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About 45 million people in the U.S. receive food stamps. That's about 14% of the American population. For 6 million Americans, food stamps constitutes their only income. 55% of food stamp households include children. 14% include a disabled member. 9% include someone over the age of 60.  

And if you don't think protecting food stamps is a racial justice issue, about a quarter of food stamp households are headed by African Americans, making them the most over-represented group on the program. The largest group of recipients by race, about 41 percent, are white. But as a portion of the white population, only eight of every 100 whites receive food stamps compared with about a fourth of African American households.

Attacking food stamps is a play for suburban white middle class voters, just as is attacking Obamacare (a program that most benefits the uninsured, among whom just over half are people of color) by telling the lie that it is financed by stealing money from Medicare (a program that mostly benefits whites).

But, put the race politics aside and it's pretty clear that food stamps mainly benefit the most vulnerable parts of the population. We should be happy that a program exists to provide food assistance for so many. Obviously, a lot of us are not.

But maybe they would change their minds if they knew that about 10% of groceries in the U.S. are purchased with food stamps. In other words, food stamps subsidize farmers and grocers, something that should matter to us if we're concerned about bringing down the unemployment rate and reducing the deficit.

In the poorest communities, food stamps often constitute half or more of grocers' revenues. Those stores would go out of business without the program, creating food deserts, especially in rural areas, and exacerbating unemployment and poverty.

Moreover, contrary to popular belief, 41% of all food stamp participants in 2010 lived in a household with earnings. For many, food stamps make up the gap between what they are paid as workers, and what it actually costs to eat regularly. For employers of low-wage workers, food stamps supplement sub-livable wages, functioning as a form of federal subsidy to business owners.

Concerned about our men and women in uniform? The proposed budget for defense for 2013 is around $525 billion. Yet, many active duty military personnel don't earn enough to feed their families.

Active duty pay for an E1 (entry level enlisted person) is about $18,000 per year. A family of two earning $19,680 per year or less may qualify for food stamps. Even a Staff Sergeant with 2 years of experience earns less than the food stamps income eligibility level of just over $28,000 per year for a family of four.

The fact that we pay military personnel so poorly should be a national disgrace. Fortunately, food stamps are available to many in order to close the gap between what the military pays, and what it actually costs to feed soldiers and their families.

If none of that is enough for you, consider this. According to Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's and a former campaign adviser to Republican Sen. John McCain, for each food stamp dollar spent, GDP grows by $1.74 one year later, making it the most effective of the various forms of federal stimulus spending.

We ought to be grateful for food stamps. If we care nothing for the families who desperately need the assistance, then we ought to at least appreciate the stimulative effect that food stamps have on our economy.

We should never forget that we all live in one economy. In that one economy, we all live on food stamps.

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Comment Preferences

  •  i live on foodstamps - $200 a month. i buy very (14+ / 0-)

    carefully - that's aprox. $6.66 a day (ironic number, no?) for food.  i am very careful and choose to buy healthy foods - but it is still a struggle.  that's approx $2.22 a meal.

    seniors are another huge group on foodstamps - imagine seniors who have limited ability to cook - or disabled folk.

    now, certain "hot food" establishments take food stamps - like burger king, subway, etc.  hot food at the grocers isn't eligible (that $5.00 special cooked whole chicken that lasts for four days or more) - not eligible.

    and our republican "friends" think that the government is wasting money on foodstamps?  

    i can't wait to hear the results of corey booker's experiment.  it ain't easy.  fortunately, i like to cook and can find specials anywhere (especially the clearance sections of foods that need to be bought and cooked within 24 hrs!  

    yes, it's racial.  but even worse, it's a bigotry against those of us who can no longer haul ourselves up by our "bootstraps".

    the arrogance of the republicans and conservatives will last only until they, themselves, are in a similar position - but, then, THEY will be the "exception" to the rule.

    •  Subway and other places take Food Stamps? (0+ / 0-)

      I did not know that, if it's true. I thought you always had to buy packaged or fresh foods. I'm going to have to check that out.

      Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

      by splashy on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:12:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  depends on your county and the arrangement with (0+ / 0-)

        local vendors.  santa clara county has limited agreements with burger king, subway and a few others.  for seniors or those without brick and mortars or can't cook, the "hot food" option is in calfresh.  

        unfortunately, the hot chicken for $5 at safeway isn't eligible but the same chicken once cold is.

        if it is taxable, then it doesn't apply unless you are a senior or homeless and the card is set to accept - but only if the merchant has applied to the program.

        insane - it is!

  •  Food Stamps are welfare, (14+ / 0-)

    not for the low income folks regularly belittled for using them. Food Stamps (Supplemental Nutitional Assistance Program, SNAP) are welfare for agribusiness! Food Stamps assure aggregate demand to keep farm prices up.

    If you doubt that consider for a moment which agency of the federal bureaucracy administers SNAP. That's right, the Department of Agriculture!

    Trace the history of SNAP back through Food Stamps all the way to USDA Commodities

    The commodity program began in the early 1930’s as an outgrowth of federal agriculture policies designed to shore up farm prices and help American farmers suffering from the economic upheaval of the Great Depression. Many individual farmers lost their farms, while the total amount of farmland increased. Farmers planted more acreage to try and make up for poor prices – thus further depressing prices by increasing surpluses in a time of falling demand. At the same time, millions of people in the cities lost their jobs and were without means of support for themselves and their families. The danger of malnutrition among children became a national concern.

