their party.” When asked if the Southerland amendment was specifically what sunk the bill, Liz Friedlander, a spokeswoman for Peterson, told TIME: “I think that’s fair to say.”[More]
“We were over 40 and we ended up…at 24,” Peterson told the Hill.[More]
Speculation aboundson Cantor's motive, and I certainly have no insights. It doesn't look like something your No. 2 man should do unless he's itching to be No. 1, though.

 Indeed, the 24 Democratic votes were a clear drop from the 40 that Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the Democratic floor manager, had predicted.
“I did have more Democrats,” Peterson told reporters after the vote. He said the “last straw” had been a Cantor-backed amendment that opened the door to states imposing more work requirements on able-bodied food stamp recipients.
Cantor sought to shift the blame back to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, accusing the California Democrat of choosing “partisanship over progress.” And Republican aides insisted that Peterson should not have been surprised by the work amendment.
But after all the frustration of the past year, Cantor’s sudden prominence — coming down to speak after being otherwise silent — infuriated those close to Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). And this all played out in an atmosphere in which Lucas had been working — with some success — to try to stem the Democratic bleeding on the nutrition issue. [More]
This is all water under the dam, so to speak.But what I found hilarious was this effort to explain how to make SNAP a work-tested entitlement.
Under this new system, those able-bodied poor who needed public assistance and showed up at their local welfare office before 9 am would be assured a work assignment for 8 hours that day.  They would be paid at the end of the day the minimum wage for that work in cash.  If they needed more, they could come back the next day and work again.  This is only for the able-bodied poor.  The disabled who could not work would be served by other programs designed for them, which can provide generous assistance on top of Social Security disability payments without requiring work.
The local welfare office would attempt to place those seeking assistance in a private sector job, like private temp agencies do all across America every work day.  Indeed, ideally the local welfare offices would be contracted out to private temp agencies, which would be paid a fee based on successful placements of those seeking assistance in private sector jobs.  But all those who showed up needing assistance would receive some 8 hour work assignment for the day paying the minimum wage, even if it was just to spend the day cleaning up the local public parks.
Those who needed child care while they work would bring their kids with them to an on-site child care facility.  All other public assistance for the able-bodied would be provided only in return for those who showed up for work in these job assignments.  That would include Medicaid vouchers for private health insurance for those who showed up for enough days of work each month to qualify. [More].
Does anyone notice the slight problems with the above program changes?
  • Isn't this potentially a 1930's scale work project like the CCC? The problem is not solely making people work, but finding any jobs for unskilled laborers. If the default is "cleaning parks" who will get people to the parks supervise, run the payroll, etc.? What will this government monstrosity cost?
  • Try to make this plan work in rural America, where most SNAP recipients now live. How many offices would this require?
  • Finally, won't the USDA suddenly become the largest day-care provider in the country overnight? Liberals have been arguing for this for decades, and here a hard right commentator reaches the same conclusion.
  • Does this guy even know how SNAP works?
Now I realize this whole pipe dream could simply be an effort to make getting food stamps so hard people don't bother. You make all these hurdles and don't fund any of the appropriations needed to make it work. I'm pretty sure, however, that the eventual court case would force the spending, just like ADA made all those ramps get installed.

I thought I had posted about this, but it turns out it was a USFR commentary, so bear with the repetition:
Last week during the news we has a report about the growing cost of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP - which used to be called food stamps.The video we used to illustrate the the story was of shoppers checking out using SNAP cards. While the video was essentially accurate, the shoppers were all African-American. During the week I did some research and discovered such images may inadvertently perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes. The most likely SNAP recipient is not an adult African American - it is a white child under 18. Children receive just under 50% of all benefits . Whites account for 43%, African Americans 33% and hispanics 19%. The growth of the program cost is largely due to growth in those eligible - a result of the recession and wage stagnation. Even so, the cost could be much higher as only about 3/4 of those who qualify participate in the program. Only 10% of SNAP recipients receive cash welfare payments, and the average duration of benefits is 9 months. Most surprising to me was that in the last few years rural use of SNAP has exceeded urban participation rates - the percentage of those eligible who sign up. These numbers and images matter because this year the ag budget will be fiercely debated between ag programs and food assistance. When farmers realize SNAP cutbacks will impact kids in their local scholl, not just adults in the city, they might decide to split those dollars differently.
It is also germane, I think, to point out the fraud rate for SNAP is significantly below the rate for crop insurance and farm payments. And it bears repeating: economists have found changes in eligibility have been a small factor in the expansion compared to the recession and job losses. More importantly, SNAP costs will decline as unemployment improves, just like it was designed to do.

Republicans don't show any evidence we know what we're doing on this topic other than pandering to the ill-informed right, but a good first start would be to add some actual knowledge to our decision-making process. If we do, we might find SNAP far down our list of wasteful programs - and certainly below farm subsidies.


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Biggest welfare queens I know are farmers, and I'm one of em. The lack of empathy that permeates the discussion about snap or food stamps is disturbing.
Dean

Anonymous said...

As we farmers have been doing not too bad lately I sometimes feel we as an industry have been isolated from what other small business goes through with no support. When we where in Columbus ,Oh. at Easter the young lady with 2 children was checking out groceries ahead of us and being Canadian it was the first time I saw somebody use food stamps.(think they said WIC). I was buying food staples,not lottery tickets,booze,ect. as farmers are first too point out "bums on welfare". For many years my acc't says "you know you have more net income in subsidies than farming" . Some one is going too start asking why we send checks too farmers who have X million in net worth or use it too buy $10k ground or pay $300 rents and then complain-thank you gov't ,its been a good ride-regards-kevin

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