Senator Jeff Sessions is very, very, very worried about fraud, waste and abuse within the Federal food stamp program (SNAP). So worried he has introduced an amendment to cut funds to the program because he's certain there are just a bunch of poor deadbeats out there taking advantage of the Feds' largesse.
From his press release Friday:
Consider the food stamp program, now known as “SNAP”—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP is the largest item in Agriculture Department’s budget. Spending on food stamps has surged over the last decade. It’s nearly doubled since President Obama took office. And in the appropriations bill before us this week, Senate Democrats propose another increase that would quadruple food stamp spending from what it was in 2001.
Eleven million more Americans are on food stamps now than when President Obama first took office. The size of the benefit has increased 31 percent since 2008. When the food stamp program was expanded nationally in the 1970s, food stamps were used by 2 percent of the population. At the beginning of the last decade, they were used by 6 percent of the population. Today that figure has risen to 13 percent—one in eight Americans. This seven-fold increase in food stamp usage demands honest examination.
It’s time to look under the hood.
Gosh, that couldn't be because this crappy economy has fattened the wallets of rich folks while millions are unemployed and desperate to feed their families while still paying the rent, could it? As an experiment, I went to the USDA website and put in a hypothetical family of 4 earning $1500 per month. Estimated benefits were about $490 per month for that family of four with no children under the age of five. The estimated income was unemployment benefits for the 2 adults and rent of $1,000 per month. The UI estimate was high; the rent was on the low end. $490 per month won't stretch over that family without some serious sacrifice. It's not like these folks would be out eating filet mignon every night.
So what, exactly, does Senator Sessions see as the flagrant abuse? Well, he singled out a couple of weird examples of people who, on first blush, shouldn't be eligible.
For instance, in one state they’ve included information for a pregnancy hotline on the food stamp application. If you use the hotline you automatically become eligible for food stamps. In many states, all that is needed to become food stamp eligible is to be mailed a brochure by the government—again, regardless of assets. The amendment I am filing today would eliminate categorical eligibility. Only those who are eligible under the food stamp program’s requirements would be able to receive benefits. Is it too much to ask of an applicant for a benefit worth thousands of dollars to file an application under oath that assures that the person is really in need—and qualifies under law—to receive a benefit paid for by the taxpayers?
Gosh, that's terrible. I guess that's a product of each state having administrative authority over each state's program -- something conservatives are supposed to love. As for automatic eligibility, I could only find documentation saying if someone was eligible for SSI or TANF, automatic eligibility in SNAP was available. Again, these are hardly millionaires, you know?
Fortunately, Sessions' amendment failed in the Senate, which led him to a second tirade in the Senate well:
This program is not being run honestly, effectively, or fairly. It is deeply disappointing and extremely telling that the Democrat-led Senate voted down even this modest effort to address the almost shameless mishandling of taxpayer funds. We’re in a fiscal crisis that is already killing jobs, and these bills just increase spending—and destroy confidence—that much more.
It’s time for President Obama to adopt the ‘Solyndra Rule.’ Before the president puts forward a single tax-hike proposal he must first put all of his effort into stripping the egregious spending waste from every corner of the federal budget.”
The only fiscal crisis that's killing jobs is the one where there are no jobs, so there are less consumers to buy things, so there are less things made. I guess that's too complicated for Senator Sessions, though.
[h/t ThinkProgress Economy]