Investment in Sustainable Jobs Must Follow Cut to Food Stamps

Investment in Sustainable Jobs Must Follow Cut to Food Stamps

Foodlink mobile pantry at the Blessed Sacrament Church on Monroe Avenue [Photo: David Kramer, 12/10/19] See Editor’s note

George Cassidy Payne

After nearly 20 years as a social worker trained in conflict resolution, I have learned some valuable lessons about the ways people communicate with one another. What doesn’t work so well is assuming that someone has bad intentions just because they have different opinions.

For example, I do not personally agree with the Trump administration’s decision to finalize a rule that will cut off food stamps to roughly 688,000 American adults by requiring states to enforce work requirements. Yet, if I practice what I preach, I must make an effort to understand why the President would endorse such a policy. What are its potential benefits?

To start with, the U.S. Agriculture Department said the move will save about $5.5 billion over five years. Although nearly 8,000 households would lose benefits entirely, according to reporting by the New York Times, those cuts would be concentrated in cold northern states that would be most affected by a change in the way heating costs are calculated. Moreover, “the number of families losing benefits is a tiny percentage of the nearly 40 million people who receive benefits, and even 4.5 billion over five years is a trim for a program that cost 68 billion in 2018 alone.”

Foodlink mobile pantry at the Blessed Sacrament Church on Monroe Avenue [Photo: David Kramer, 12/10/19] See Editor’s note

Moreover, there is nothing wrong with incentivizing people to work. I think that should be one of the most important priorities of any White House. Although this plan cuts benefits for 19 percent of households on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), it also increases benefits for 16 percent. The President can make the argument that he is merely reallocating how benefits are distributed while promoting an ideology that he believes is good for the country. He is, after-all, the elected leader of the United States, and that is what he was chosen to do.

Fair enough. But what is not being talked about is the living wage. A study at MIT demonstrated that the living wage in the United States is $16.07 per hour in 2017, before taxes for a family of four (two working adults, two children), compared to $15.84 in 2016. It is one thing to take someone off food stamps in order to encourage them to work (self-sufficiency is synonymous with citizenship) but it is counterproductive, cruel, and detrimental to society to merely strip people of food without making work a sustainable option. Just telling people that they need to work because jobs are available is not good enough. What is needed is a comprehensive plan that not only provides people with jobs, but safe and affordable transportation, reliable daycare, adequate sick time and paid vacation, healthcare that meets the real needs of families, work spaces free of harassment and discrimination, and living wages. If Trump is going to save 5 billion by cutting food stamps, he should reinvest that same about of money in these vital areas.

At the end of the day, people need work that works for them; and they need, no matter what misfortune may befall them, food. Food is not a privilege. Food is a human right. If Trump cuts food stamps and leaves hundreds of thousands of Americans without the nutrition they need to survive, that is not just a failed policy, it is an act of aggression.

Editor’s Note

One success story that will be hurt by SNAP cuts is the partnership between Foodlink and SNAP.  Throughout Monroe Avenue, Foodlink offers mobile pantries where SNAP recipients receive a 1 – 1 credit on purchases of fruits and vegetables. To me, this is SNAP at its best, a nutritional program that benefits both society and recipients.

See Foodlink statement in response to the USDA’s SNAP rule change 12/06/19

SEE ALSO Expand and Reform: SNAP should focus on children’s nutrition

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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