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Cutting Food Assistance Is More Than Morally Wrong

By William Spriggs | 11/22/2013, 11:07 a.m.
To be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a family must have a total income (including any other federal assistance) that is less than 130 percent of the poverty line (except in six states with limits up to twice the poverty level); for a family of two adults and one child, that means income below $25,389 a year.

This is more than morally wrong. It is bad economics. The Consumer Expenditure Survey gives a deep view of America’s consumption patterns. An interesting fact in that data is that among families in the income range to qualify for SNAP, they all consume on average $20,000 to $25,000 a year. This makes sense, as it would be hard to imagine how someone could eat, be clothed and have shelter and not spend at least $20,000 a year. This means at that income level, they do not save, they spend every dollar. Cuts in their SNAP benefits mean they will have to cut something else to continue eating.

This is not a cut simply to families struggling with an economy that is not producing enough jobs and wages that are barely keeping pace with inflation. It means pulling millions of dollars out of the economy. This means less sales revenue for small businesses selling clothes or shoes or children’s books. And fewer buyers mean less need for sales clerks, meaning fewer jobs.

The current economic policies of lowering the deficit by half, boosting corporate profits to record highs and breaking Dow Jones average records for stocks has not meant relief on Main Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard or César Chávez Way. We need to strengthen policies that help everyone.