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Editorial: Inaction leads to hardship

As troubles with the government's health-care website, new revelations about the extent of NSA spying and talks about reducing the federal deficit dominate the headlines, more struggling Americans are going to feel the pinch of a dysfunctional Congress as a temporary benefit expires today that helped people receiving food stamps.
Today's issues, compounded by the extended government shutdown and continual partisan bickering over the budget in Congress, have combined once again to hurt those who need help the most, and the bad news is that there doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency among elected leaders to help resolve the problem.
Millions of Americans who receive food stamps will see their benefits decline by about $36 a month beginning today. Those on the program saw a temporary lift from provisions in the 2009 economic stimulus package, but that package expired.
Some in the Republican Party - especially tea party-aligned Republicans - have fought vigorously to slash funding for food stamps, which was the main reason that Congress was unable to come to agreement on a new farm bill. Food stamp funding traditionally has been a part of that bill. As a result, farmers have also been left in limbo.
Republicans point to the fact that participation in the food stamp program has swelled in recent years. According to the Associated Press, one in seven Americans receive the benefits and the cost of the program has more than doubled since 2008. They say we need to reverse that trend and get more people off the program.
But getting people off the program entails getting them jobs that pay enough for them to support themselves and their families, and job creation has floundered since the recession. While leaders of both major parties lament the lack of jobs, the two sides have not been able to come together in any meaningful way to help spur more opportunities.
What we are left with is an ongoing issue that does not get resolved yet impacts millions of struggling families. Food banks and others that help those in need, meanwhile, say they continue to see an increase in people needing assistance.
Each day that Congress fails to act, it reinforces the perception that our elected leaders live in an insular bubble, comfortable in their own personal wealth and unaware of the consequences of their actions on average Americans.
The reduction in benefits, and the inability of Congress to come to a consensus on how to best help those who need it most, is yet another example of just how dysfunctional government has become.

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