Some lawmakers think cuts to food stamps won’t hurt anyone. Evidence says that’s wrong.

July 7, 2017

Some lawmakers think cuts to food stamps won’t hurt anyone. Evidence says that’s wrong.


A conservative member of the House of Representatives has a proposal for how to help pay for Republicans’ tax cut plan: Slash food stamps and welfare spending by harshening eligibility requirements. The Heritage Foundation projects this proposal, put forward by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) of the House Freedom Caucus, could result in more than $200 billion in cuts over the next 10 years — the deepest cut to the social safety net since 1990s welfare reform.

The savings would come from millions of people being thrown off the rolls of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. But the plan’s advocates promise it will be painless.

"If an individual leaves the SNAP program without getting a job, then they must either have not needed the benefits in the first place or have found another way of obtaining the benefits they need,” said Darin Miller, Jordan’s spokesperson, explaining the Congress member’s position. “Either way, we are saving money without hurting anyone."

It’s an extraordinary claim. Could the government really slash hundreds of billions of dollars from programs that help the neediest families without hurting anyone? Poverty experts, including former welfare reform advisers from Republican administrations, disagree — they argue that these harsher eligibility requirements will leave a sizable population of the most vulnerable Americans without a safety net.

“Let’s be clear, [Jordan] is talking about removing people from the rolls,” Luke Shaefer, a poverty expert with the University of Michigan, tells me. “The single thing we can be absolutely sure about with a bill like this is that is would increase hardship significantly for struggling families.”

“If people are getting help from the American taxpayers, there should be a work component,” Jordan tells me of what he calls a “commonsense” proposal. “You can get the welfare reform that’s going to help people — the right kind of policy — and oh, by the way, it’s going to save a lot of money.”

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