Our Opinion: Scrooge Trump's attack on poor
The cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are indeed cruel and unnecessary as described by the director of programs at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Beyond those qualties, the logic behind this Scroogian gift from the Trump administration doesn't hold up under scrutiny.
The Food Bank's Christina Maxwell describes the new provisions for SNAP as "an attack on poor people," and that is precisely what this appears to be. ("'It's cruel': Food Bank braces for SNAP cuts," Eagle, Dec. 30.) The president's attempts to cut this program for the poor began last year when SNAP reductions were tucked into a popular farm bill. Nonetheless, in a rare act of bipartisanship, Democrats and Republicans rejected the bill because the SNAP cuts would hurt their constituents across the country. The president, who decried President Obama for his use of executive orders before resorting to them himself on a regular basis, then changed SNAP by an executive order.
The administration cited no examples of abuse of the program, instead defining its measures as essentially an act of tough love that will force people to go to work, stereotyping similar to President Reagan's infamous conjuring up of Cadillac-driving welfare queens. The SNAP program does have a work requirement, but even in times of low unemployment, low wages can make it difficult for a working family with rent, car payments and other expenses to save enough money to buy food. The White House's argument that the economy is so strong that everyone should be able to get a good job discounts the reality that there are plenty of areas — the Berkshires among them — where the economy is lagging behind the rest of the state. Many Berkshire residents work part-time jobs with inconsistent hours and wages. Ms. Maxwell observed that a lack of transportation is a key factor in people losing jobs, which is a major problem for low-income Berkshire residents.
States were allowed to waive the work requirement for parents who had to raise children, for example, but the new SNAP law eliminates this option. Big Government is unilaterally depriving states of the flexibility needed to run the program fairly. The administration can't argue with a straight face that SNAP is a federal budget-buster. The average SNAP benefit is $127 for a 2 1/2-week period, and applicants' income must not exceed a meager 130 percent of the poverty line. No one collecting SNAP benefits is lounging on the couch gloating about not working for a living.
Ms. Maxwell anticipates that war veterans with post-traumatic symptoms and children aging out of the foster care system will be most adversely impacted by the changes to the SNAP program. Throw in children who are supported by parents who don't live with them and those for whom English is a second language and you have the most vulnerable members of our society. Our people in the Berkshires are better than our federal government and will try to make up the slack through churches, food banks and other generous institutions but those groups have been working for years to help the needy in the community. The Trump program is a "solution" in search of a problem that will create problems that don't exist, and only a regime change in Washington is likely to cause a reversal of this mean-spirited policy.
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