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Being the Food Stamp President

February 14, 2013

Monday, January 23, 2012Being the “Food Stamp President”
Over the weekend I heard Newt attack Obama for being the “Food Stamp President” and asserting that he would instead be the “jobs president”. Other of the Republican candidates have also attacked the Food Stamp program suggesting that there should be major cuts or dismantling of that program. Food Stamps are something that I know quite a lot about, since my job five days a week is working with eligibility determination for that program along with others. There is a significant misconception that os being preyed upon that indicate that these candidates are either intentionally misleading voters or they are ignorant. I am not sure which is more irresponsible.

First misconception, people choose to receive Food Stamps because they would rather do that than work. The reality is that a large portion of people who receive Food Stamps do work. They work at jobs that either don’t offer enough hours and/or have a pay rate so low that people cannot live on what they are paid. So the necessary choice is not work or Food Stamps it is work AND Food Stamps. That former Republican presidential candidate from Texas that bragged so much about the huge number of jobs that he created as governor, never bothered to mention the pay rates for the jobs that he created. I would venture an educated guess that many of the people who took those jobs still needed to receive Food Stamps to survive.

It is doubly troubling to me that the same people who object to programs like Food Stamps also tend to be those who object to trade unions or other labor regulations designed to insure that people who work earn a living wage. I am old enough to remember when the norm was the nuclear family with a single wage earner, and families were able to get by on that one income. Over the past 50 years or so it is pretty obvious that incomes have declined for most working people to the point where often two incomes are no longer sufficient. I am a firm believer that people who are able to work should work. But, I also believe that people who work deserve to be paid sufficient to survive on the income that work provides.

I said that I work with the Food Stamp program on a daily basis. Based on that experience, I believe that there are savings that could be made in the program. I would certainly support well considered and informed changes to the program. However, the inplicit or explicit vilifation to those who truly benefit from this program is irresponsible.

Just a quick addition on a related subject, I also work with Medicaid eligibility. We need as a society to make a decision regarding the question if whether medical care is a right of all people or a priviledge reserved for the wealthy. I saw an application just today from a couple applying for Medicaid. Husband and wife in their 50’s. He had open heart surgery a few months ago as a result of heart failure. She is epileptic in need of daily medication. They were self-employed and have gone through all of their savings. They have both been determined to NOT be disabled by Social Security. In Florida they are ineligible for medicaid. The result, there is no where for either one of them to turn for the medications that they both need to maintain their health. Yes, if they have a medical crisis and go to an ER they will be seen and treated, and without the medications they need that WILL happen. Is this really the way that we as a society believe the system should work? I believe that we need to address this question directly and act accordingly. If there are politicians who believe that health care is not a right, they need to be willing to say to people like this, your just need to shut up and die.

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