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Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012

The Real Paul Ryan

Food stamps are on the chopping block

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Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan got busted last week when he and his family spent a few moments in an empty soup kitchen washing clean pots and pans for a staged photo-op in Ohio—according to reports, Ryan had showed up after patrons had already eaten and left and the dining hall had been cleaned.

Unfortunately, soup kitchens like the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society facility the Ryan family toured will be far more crowded if Ryan’s policies are implemented.

His House-passed budget would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly known as food stamps—by a staggering $133.5 billion over the next decade and the program would be turned into state-based block grants. An estimated 8 million to 10 million hungry, impoverished people would be cut from the program nationally.

The Institute for Wisconsin’s Future (IWF) estimated that if Ryan’s budget were implemented immediately, more than $160 million in state SNAP funding would be cut over the next two years.

According to the most recent figures, more than 500,000 Wisconsinites utilize SNAP benefits.

Ryan’s plan would drop about 100,000 households from the food program in 2013 and 2014—about one-fifth of SNAP recipients, IWF found.

The SNAP reductions are just part of Ryan’s budget cuts that would slash the nation’s safety net. An estimated 62% of Ryan’s spending cuts are targeted at programs that help low-income Americans, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit; the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program; and Medicaid.

And Ryan’s budget isn’t the only threat facing SNAP. The House Republican version of the farm bill includes $36 billion in cuts to the food program, as well as a plan to block-grant it.

 

Placing Extra Burden on Churches

Who would pick up the slack? Nonprofits and religious institutions, apparently, since the federal government would no longer provide a sturdy safety net for those who need food, income and medical assistance.

Ryan’s budget would place a huge burden on these institutions.

A study conducted by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research found that if Ryan’s budget and the House Republican-backed farm bill were implemented, each of the nation’s 335,000 religious congregations would have to come up with an additional $50,000 each year for the next 10 years to serve the neediest members of their communities.

Raising the additional donations during a lingering recession could be made even more difficult if Mitt Romney and Ryan are elected. Although neither man has detailed which tax breaks he would eliminate to balance their “revenue neutral” budget plan, the tax deduction for charitable contributions could be on the chopping block—especially for high-income earners.

Ryan himself voted against a Democratic-sponsored bill earlier this year that would have retained tax deductions for home mortgages and charitable deductions.

 

Sister Simone Campbell: Low Wages Are the Problem

Ryan’s disdain for helping those in need runs counter to basic economics—and his Catholic faith.

SNAP funding is so essential—and plays such a vital role in the nation’s economic health—that President George W. Bush strongly supported it. In fact, the Bush administration found that each $1 in SNAP benefits led to $1.84 in gross domestic product. That’s because the low-income individuals who use SNAP use their benefits by spending them in local businesses.

The economic benefits of SNAP are also being touted by Sister Simone Campbell, one of the “nuns on the bus” who are speaking out against Ryan’s budget priorities.

Campbell told “Moyers & Company” producer Andrew Fredericks that food stamps not only fulfill the simple moral imperative of feeding the hungry, but that food benefits can also be thought of as a business subsidy.

“We have a choice as a nation,” Campbell told Fredericks this summer. “We can either provide a real safety net so that workers can eat, or we can mandate a living wage. It’s a choice. Part of me would much rather go after a living wage. Our choice has been the safety net, but now they want to do away with that, and they blame the people receiving the benefits. Actually, it’s the people paying low wages that are the problem. But the choice has been made to allow businesses to pay low wages, to keep costs down and increase productivity. Many of these people that are using food stamps make a little bit above minimum wage and they still are in poverty. So food stamps are a business subsidy.”

Campbell reminded Fredericks that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced Ryan’s budget as an immoral document.

“Catholic social teaching is all about building community together, and [Ryan has] missed that point dramatically,” Campbell said. “I wish he’d talk to us.”