Because it is really Congress that writes appropriations bills, the budget that presidents release every year around this time are really more a statement of priorities, a “moral document” that tells us what an administration values.
To the surprise of no one who has been paying attention, the budget released by the Trump administration on Monday indicates it values knuckling poor people.
The budget has deep cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, which will hit the poor the hardest. There are deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, and environmental catastrophes usually fall hardest on the shoulders of the most impoverished.
But perhaps nothing in the budget is more contemptuous of the poor than the proposed reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Not that SNAP really needs the proposed reforms. It is a fairly efficient anti-hunger program that provides low-income families with money they can use to purchase food at approved grocery stores and other outlets, using a debit card issued by the government and automatically reloaded every month.
The Trump administration would like to do away with that. From the budget document:
Under the proposal, households receiving $90 or more per month in SNAP benefits will receive a portion of their benefits in the form of a USDA Foods package, which would include items such as shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit, vegetables, and meat, poultry or fish. … This cost-effective approach will generate significant savings to taxpayers with no loss in food benefits to participants.
Again, SNAP is already a pretty efficient program.
What this is about is control. Conservatives for years have been terrified that SNAP recipients — and prior to SNAP, people eligible for food stamps — were buying T-bone steaks and lobsters with their taxpayer-provided grocery money. If the government buys cheap peanut butter in bulk and forces the poor to eat that instead, that’s just protecting the taxpayers.
The GOP claims to hate paternalistic big government telling them what to do through burdensome regulations. Now here is a Republican administration doing just that with by demanding the poor only eat certain food. It is just one more way of making life even more difficult for the poor, for rendering a value judgement on other’s lives, and finding them wanting.