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News Opinion

Food stamp users aren't villains

In all levels of all programs and institutions, public or private, big or small, government or corporate, there is some degree of fraud or mismanagement ("Food stamp fraud is real and must be stopped," Nov. 6). There is no way to have a program like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (better known as food stamps) that will not have some degree of misuse, or even outright fraud.

The federal government spent around $80 billion on food stamps in 2013. If it was even granted that 5 percent of that $80 billion was misused, that would mean there was $4 billion worth of federally subsidized misuse or outright fraud. But the actual money spent in total by the federal government in 2013 totals to $3.454 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, this would mean that .0012 percent of the total budget was spent on said misuse. Is that really a reason to slash SNAP benefits for the most impoverished Americans across the country?

This is why entitlement reform is a wedge issue, aggrandized by the politicians and the media, though quietly ignoring the fact that SNAP misuse is such a minuscule problem relative to the budget as a whole. Politicians will often talk about spending cuts, but in most cases these arguments are vacuous and meant to pit the public at large against one another. Politicians will hoot and holler about entitlement reform, but meanwhile, they are not talking about the Federal Reserve bank buying up $85 billion in toxic assets from banks every month through Quantitative Easing. We will cut entitlement spending on food stamps, but won't discuss the nearly $700 billion used on U.S. Department of Defense spending just this year. Regardless of one's beliefs on any of these programs, we don't need to cast impoverished Americans as villains in such difficult economic times, as they neither caused nor benefited from the Great Recession.

Since the economic recovery, most new jobs created are part-time, minimum wage positions and the unemployment rate is still high. To top it off, the majority of the wealth created since the recovery has gone to the very wealthy. This is simply an unsustainable economic model.

So ask yourself, is the person buying a candy bar with their food stamps really the enemy, or just a victim of an unstable socioeconomic situation of which he or she has no control over? And would taking away the ability of that person to buy that candy bar really solve any problems at all?

John Wisor

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To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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