Editorial | Cuts are leaving people hungry

The following editorial appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday.

Having less to eat has become a new reality for 47 million Americans.

A participating family of four will have 21 fewer meals because Congress unconscionably allowed a $5 billion cut to the federal food stamp program to go into effect at the beginning of this month.

It is the first cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s history, and it comes as hunger has become a growing problem in the United States.

There are few options for the hungry.

Wages for the working poor are stagnant. Even people who work multiple jobs can’t seem to make enough money for basic necessities.

But instead of responding to the hunger crisis, Congress is making it worse.

House Republicans are pushing for $40 billion more in cuts over the next decade to a program that barely fulfills the minimal moral obligation of feeding the hungry.

The mentality it takes to make these cuts was recently exhibited by Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, who told the Columbus Dispatch that people without dependents should have their food stamps cut after three months to help them “get off the couch.”

“I’m all for people who legitimately need help,” Gibbs said, as if some people choose to be hungry. To see what the future would look like if Gibbs’ view prevails in the food stamps debate, you need only look to your neighbors.

The Nov. 1 cut means 3 million people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey will face reduced benefits. The states will lose $273 million. The impact will be especially severe in Delaware County and Camden County, which will lose more funding than others in the region.

Not only will people go hungry, but $15 million will be sucked out of the two counties’ economies. Even so-called fiscally conscious members of Congress should be concerned about the impact on a county’s economy after losing that much money.

Now think about that financial loss occurring every year for the next decade.

The cruelty of food-stamp cuts has even given the Corbett administration pause.

Its new welfare secretary, Beverly Mackereth, recently said she would rethink the state’s means test, which it used to deny food assistance to 111,000 people who failed to provide proper documentation. Another 4,000 were told they made too much money to qualify.

Mackereth told the Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial board that she would concentrate on her agency’s mission to care for those in need. Good for her.

Another encouraging sign has come from Philabundance, one of the region’s busiest antihunger groups, which says that since the food stamp cuts went into effect, more private citizens have stepped up with promises to contribute to the agency.

Meanwhile, New Jersey residents voted overwhelmingly to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour, which will give more families the ability to avoid hunger.

People don’t want their neighbors to go hungry. They do want government to provide a safety net in case they need it.

Instead of making life harder for people who need food aid, Congress should be solving the primary problem causing much of the hunger in America: a lack of jobs that pay people enough to take care of their families.