    Family farms have largely been displaced by agribusiness, but Archer Daniels Midland and the like certainly appreciate us protecting them from the vagaries of the free market by assuring adequate demand.

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by DaNang65 on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 02:06:25 PM PST

  •  scot - you might want to make a small edit (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlueMississippi, Vetwife, BlackSheep1

    in your diary. It is virtually impossible for someone to become a staff sergeant in two years. It typically takes five to ten years to achieve that rank.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 02:10:15 PM PST

    •  I read that differently... (0+ / 0-)
      Even a Staff Sergeant with 2 years of experience earns less than the food stamps income eligibility level of just over $28,000 per year for a family of four. someone who held the rank of Staff Sergeant for two years had little enough earnings that they would qualify for SNAP?
      •  Some fairly recent numbers on military SNAP use: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        More Troops Relying on Food Stamps

        Military members and their families are using more food stamps than in previous years – redeeming them last year at nearly twice the civilian rate, according to Defense Commissary Agency figures.

        The agency reports that more than $31 million worth of food stamps were used at commissaries nationwide in 2008 – an increase of about $6.2 million, or more than 25 percent – from the $24.8 million redeemed in 2007. That contrasts with a 13 percent overall increase in food stamp use by Americans for the same period, according to the Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program.

      •  WakeUpNeo - a staff sergeant (E6) (0+ / 0-)

        Base pay with 6 years of service makes $35,200, with ten years $39,600. The author's number is correct, that an E6 with two years of service (not two years at that rank) would make $28,300. I think the official pay scale (not the amount of pay) is somewhat of a relic back to Vietnam. At that time we had two schools where soldiers could accelerate rank, the traditional Officers Candidate School where graduates would be commissioned as second lieutenants, and a sergeants school, that was half as long as OCS, and graduates would be given the rank of sergeant, E5. People who went through sergeant's school could be an E6 in two years. That accelerated program ended as the Vietnam War wound down and no longer exists.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 09:50:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  your edit suggestion (0+ / 0-)

      Thanks. I think I meant that a staff sergeant with two years of exp. as a staff sergeant. But thanks for pointing that out. Obviously a point I didn't make well!

      •  scotnakagawa - the pay scales don't work (0+ / 0-)

        that way. You read the pay schedule correctly (E6 with two years of service), but the schedule isn't based on years at a specific rank, but rather years in the service and attaining that rank.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 06:39:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I don't qualify now, make about 2k a year too much (15+ / 0-)

    single, with a teenager, but during my 72 week unemployment stint, they literally saved my family's ass from going hungry or having the lights shut off; gas in the car to get where we had to go or food in the belly.
    Hard, no-choice, decisions.
    I'm in Texas and there are not restaurants that accept SNAP; some grocery store's deli section has pre-cooked items that qualify, but otherwise it's go cook it,and Rickeh makes it harder to qualify and fewer pre-cooked (luxury of precooked) foods that qualify, everyday. But I love to cook and love to hit the clearance food items and fill the freezer. As was said, I pity those who cannot, or are, unable to, cook.
    Fresh turkeys are real cheap a couple of days after Thanksgiving; take a couple home, bone 'em out and store the meat, make a broth to freeze, all those tricks.

    Anyone who thinks the "scam" aspect and the Welfare Cadillac bullshit ever outweighs the good SNAP does has no real concept and is likely either swimming in academia or Faux noise and damn sure has never been in that situation.
    Plus, kids get breakfast and lunch free at school if the family is on SNAP. My oldest son (20) works in an after-school program (all day in the summer) for elementary aged kids at a church and it was a really big deal when the facility qualified to provide breakfasts and lunches under the SNAP program because that turned out to be the main source of two meals a day for many of the children. We're not talking bacon and eggs; more like milk and cereal, but they were appreciative and it took some strain off the parents.
    Sometimes the kids come up to the camp just to catch a meal even on days when they are not spending all day at camp.
    Their household budgets are very slim and hunger sucks.

    Occupy- Your Mind. - No better friend, no worse enemy. -8.75, -6.21<> Bring the Troops Home Yesterday

    by Thousandwatts on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 02:17:03 PM PST

  •  Thanks. (5+ / 0-)

    People gotta eat.

  •  Food stamps are a big part of the Farm Bill (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    For a reason.

    They were originally intended to give farmers a steady income from those that would reliably use the food stamps - the poor who are hungry a lot.  

    Without that steady income, many farmers would give up, leading to food shortages for the middle class and wealthy. They just can't make up for the numbers of the poor and near poor who will buy food.

    Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:10:45 AM PST

  •  Running a food co op (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1, WakeUpNeo

    where we give reduced membership fee to SNAP (food stamp) card holders. With this and volunteer program that gives an additional 10% off their grocery bill for 16 hours a month work about 20% of our business is people who use SNAP. Currently 80% of them  take advantage of the volunteer exchange and work at the co op.

    We are popular because we sell certain staples at as close to cost as we can manage. Most of those who work in the co op have full time jobs, many would like to be full time but are often working 2 or more part time jobs trying to make ends meet. The wages are so low these days making ends meet is tricky for many.

    It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

    by PSWaterspirit on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 05:58:37 AM PST

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