Have you noticed how spending on welfare and other benefits for the poor is bankrupting the federal government? Neither have we. Last Monday, the Congressional Budget Office forecast a vast increase in the federal debt over the next decade, due in large part to the GOP’s recent $1.5 trillion tax cut, most of which goes to businesses and wealthy households. On the domestic spending side, the biggies remain middle-class programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
Yet President Donald Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress are on an election-year campaign to “reform” means-tested safety-net programs.
On Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee unveiled a proposed 2018 farm bill that would make it harder for non-working adults to get food-buying aid under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Work requirements make the least sense with regard to Medicaid, the largest means-tested program by far, at $565.5 billion in spending in 2016. Sixty percent of recipients already work, and 79 percent already live with a worker, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
As for SNAP, spending is already down - from $79.8 billion in 2013 to about $70 billion in 2017 - thanks to a robust economy. The total cost of the most recent five-year farm bill, SNAP’s authorizing legislation, is now expected to come in $31 billion below initial projections, mostly because of lower-than- expected SNAP spending. The House Republican farm bill is aimed at able-bodied, childless, working-age adults, who account for a very small portion of the overall SNAP caseload and many of whom already work.
Many non- working adults who rely on SNAP aren’t refusing to work but face multiple and stubborn logistical and educational barriers to employment. In the likely event those barriers continue, it will be SNAP administrators who face “options”: find a way to keep them on the rolls, or let them go hungry.