Guy W. Farmer: Food stamp epidemic is a crying shame

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal

The following headline caught my eye a few days ago: “Nevadans see cuts in food stamp benefits.” Is that bad news or good news? I asked myself. You can call me cruel and/or cold-hearted, but it may well be good news, and I’ll tell you why.

According to the Associated Press story that accompanied the headline, the U.S. Agriculture Department said the cut in food stamp benefits “will reduce the maximum monthly benefit for a family of four by $36 to $632,” a 5 percent reduction. Is that an unreasonable reduction when, as the Obama administration delights in telling us, the economy is improving and unemployment is declining? I don’t think so.

I contribute more than 20 percent of my annual taxable income to the IRS, so I know federal money isn’t “free.” I fail to understand why federal entitlement spending continues to increase no matter how the economy is performing. In my opinion, one of the positive effects of the so-called sequester was to put maximum limits on federal spending. With the national deficit approaching $20 trillion (with a “t”), it’s time for the feds to stop spending more money than they collect from taxpayers.

I don’t always agree with the controversial and outspoken Bill O’Reilly, but he got it right in a recent column by pointing out that according to the Census Bureau, “More people in America today are on welfare than have full-time jobs.” Why should Americans “enter the work force at the bottom if the government will give you the same compensation for sitting on your butt?” O’Reilly asked.

“The United States became the world’s strongest economy by folks working hard,” the columnist continued. “Layabouts and people who game the system actually harm our country. Safety nets for the poor and disadvantaged are a must for any compassionate nation, but encouraging folks to go on the dole when it’s not absolutely necessary is disgraceful.” Amen!

O’Reilly accused the Obama administration of encouraging Americans to go on welfare. “How else can you explain a 40 percent rise in food stamp recipients in just three years ... and a rise of 15 percent in federal disability payments over the same period of time?” he asked. “The hope and change espoused by President Obama has led to chaos in the health care arena and a massive entitlement industry that’s growing larger every day.”

That’s a long quote, but it raises issues that must be discussed. Here in Nevada, 360,000 people receive food stamps. Leslee Rogers, a spokesperson for the Salvation Army in Las Vegas, told the AP that more than 220 families are now seeking daily food assistance, up from 120 to 130 families per day at this time last year; that increase doesn’t make sense when the economy is improving and unemployment is dropping.

The recent AP food stamp story noted that “the cut is actually a return to the benefit levels for the program before they were upped by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,” enacted during a recession. Now that makes sense because increased benefits were no longer necessary after the economy recovered.

Obama may want to be known as the Food Stamp President, but I think that dubious title does a disservice to millions of Americans who work hard and pay their taxes. As O’Reilly wrote, voters should advocate “self-reliance and responsible government” by demanding that able-bodied welfare recipients work for their benefits after being drug-tested. I’m with Bill on this one.

Guy W. Farmer has been a card-carrying taxpayer for many years.


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