America’s poor rarely catch a break these days. The Senate is expected to vote today for a bill that will cut food stamp benefits by $6.1 billion to help fund Medicaid and teachers’ jobs, reasoning they were too high now that food costs are lower than predicted. Proponents essentially argued that poor people had too much money for food.
As the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein explains, last year’s federal Recovery Act increased the amount of money for food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), to about $80 more per household each month. Amid the recession and high unemployment, about six million more people registered for the program in the past year alone, so program costs boomed from $20 billion to $65 billion. Meanwhile, food prices have deflated from last year’s high rates. Now people are able to get more bang for their buck, hence the Senate’s idea to cut payments. It’s frustrating not only because America’s poor, working, and middle class are suffering at record levels and could use this tiny leg up, but also because it’s a really stupid cut for the overall economic picture: According to Klein, food stamps serve as one of the best forms of stimulus money, to the tune of $1.70 of activity for every dollar spent. In other words, our economy desperately needs this.