On Fox News' “Cost of Freedom” business block yesterday, freedom from hunger seemed to be one “cost” that’s too high for these fat cats. Ignoring how 87% of households receiving SNAP benefits (commonly referred to as “food stamps”) have elderly, children or disabled members, the “fair and balanced” opinions ranged from suggesting there’s a major problem with fraud to calls for abolishing the program altogether. Just in time for the 5% food stamp cut that hit last week and looking ahead to GOP desires for $39 billion more (as opposed to Democratic desires to cut “only” $4 billion). Everybody except one on the panel seemed to agree that cuts are necessary. There was very little discussion about how cuts might hurt.
Rich Karlgaard said, “I sympathize with the liberals who worry about the cuts because we’re going to take 13% away from the amount of money that people have for food stamps. The problem is, is that we’ve got to distinguish between the truly poor and needy, and the people who are gaming the system. Now you can’t tell me that people aren't gaming the system when you have a doubling in food stamps since Obama’s been President. If you’re 25-55 and adult and you’re able bodied, you should not get food stamps.”
Actually, you can say that people are not gaming the system. There is ample evidence that fraud is rare and that the upturn in foodstamps is a result of the economic downturn. This “gaming the system” argument is one that Fox loves to promote.
Host David Asman, however, agreed with Karlgaard. Asman said, “Rick (Ungar) shouldn’t we at least cut those folks out?”
Ungar, a liberal, said, “Stop focusing on cutting, start focusing on fitting. Look, you know what cutting gets you? Nine hundred thousand military veterans are going to be in a tougher position now because of the cuts that took place yesterday. Is that really what we want to do? Take food off the table of people who risked their lives for us? I don’t think anybody wants to do that. Fix it. Don’t cut it.”
Morgan Brennan called the trend “a much larger, longer trend line than just the downturn.” She mentioned, “47 million Americans on food stamps, that’s 15 million more Americans than during 2009 at the height of the recession. Brennan added, "…If you look at spending since George Bush took presidency, that’s where we started to see the ballooning happening in food stamps. We saw a loosening on regulations for people who could sign up. …We have to pull back on some of those qualification regulations.” She didn’t say a word about wanting to know whether people actually need them to stay out of poverty.
Bill Baldwin didn’t call for cuts but he still took a swipe at food stamp recipients. He said, “I think there’s a much bigger sin, which is the weakening of the work requirement. So my solution is do not cut benefits, there are genuinely needy families, but require a family of four that has at least one able-bodied adult to work 28 hours a month, that’s about 7 hours a week, to earn its benefits. And really enforce that, find government jobs doing things like cleaning up parks.”
Nobody mentioned that there are already strong work requirements and incentives for food stamps recipients.
Mike Ozanian thinks hungry people should become charity cases: “I don’t think, David, the government should be in the food stamp business at all, primarily because it’s tremendously inefficient. Over 10 cents of every dollar of the food stamp budget goes to paying bureaucrats. It doesn’t work. …You’re much better off handing out block grants in local communities or states.”
Karlgaard reiterated, “I’m a Republican, I don’t want to make war on the poor, but I want to boot out the people who don’t belong on this program.”
John Tamny said, “I say don’t cut, just abolish it. …We’re talking about gaming of the system and lots of fraud, that’s precisely a result of the federal government trying to fight poverty from Washington DC. …I say they do an even better job in the private sector through charities.”
From a strictly business standpoint, there was other information that got left out of this segment. As Media Matters reported, the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says cutting foodstamp benefits would cut off crucial money stimulating the economy, the Center for American Progress says 13,718 jobs are lost for every billion dollars cut from SNAP, and the CBPP says the cuts would hurt children, the disabled, and seniors. But the harmful effects of cuts were mostly glossed over in favor of the supposedly harmful aspects of the SNAP benefits
It would be great to see Ungar, Ozanian, Tamny and Asman live on foodstamps for a month or two before they complain about how the program is too generous.