Above, a store in New York advertises that it accepts food stamps. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Also The Reply: Opinion writers respond to reader comments and letters September 21, 2013 In some political circles, food stamp recipients are portrayed as prone to fraud, too entitled to work or living too comfortably at taxpayers’ expense. Some Times readers couldn’t disagree more. Those who sent us letters to the editor this week were almost unanimous in their opposition to the Republican-controlled House’s vote to pass a spending cut that would remove nearly 4 million Americans from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, which provides aid to families and individuals who, for a variety of reasons, have significant trouble paying for food. Many said this action amounted to an attack on those who could least afford it; others called it immoral and unprecedented. Here is a selection of those letters. — Paul Thornton, letters editor Altadena resident J.H. Benson questions the GOP ‘s morality: “House Republicans are badly in need of a moral compass. Their hypocrisy is only surpassed by their cruelty. “The GOP says that the 4 million Americans who will be kicked off SNAP are capable of helping themselves. I hope that our very capable farmers aren’t being subsidized while this assistance to the poor is deemed too expensive.” Long Beach resident Matthew Black points out more pressing spending concerns: “The GOP has truly hit a new low. After increasing annual defense spending by more than $300 billion since 2001, spending $2 trillion on unnecessary wars and passing $1.7 trillion in tax cuts between 2001 and 2003 that primarily went to the wealthiest Americans, Republicans need to save $40 billion on food stamps. “Way to go. Why do I feel I’m reading a Charles Dickens novel?
Many Republican-led states are trimming safety nets as the recession wanes. In addition, food stamp benefits for all recipients are set to fall Nov. 1 when federal stimulus money ends. Some states have changed welfare enrollment criteria. Others enacted unprecedented cuts in unemployment insurance, as Stateline previously reported. Against that backdrop, supporters of the cuts see the work requirement as a prime opportunity to trim the rolls. Those possibly affected by ending the waivers comprise less than 5 percent of Americans collecting food stamps. Employment is the most effective way to escape poverty Kansas Dept. of Children and Families Sec. Phyllis Gilmore Republicans see the improving economy as a sign enrollment should be dropping anyway, with cuts to benefits a good way to push some people back into the labor market. Kansas made its case clear, calling the policy “an effort to encourage employment over welfare dependency.” “Employment is the most effective way to escape poverty,” Kansas Department of Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said in a statement announcing the move. Those who support ending the waivers also promise robust job placement and training programs to help those affected meet work requirements, which could allow them to keep their benefits. Wisconsin, for example, is spending an additional $33 million on those efforts as its waiver expires. Are cuts premature?
Mass starvation feared in Syria; ‘We have no food’
In some hard-hit areas such as the western suburb of Moadamiyeh, people are running out of food and are mostly relying on lentils, olives and dried figs, according to residents and activists. “We have no food, no milk and no medicine,” said a woman from Moadamiyeh, who identified herself by her nickname Um Lujain for fear of government reprisals. “We are surviving on one meal a day” Um Lujain said her 18-month-old daughter has lost half her weight and spends most of her days sleeping. The woman said her daughter’s diet is based on the liquid she makes by boiling lentils. “There has been no children formula or bread for about a year,” the woman said. She added that sometimes rebels find expired boxes of powdered milk in abandoned shops or pharmacies, and people still give it to their children for lack of food. According to the Moadamiyeh Media Center, six people have died of starvation over the past 20 days: two women and four children ages 18 months to 7 years. It added that 15 other children are in intensive care in clinics, suffering from malnutrition. On Monday, the opposition Syrian National Coalition accused government forces of tightening their months-long siege. “Assad’s forces are starving people to death in those areas,” the coalition claimed. “Famine looms in the horizon.” Rana Obeid, the 18-month-old girl, was the latest to die on Monday. An amateur video showed her lying on a bed, her ribs visible and her stomach bloated. The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting on the events depicted. Mahmoud Abu Ali, an activist in Moadamiyeh, said the suburb has been under siege for 307 days. He added that most of the cows, sheep and goats died as a result of shelling or lack of feed, and people cannot plant their land because of daily bombardment.
Food stamp cuts a cruel proposal
The median family net worth dropped from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010, according to the Federal Reserve. It gets worse. Median family income fell from $49,600 in 2007 to $45,800 in 2010. (These are the latest available figures). “The Fed (Federal Reserve) found that middle-class families had sustained the largest percentage losses in both wealth and income during the crisis, limiting their ability and willingness to spend,” according to The New York Times. For 30 years, wages have flat-lined or declined for most workers, particularly in the past 10 years, as low-paying jobs replace middle-income paying jobs. In 2009, only half of the country had any assets, and those numbers have gotten worse during the last three years. Speier slams GOP over food stamp cuts Booker: Living on food stamps hard Feds crack down on food stamp fraud And here’s the kicker. Today — based on wage levels — half of Americans live in poverty or near poverty. The gap between the well-to-do and everybody else is widening alarmingly. Probably everyone reading this knows someone who is striving mightily, working two jobs and cutting expenses to the bone while barely making ends meet. To be considered poor by federal standards, a family of four must make less than $23,550 a year.