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4 Absurd, Damaging Right-Wing Lies About Food Stamps

Hipsters abusing food stamps, recipients buying nothing but McDonald's ... the many myths about the federal food stamp program poison the public's perception of it.

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The reason that many low-income areas have higher obesity rates than wealthier areas is that low-quality food, like white bread, is cheaper and more easily accessible than, say, fruits and vegetables, especially in areas where supermarkets are scarce.

4. The program is too generous, and food stamps are a significant contributor to national debt.

Conservatives have made a great show of moaning about the recent explosion in SNAP's caseload. Those who would make this an issue (ahem, Jeff Sessions and the Wall Street Journal) are being dumb-headed or malicious, or both. The food stamp program is designed to be responsive to economic downturns. The reason over 15 million people have been added to the rolls is simple: We've suffered the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, and the economy is still stagnant. SNAP is doing exactly what it is meant to in these circumstances: ease the plight of those who have been negatively affected by the downturn and boost their purchasing power.

The idea that benefits are too generous is absurd. Monthly benefits run to $133.80 a month for each member of the household, or about $4.50 a day -- although poorer households get more generous benefits, while increased income leads to stingier assistance. And, again, food stamps can't be used to purchase hot food, alcohol, tobacco, or other non-food items.

Also, the expanding food stamp program is not even close to being a significant driver of our national debt. As previously stated, SNAP rolls expand and contract with the health of the economy. If and when the nation gets to a better place economically, the number of enrollees will decline; it's no miracle. The only reason food assistance is being targeted is because the constituencies that use food stamps -- the poor and nearly-poor -- are not particularly powerful, especially compared to the those who protect genuinely wasteful spending, like agricultural subsidies and the gluttonous military budget.

Cutting food stamps in the name of debt relief would be a PR stunt, a political ploy. And while its effect on America's debt will be negligible, the suffering that would be inflicted on millions of Americans, almost half of them children, would be very real.

Jake Blumgart is a freelance reporter-researcher based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter.

 
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