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On the Backs of Hungry People

September 24, 2013

“You looked for work and money
And you walked a rugged mile
You looked for work and money
And you walked a rugged mile
Your children are so hungry
That they don’t know how to smile”

– Bob Dylan
from the Ballad of Hollis Brown

Approximately one of six Americans live in poverty.  More than fifty million, including sixteen million children, face food insecurity.   The U.S. Agriculture Department’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) was designed to help close the gap.  It provides a modest amount of support to those who need the help.  Almost forty-eight million Americans received the support last year, a seventy percent increase over 2007, the year before the recession started.


The SNAP cost has grown significantly since 2005 due to the recession and ongoing economic troubles for most Americans. The CBO says that the bill passed by the House of Representatives would affect 3.8 million people next year.

The Congressional Budget Office reports that about three out of four of the US households that receiving SNAP payments include a child or a disabled person or someone who is at least sixty years old.  The benefits received on this program add up to about $4.30 per day per person, less than $1.50 per meal if you’re looking for three squares.  The payments are distributed on a debit card.  Nine out of ten of the card balances are fully spent in three weeks or less, giving these folks heightened urgency to the term “making ends meet.”  The average annual income for these households is about $9,000, so every little bit helps.

There are any number of other data compilations from researchers and journalists to tell the same story – food stamps are critical to many Americans.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to cut nearly $40 billion from the SNAP budget over the next ten years.  Supporters of the bill, who failed twice earlier in the year to make cuts in the program, say that this is being done to reduce waste and fraud.  However this doesn’t seem to be much of an issue, according to research by The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  They have also said that the cuts are necessary to slow down the growth in costs.  (The CBO does not project a steep cost curve.)  Certainly there are other measures that Congress could take to stimulate the economy and improve overall conditions for everyone before taking food away from people.


The Environmental Working Group researches about the environment and our health, among other issues. They tell about Fincher’s exploits.

Congressman Stephen Fincher even pulled out a Bible to make his argument that it is a good idea to take away food from more than two million people, including 170,000 veterans, this year.  To make the point that lazy people should not receive this help, he quoted 2 Thessalonians 3:10 on the House floor: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this command:  Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”  Bad enough already, but as the blog site Religion Dispatches points out, he also bungled the context.  As it goes, this passage is part of a story in the Bible about people who had stopped working because they believed that their savior’s return was imminent.  They stopped working because they thought that it was no longer necessary.  It has nothing to do with not helping the poor and hungry.


“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.” – Stephen Colbert

Here is Fincher once more telling us all about how to be a good Christian: “The role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity is to take care of each other, but not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country.”  This from a guy who has received more than $3.4 million in farm subsidies from Washington.  Just exactly who is the thief and who is the victim?

Millions of people are hungry and don’t have anywhere to turn for help.  We can do better than this.  It is inexcusable to cut off the budget for food during these hard times for any reason whatsoever.  Making these changes a priority in Congress at this moment is indefensible.  This is callous behavior.  It’s hard-hearted and cruel.

  1. Bruce, You just have to ask yourself where do asses like Fincher come from? How are they elected? Why does anyone listen to them? They are certifiably nuts and yet they have great power. Good blog.Thanks. –Curt


  2. Great piece, as usual. we must read the same articles in the NYT. I can not fathom how anyone can create a healthy and satisfying meal for $1.50. Just outrageous, even if you bought store-brand peanut butter. Thank you again, LMA


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