On Nov. 1, the federal food stamp program began to trim its annual spending by roughly $5 billion a year. That's an appropriate cut. The food stamp program benefit was increased in 2009 as part of the federal stimulus initiative. The increase expired on Nov. 1.
It's always tempting to extend programs that involve more money for individuals. Heaven knows Congress has done it often with tax cuts. But it's far past the time for national lawmakers to start having the political spine to stick to the fiscal details of legislation. The stimulus program is ending, and the food stamp boost needs to end as well. This is not a blow to the poor. The poor received extra assistance during the recession and afterward.
The reduction is not a heavy one for food stamp recipients. A family of four, with the mandated reduction, can still receive $632 a month in food stamps. Most individuals on food stamps will see a cut of about $10 a month.
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress want to trim the food stamps budget even more. Republicans in the House have proposed a $4 billion reduction, Democrats in the Senate are supporting a cut of about $400 million. We're not ready to take a position on either of those proposals, but they are worthy of serious consideration. The federal food stamp program has increased dramatically in recent years. Before the stimulus-mandated cut, the program was costing $80 billion a year, more than twice what it was several years ago.
The bad economy moved many persons and families to food stamps. As the economy slowly improves, there needs to be a concerted effort to lower the rolls, and costs, of the food stamp program. The onus lies on businesses to hire and invest, thereby boosting the job market, and spending.