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Yet the USDA is quick to point out that illegal aliens are not eligible for the program. “Non-citizens who are unlawfully present, are not, nor have they ever been, eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits,” Amanda D. Browne, a USDA spokeswoman explained in an email to The Daily Caller. Yet Robert Rector, the Heritage Foundation’s senior research fellow on welfare and family issues notes that legal children of illegals are eligible for benefits. Thus, the potential for illegal aliens to game the system, much like they already do in many other arenas, remains a troubling reality.
The USDA now devotes a full two-thirds of its budget to welfare programs, with food stamps consuming the largest portion. It has become the second-largest welfare program in the nation, bested only by Medicaid. And while one may think the relatively recent economic downturn is largely responsible, this program began expanding in earnest during the Bush administration, when the current idea of recruiting people into a program they may not have heard of, or otherwise wanted, began.
The expansion has been chilling. About 17 million people received food stamps back in 2000. By 2008, the number reached 30 million. Four years later, we’re up 46 million. 1 in 50 Americans got food stamps when the program began in the 1970s. 1-in-7 Americans get them now.
One of the main reasons for the expansion–through good times and bad–has been something called “categorical eligibility.” Categorical eligibility is the idea that if someone is eligible for another welfare program, they are presumptively eligible for food stamps. This effectively wiped out the “asset test” barrier by which one wasn’t eligible for food stamps if one had $30,000 in a bank account, though there are still some income limitations. And the Obama administration’s stimulus package suspended the work requirement that had discouraged young, able-bodied, non-parents from signing up for the program. Unsurprisingly, exactly the opposite is occurring as a result. Making matters worse, the federal government is paying states $50 million in bonuses for getting people on the program.
Yet perhaps the biggest concern involving this program is the fact that it is part of the farm bill. Farm bills are passed once every five years, meaning their spending is locked in for half a decade. The 2008 Farm Bill was estimated to spend $604.1 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The 2012 Farm Bill is estimated to spend $969.2 billion over the next 10 years. The whopping 60 percent increase is driven mostly by the food stamp portion of the bill that runs to $770 billion, comprising 79 percent of the total expenditure.
Yet Democrats are resisting even modest cuts to the program. When they lost a vote during a House Agriculture Committee meeting on Wednesday aimed at stopping a mere $16.5 billion cuts to food stamps in the 2012 farm bill, they accused Republicans (and apparently the five Democrats who supported the cuts as well) of balancing the federal budget on the backs of the poor. “They literally take food away from hungry people,” said Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) who offered the measure.
McGovern and his fellow travelers in the Democrats party may pretend not to notice, but the entire nation is “literally” heading for bankruptcy. It is a date with fiscal insolvency driven primarily by an exponential expansion of entitlement programs. And while it is one thing to help those in genuine need, it is quite another to not only mangle the definition of “need” beyond all reasonable recognition, but to actively recruit people to neediness.
America is dangerously close to the point (if we’re not there already) where half the nation is not only supporting the other half, but any disinclination of the supporters to do so is being excoriated. That excoriation emanates overwhelmingly from Democrats, who have a vested interest in making as many American as possible wards of the state and have aggressively worked to break down self-sufficiency ethic. It is their principal pathway to amplifying their political power, even if individual ambition, dignity and self-reliance–or the nation itself–is destroyed in the process.
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