Sunday, November 3, 2013

It's Not Truly a Cut, But...

Trey Smith

Emergency food providers in the US are preparing for an influx of struggling families across the country who have been warned their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP benefits, will be cut on [Nov. 1]. Feeding America, the hunger relief charity, describes the scale of the cuts, $5bn a year, as representing about 2 billion meals a year and warns that the effect will be "close to catastrophic".

The cuts are the result of the expir[ation] of the fiscal stimulus legislation of 2009, which increased Snap benefits to provide a spur to the economy. The cuts will be unprecedented in depth and breadth, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a non-profit thinktank, and they will happen automatically, affecting every household in the US which qualifies for SNAP.
~ from US Emergency Food Providers Brace as $5bn Food Stamp Cuts Set In by Karen McVeigh ~
Americans -- not just the mainstream media -- treat every expiration as a "cut" or a "hike". It doesn't matter what the situation is. This situation with SNAP is just like the discussion around allowing the temporary Bush tax reduction to expire. In that case, it was said that, in allowing the expiration, Obama favored raising taxes on the well-to-do.

If we are at all honest, both declarations are disingenuous. In both cases, a temporary measure was adopted -- the key word here is temporary. By allowing the measure to expire, we return to the base. In other words, in terms of SNAP, there was a base formula utilized and the stimulus money simply increased benefit amounts for a fixed period of time due to the struggles within the US economy.

It would be like a golfer with a certain handicap. Because of recent knee surgery, this golfer's mates agreed to increase his handicap by several strokes while the golfer worked himself back into shape. Once his knee was healed and he regained his form, the extra handicap would be removed. Would he then complain that his mates were treating him unfairly?

My point is that this cut in SNAP really isn't a cut at all; it just brings us back to where we started before the temporary increase.

As a recipient of SNAP, you might then think that I have no issue with allowing the expiration of increased benefits to occur. 

Aah, but I do! 

My problem is that the President and Congress seem quite okay with allowing temporary measures that aid the poor to expire as scheduled, while continuing temporary measures that benefit the rich. The economy for the Wall Street has rebounded quite nicely since the economic downturn, but the economy of Main Street remains in the doldrums. So how is it that temporary measures that benefit the upper class become more or less permanent, while temporary measures that benefit the poor retain their temporary character?

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