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Rob Horowitz: Food Stamps Are the Wrong Political Football

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Cutting support for the SNAP program would be a unwise move, according to Rob Horowitz.

House Republicans continue to refuse to pass the Farm Bill unless it contains a $4 billion cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more popularly known as food stamps. This significant decrease in food assistance to needy families would come on top of the recent end of a temporary boost in the program mandated by the 2009 Recovery Act. Taken, together, this one-two punch threatens some of our nation’s most vulnerable families and individuals’ capacity to put healthy meals on the table.

The overwhelming majority of people who receive SNAP assistance are “children, elderly individuals, or persons with disabilities”, according to the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project. Contrary to engrained stereotypes, the majority of adults receiving food stamps—who are able to work—work. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reports that ‘more than 80 percent of SNAP households have monthly income below the federal poverty line ($19,500 a year for a family of three), and more than 40 percent live in deep poverty, with income below halfof the poverty line.

Republican shortsightedness

It is the case, as Republicans point out, that food stamp usage has increased with nearly 50 million Americans now receiving SNAP assistance, including 17% of Rhode Island and 13% of Massachusetts residents. The program now costs more than $70 billion annually. However, this is not surprising given the Great Recession, and a so far tepid recovery that is creating mainly low wage new jobs. If past history is any guide, as the economy improves, food stamp use will taper off.

Cutting SNAP assistance now is the textbook definition of penny-wise and pound foolish. As the Hamilton Project points out, every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates as much as $9 in spending and economic activity. This is the kind of counter-cyclical program designed to provide a boost to the economy during difficult times.

The bigger picture

Most importantly, providing food assistance ensures that children are adequately fed and prevents the costly and sometimes permanent consequences of childhood hunger and poor nutrition. The results include lower rates of diabetes and other illnesses. Further, recent research demonstrates that women with access to SNAP during childhood experience more adult success including lower drop-out rates and higher earnings.

Of course, the program can be improved. Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern University, recently proposed a number of sensible reforms including incentives for purchasing fruits and vegetables and eliminating any penalties for working.

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. This essential anti-hunger program is working mainly as designed. The bottom line in a nation as wealthy as ours: none of our kids should go hungry.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

Related Slideshow:
Rhode Island’s Most and Least Popular Politicians

The statewide poll conducted by the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University in October 2013 is the latest public opinion survey by the Ivy League institution.  

See how elected officials fared in Brown polls in years past BELOW.  

Prev Next

Mayor Angel Taveras


October 2013: 63.9%

October 2012: 65.6%

December 2011: 51.7%

Prev Next

Treasurer Gina Raimondo


October 2013: 54.2%

October 2012: 58.7%

December 2011: 52%

Prev Next

Senator Jack Reed


October 2013: 51.6%

October 2012: 58.5%

December 2011: 46.4%

July 2010: 55.6%

December 2009: 56.3%

September 2008: 68%

September 2007: 61%

September 2006: 70%

September 2005: 65%

June 2004: 63%

September 2003: 62%

Prev Next

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse


October 2013: 39.4%

October 2012: 45.4%

December 2011: 33.6%

July 2010: 42.8%

December 2009: 43.7%

September 2008: 46.2%

September 2007: 41%

Prev Next

Rep. Jim Langevin


October 2013: 38.7%

October 2012: 41%

December 2011: 41.9%

July 2010: 54.6%

December 2009: 46%

September 2008: 51.2%

September 2007: 55%

September 2006: 56%

September 2005: 62%

June 2004: 56%

September 2003: 56%

Prev Next

AG Peter Kilmartin



October 2013: 35.6%

October 2012: 35.8%

December 2011: 34.5%

July 2010: 20.2%

Prev Next

Sec. of State Mollis


October 2013: 35.6%

October 2012: 28.6%

December 2011: 25.6%

July 2010: 32.6%

December 2009: 22.6%

September 2008: 24.1%

September 2007: 23%

Prev Next

Lt. Governor Roberts


October 2013: 32.9%

October 2012: 37.5%

December 2011: 32.8%

July 2010: 33.5%

December 2009: 22.4%

September 2008: 24%

September 2007: 37%

Prev Next

Rep. David Cicilline


October 2013: 26.6%

October 2012: 29.7%

December 2011: 24.3%

*July 2010: 40.3%

*December 2009: 40.8%

*September 2008: 46%

*September 2007: 64%

*September 2006: 58%

*September 2005: 60%

*June 2004: 61%

*September 2003: 67%

* As Mayor of Providence

Prev Next

Sen. President Paiva-Weed

October 2013: 23.5%

October 2012: 26.2%

December 2011: 24.1%

July 2010: 21.4%

December 2009: 19%


Prev Next

Governor Lincoln Chafee

October 2013: 23%

October 2012: 28.5%

December 2011: 27.4%

*September 2006: 51%

*September 2005: 54%

*June 2004: 56%

*September 2003: 50%

* As U.S. Senator

Prev Next

Speaker Fox


October 2013: 20.5%

October 2012: 18.3%

December 2011: 25.9%

July 2010: 20.2%


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frank bentley

as the GOP should say"let them starve"..who cares...but many of us do care..if their parents are sinners, don't punish the children, arrest the offenders but don't hurt the kids

Killary Klinton

Typical left-wing progressive lies and obfuscation.

