The federal government’s food stamp recruitment program SNAP, the AARP, and the Urban League are teaming up to end “senior hunger” in the nation’s capitol regardless of an individual's income level. According to the D.C. Hunger Solutions website:
DC Hunger Solutions joins with AARP DC Volunteers, the Greater Washington Urban League, and AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly to fight senior hunger Senior hunger in Washington D.C. is real and it is growing. 10% of District seniors, regardless of their income level, were worried about food running out sometime in the last twelve months. Approximately 14.5 percent of the District’s 94,400 adults aged 60 and over lived below the federal poverty line in 2009.
D.C. Hunger Solutions is working with AARP DC volunteers and the Greater Washington Urban League to delve deeper into senior hunger issues and connect eligible seniors to the SNAP/Food Stamp program.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R – AL), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, brought to light some stunning figures relating to the federal government’s spending on welfare and the federal food stamp program.
Earlier this week, Senator Sessions said, “the United States now spends more on welfare than any other federal program—including Medicare, Social Security, or defense. Yet the Administration continues a vast array of controversial promotions to further expand enrollment, when the focus should be on expanding economic growth and opportunity… No longer should we measure compassion by how much money the government spends on poverty but by how many people we help to rise out of poverty.”
President Barack Obama compiled a list of “29 accomplishments” on his 2012 campaign re-election website, which included “social-welfare programs, and economic policies” that he claims to have “lifted nearly 7 million Americans above the federal poverty line in 2010."
However, during Obama’s time in office, census data shows that the poverty level has gone from 39.8 million Americans living in poverty at the end of 2008 to 46.2 million poverty-stricken Americans at the end of 2011. At the same time means-tested welfare spending under Obama has rocketed 32 percent.
According to the Senate GOP budget committee, the United States currently spends $1 trillion a year on means-tested federal welfare. Essentially, that would mean a $60,000 check could be sent to every household living below the federal poverty line.
Food stamp spending doubled since Obama took office, and more than 1 in 7 Americans are currently on food stamps.
It should be noted that Americans using the food stamp benefit are offered Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to purchase food. The EBT card can be abused by some who sell EBT cards on eBay or Craigslist and cost the taxpayer $750 million a year. Others have used the EBT card at strip clubs and casinos.
The federal government will go as far as to mock individuals who do not want food stamps. A Spanish-language food stamp radio promotion from the USDA shows a woman who is pressured by her friend to enroll in the food stamp program. The woman insists she does not need it.
The woman says, “I don’t need anyone’s help. My husband earns enough to take care of us.” Her friend responds: “When are you going to learn?” Eventually, over the course of several ads, she is persuaded to enroll.
The ad was eventually removed after public criticism, but Sen. Sessions blasted the USDA for producing it in the first place saying on Tuesday:
Is this the right approach for America? We need to work, to help people with pride, help people to assume their own independence, and to be successful, and take care of their own families and move them from dependence to Independence. That ought to be the fundamental goal of our system. It was the goal in the reform of 1996, and the welfare that worked dramatically, more people prospered, fewer people in poverty, more people taking care of themselves. It really was a success. We’ve been drifting back away from that.
Sessions explained that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack refuses to answer questions as to why Americans who do not need or want food stamps are continuously being recruited into the program. In his floor speech, Sessions mentioned that the USDA gave a food stamp recruitment worker an award for “overcoming mountain pride” in rural North Carolina and getting more people to enroll who had resisted.
“Basically, what they said was this lady should be given an award because when people who are independent -- and believe me, they can take care of themselves, thank you, without the federal government, she overcame that,” he said. “And they have a brochure telling people what to say when people say I don't need food stamps to get them to sign up for food stamps.”
In fact, USDA documents cite a “sense that benefits are not needed,” as an obstacle to overcome and even produces a document directing recruiters on how to “overcome the word ‘no.’”
The USDA believes that communities “lose out” when individuals opt not to enroll, stating that “Each $5 dollars in new SNAP benefits generates almost twice that amount in economic activity for the community… Everyone wins when eligible people take advantage of benefits to which they are entitled.
Sessions also blasted the USDA for recruiting foreign nationals on to the U.S. food stamp program saying, “my letter asked questions about two main issues. First, the USDA's acknowledged a relationship with Mexico to place foreign nationals almost immediately on food stamps. One of the questions I asked was simply how the United States department of agriculture interprets the federal law. We make federal law. We pass laws. I’d like to know how they're enforcing them and what standards they're using. Federal law says that those likely to be reliant on welfare cannot be admitted to the United States.”
As of January 2009, the Obama administration acknowledged they met with the Mexican government 30 times to hike food stamp enrollment among foreign nationals. DHS/DOS have effectively waived legal requirements banning visas to those likely to be welfare dependent.
Sessions received criticism over his remarks that the food stamp program needed to be reformed. CNN’s Soledad O’Brien said to Sessions recently, "there are people who'd say if you're doing cuts, you invariably hurt people who need food and people who need food stamps to buy supplemental food.”
Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D – NC) discussed how reforming SNAP would cripple 46 million Americans and criticized the Ryan Budget saying, “Madam Speaker, this proposal will hurt real people and literally take food off of their table. It's wrong, it's immoral, and it's irresponsible to take food away from deserving American citizens to balance a budget that is unbalanced because of reckless policies that have benefited the rich.”
Rep. Louis Gutierrez (D – IL) remarked, "Well what do you think when people keep repeating and repeating ad nauseum, for no good reason, that so many people are on food stamps.” He added, "It's about hunger, it's about government attempting to combat hunger in America. And I think that's a laudable goal for the richest and most powerful nation in the world."
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D – CA) said on the House floor, “Without food stamps, the overall poverty rate would increase from 16.1 percent to 17.6 percent.”
Similar arguments were made by Democrats, when Republicans proposed welfare reform in the 1990’s. After Bill Clinton signed the bipartisan welfare reform act, the predicted mass starvation in America, made by liberal Democrats, did not happen.