While liberals in general opposes cuts to food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, I have recently undergone a rude awakening as to the fraud, misuse, and serious reform that this entitlement program is desprately in need of.
Having spent more than 20 years in the retail loss prevention field, I have only recently taken a new position with a large grocery store chain. How I wish I could post the hours of video that I have reviewed of SNAP customers loading up on snack foods, candy, soda, and just about everything Frito-Lay has to offer. I won't even get into the SNAP customers that drive cars that 95% of grocery store employees couldn't afford to drive.
My main bitch is over what these "free-loaders" are using their SNAP benefit card to purchase. I have always been under the impression that food stamps where a public assistance program to keep poor people from going hungry. I now have little doubt that taxpayer dollars are being used to put people on the fast track to heart disease and diabetes, just to name a few.
Now before anyone get's all in a twist by my earlier mention of the term "freeloader" I am not referring to every person currently enrolled in the program. I do see the ocassional SNAP customer being responsible and buying food staples like bread, milk, hot and cold cerial, cheese, butter, eggs, canned goods, not to mention fresh fruits and vegtables. But I can assure you that they are very few and far between.
Let's not forget that the "N" in the acronym SNAP stands for "nutrition" and the majority of taxpayer funded food that I see going out the door of my grocery store is anything but nutritious. Nutrition shouldn't just mean not going hungry, it should mean actually feeding people nutritious food. PERIOD!
The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not collect data on what people buy with food stamps. Tobacco, alcohol, pet food and vitamins are banned, but candy, soda and ice cream are allowed.
The program makes up 80 percent of the almost $1 trillion farm bill passed by the Senate on June 21. The program has quadrupled in size since 2001, doubling when the Bush administration expanded access and again as the Obama administration bolstered benefits and millions of Americans lost their jobs in the recession.
One in 7 Americans and 1 in 10 Californians - or 3.7 million people in the state, more than half of them children - received benefits last year. The program accounts for more than 10 percent of all grocery spending.
Next week, Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee plan to cut $16 billion from the program over the next decade, almost four times more than the $4.5 billion cut in the Senate bill.
The nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California said the maximum benefit for a single person in California earning $903 a month is $200 a month, and for a family with three eligible members and earning $1,526 a month, the benefit is $526. California's participation rate is among the nation's lowest, with about 53 percent of those eligible receiving benefits. Putting all of this data aside, what would be the harm in adding snack food, candy, soda, and ice cream to the short list of other restricted items.
I have recently reported a customer who is using her SNAP benefit card to purchase candy and soda which she sells at a local little league field. I have no expectation that she'll be prosecuted for defrauding the taxpayers, but I fully anticipate that she'll have to start paying for her own "groceries" going forward.
Democrats in congress could really find themselves in a win/win situation here. The worst case scenario is that once democrats come out in agreement with the republicans, the republicans will suddenly think it's no longer such a good idea. Nevertheless, it's time seriously rework this program.