SNAP is NOT a Political Strategy
October 8, 2010 § 2 Comments
You may have heard in former house speaker Newt Gingrich’s recent memo directed to Republican Congressional candidates across the country, he proposed a strategy that’s basically a slap-in-the-face to people who depend on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefits (SNAP).
He uses SNAP as a political tool and suggests Democrats are the “party of food stamps” while Republicans are the “party of paychecks.”
I think SNAP benefits (Mr. Gingrich, the program isn’t called “food stamps” anymore) and paychecks are critically important. And, to be clear, I’m not taking a position on the merits or faults of any political party – that’s not my job. I am cynical enough to not be surprised by remarks made by any politician of any political stripe during a heated election season. But, I’m hopeful, too, about our great nation’s ability to help people living in poverty and suffering from hunger, which is why I find Mr. Gingrich’s comments ridiculous.
I believe SNAP provides hope. It’s our country’s premier nutrition safety net. It helps families put food on the table. It helps people get the food they need. It was forged out of bipartisan consensus decades ago. Senators George McGovern (D-South Dakota) and Senator Bob Dole (R- Kansas) were major supporters of the program. To quote both Senators:
Mr. Dole: “If you ask the first five thousand recipients of the Food Stamp program how it originated and who, sort of, pushed it along, I don’t think they would know. But, that’s not important. The important thing is that they benefit and they have a better quality of life.”
Mr. McGovern: “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say we revolutionized the Food Stamp Program for the better. We brought in millions of people who had never heard of the program or who couldn’t afford to participate.”
Incredibly, Gingrich’s memo doesn’t once include these two devastating words: Financial. Crisis.
The financial crisis laid waste to our economy. It caused millions of people to lose their jobs and their health insurance – people lost their homes.
The ripple effect of the financial crisis compelled families who never thought they would need SNAP to apply for these benefits.
Mr. Gingrich must not realize that SNAP was designed to respond to exactly this situation! It has performed consistently over the years. When unemployment goes down, SNAP use goes down, too. This isn’t rocket science.
Are you a young adult looking for a job? Are you an older adult who lost your life’s savings and have to choose between food and medicine? Do you have to choose between buying food and paying the electric bill? In the middle of the worst recession in recent memory, do you need help obtaining food?
SNAP is there for you. It’s there for many of us. SNAP embodies our nation’s humanitarian compact to provide nutritional support for people when they need it most.
Mr. Gingrich disparages food stamps early in his memo and concludes families are “struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table.”
Hmmm… I wonder what program could help alleviate those problems?
Gingrich suggests Republicans frame a “closing argument” by stigmatizing millions of people who need federal assistance to survive during a terrible recession that began late in 2007 marking a shameful moment in recent history considering its causes.
Well, how about this for a closing argument? We don’t live and breathe by the hyperbolic exhortations of politicians representing any political point of view. We aren’t a country of barbarians.
We’re a country of compassion, humanity, and belief that every American – especially when they can’t find a job through no fault of their own – should at the very least have access to food.
This is the America I love and believe in.