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SNAP program assists in stamping out poverty
Earlier this week, the United States Department of Agriculture released the results of a nine-year study demonstrating that the country’s food stamp program is effective in alleviating poverty among its participants. In today’s political climate, where conservative candidates and pundits have launched attacks on America’s social welfare programs for encouraging laziness and complacency, the results of this study present a strong argument in favor of the continuation of such programs and highlight the utter incoherence of the radical right and its view of poverty and government’s role in the economy.
According to the study, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, which has been in effect in some incarnation since 1939, had a statistically significant impact on the poverty levels of its participants during the current recession. As the New York Times reported on Tuesday, the results show that the program brought the average participant’s income six percent closer to the poverty line, and the percentage was even higher for families with children. This means for the approximately 46 million people whom the program serves, SNAP effectively eases one of the more crippling aspects of poverty—concern for the ability to feed oneself and one’s family—enough to allow participants to increase their incomes and bring themselves closer to breaking the cycle of poverty. For the approximately 14 percent of Americans who live in poverty, including 18 percent of D.C. residents, these results are promising, and demonstrate the vitality of such poverty relief programs.
It also further highlights the danger of the rhetoric that has recently been thrown around by conservatives about social welfare programs. In January, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said that African Americans “should not be satisfied with food stamps,” insinuating that black people are complacent simply receiving public assistance and won’t work for themselves. This is one of the main criticisms that conservatives have historically made against social welfare programs—that they encourage satisfaction with poverty. This study, which demonstrates the programs help impoverished people increase the income they earn for themselves, prove that such comments are not only utterly ignorant and insulting, but dangerous as well. Should a candidate who holds such mindless views come into power, as they have in state governments across the nation, systems such as SNAP would at the very least have their funding slashed. This would have disastrous effects for the millions of impoverished Americans.
The results of this survey demonstrate that programs like SNAP provide small boosts with which poor Americans can begin to lift themselves up the income ladder. Voters must keep this effectiveness in mind come election day, when candidates who oppose such programs could threaten to push these people further into poverty, and show these false statesmen how disgusting their views are.