Overpayment on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, is nearly 3 percent, so clearly that's a huge problem requiring stronger enforcement and, just for good measure, reducing benefits for 500,000 families who rely on the program to eat every day. Anyway, that seems to be the Republican logic that's leading to increased enforcement against waste and fraud and $4.5 billion in cuts to the food assistance program in the proposed version of the upcoming farm bill. Some Republicans in the Senate and the House want to make even deeper cuts, of course. Because fraud!
Oh, wait, no. Who are we kidding? Senate Republicans don't actually think food stamp fraud is a real problem, they think it's an opportunity to make low-income Americans even more desperate than they already are and paint their need as fraudulent, all at once:
Egregious fraud happens so infrequently that stronger enforcement being proposed for SNAP isn’t even expected to result in meaningful savings to taxpayers, and it wasn’t scored by the Congressional Budget Office, notes Stacy Dean, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.Cracking down on basically non-existent fraud may be silly, but cutting benefits is concretely harmful to families who need the food. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is fighting to replace the $4.5 billion in food assistance cuts, which would cut benefits by an average of $90 per month for 500,000 families, by lowering payments to crop insurance companies. As a New York Times editorial supporting Gillibrand's amendment points out, with the Republican-controlled House Agriculture Committee having already voted for far deeper food stamp cuts, "For the Democratic-led Senate to allow any reduction to food stamps is no way to open negotiations with the House." But that's today's Democratic party: Start out by offering a compromise, then compromise some more. Meanwhile, 500,000 American families will go hungry.
11:47 AM PT: A Republican amendment more extreme than a mere $4.5 billion in cuts has been defeated. Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) amendment would have abolished the food stamp program altogether, replacing it with a state block grant program. The fact that the Senate voted 65-33 against this should tell you something about how extreme it was.