Republicans have come up with another exciting new way to make it difficult for people to use food stamps
. Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona and Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana are pushing similar bills that would require people to produce photo identification to get their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
The ID requirement is supposedly going to combat fraud—all 1.3 percent of it. But while there's not much fraud to combat, making people show ID could have a huge effect on those who should be getting the food aid. For one thing, take every story you've ever heard or witnessed in which someone gets all judgey in a grocery line when they see the person in front of them paying for food with an Electronic Benefit Transfer card and multiply that by the extra time it takes for an ID check. In fact, given how rarely grocery stores ask people paying by credit card to show identification, a person in line showing ID would pretty much have a flashing arrow over their head saying "government assistance." So count this as yet another effort to stigmatize aid recipients.
Additionally, while the Salmon and Vitter proposals involve separate identification, a USDA objection to states putting photos on EBT cards themselves highlights another problem: SNAP benefits typically go not to individuals but to households. What if people in the household have different last names and a photo ID of someone legitimately in the household and entitled to use the benefits is refused or even taken as a sign of attempted fraud?
Even more seriously, lots of people don't have government-issued photo identification, and as we've seen with voter ID laws, that's particularly true in vulnerable groups: low-income people, women, Latinos, and young adults and elderly people are all substantially less likely to have photo identification. So to get food stamps, you'd have to have something that people who need food stamps are less likely to have. Republican logic, Republican morality.