The reason for more welfare in this country is the Democrat Party's refusal to allow for business growth. More social justice agenda driven regulation, more BS global warming laws, expansion of unions and the usual denigration of the working man who owns a business.

Businesses need to grow and that mean make a profit. When they make a profit, they can hire more people. When you hire more people, there is no need for any welfare assistance from the government.

Obama and his ilk do not want this to happen so the LIV remains under government control with welfare, Medicaid and food stamps. It's all to maintain control over the uniformed who don't see themselves as slaves to the government.

The Democrats are the modern day plantation owners.


Remember Benghazi 2012 when four Americans died and Hillary Clinton told congress - What difference does it make?

Art West

An article in the Washington Times reports:

"Enrollment in the food stamp program — officially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — has soared by 70 percent in the years since President Obama first took office, a new report finds.

The government said the recession ended in 2009, The Wall Street Journal reports, but enrollment in the food stamp program didn’t wane, as would be expected in an improving economy. Since 2008, it’s been on a steady rise, The Journal reports."

It seems the program is politically driven. This and other hand-out programs should be curtailed and the focus put on job creation not dependency creation. Prosperity lifts all boats. Dependency does not.

Redd Ratt

1. At least eliminate snack food and soda from the SNAP program.

2. The $5 of food stamps equals $9 of economic activity argument is BS. It doesn't do anything for the guy who earned the $5.

3. SNAP should be for a limited duration. Reapply if you still fail to support your family.

4. Don't have kids you can't afford in the first place. The social welfare net should be for people that find themselves unemployed suddenly. Not for people that expect society to pay for their mistakes.

john paycheck

snap is a safety net, not the lifestyle it has become.

Johnny cakes

Thank you for speaking for those who are deprived of agency, or unable to speak for themselves.

After reading your reasoned and well-documented piece, I’m at a loss to explain what was read by those who have commented here. What they took away from your article demonstrates the great divide in this country.

There is a section of the population that lacks all humanity, and sees people as disposable - just as those in Washington. And they are incapable of dispassionate, rational and critical thought.

They remind me of and reflect the reasoning of a George W. Bush: “I’ve made up my mind, don’t confuse me with the facts.” To explain the ignorance and know-nothingness of a Bush, a child of extreme privilege, is easy. He has absolutely no idea of how ordinary people live. To explain how these fools have arrived at their understanding of the world is another matter.

john paycheck

ahh... resort to the bush bashing..

deprived of agency? can't speak for themselves? are you saying there are 170,000 people in ri on food stamps that can't speak for themselves? is there no hope for them? should they get a permanent foodstamp card like disability?

so the food stamp program increased 70% in 5 years. so should it increase another 70% in the next 5 years?

I am all for helping those in need to get back on their feet. nobody should be hungry in this country. and I believe there are plenty of programs, etc where people don't have to be hungry.

I was laid off once. I never thought of taking foodstamps. I scrimped and saved till I got back on my feet. my family helped me. my faith in myself and my country helped me. the government did nothing for me and I didn't want anything from them.

those that feel what the government is doing is not adequate, can always take funds from their personal accounts and provide for those in need.

I have an aquantance on disability - doesn't want to work - quit a job - lives better than a lot of working people. absolutely disgusting. total fraud.

Johnny cakes

John Paycheck:

What are you saying? Are you saying the 170,000 people on food stamps, most of whom are children, the elderly or working - are ineligible? Are they gaming the system? Just what are you trying to say? Do you know anything about food stamp eligibility, the application process, etc.? I doubt it.

You say the food stamp program has increased “70% in 5 years.” You have no understanding as to why? Let me help you. Do you know that we have 9.2% unemployment here in RI, and many more that are underemployed. Do you think this might have something to do with it? Most of the jobs that have been created since 2008 have been part-time jobs - at lower overall wages. Do you think this might have something to do with it?

What do you think about people on food stamps, that they are somehow different from you? This is what I mean by ignorant, know-nothingness. Do you think it is easy for people on food stamps or welfare? Do you think it is easy living a hand-to-mouth existence, not being able to provide for your children or family while American opulence and excess is all around you.

I am not going to try and reason with you or convince you because I know better. There are many cowardly-types, like you, who are afraid to look at your real enemies and choose to blame their victims.

john paycheck

good deal...just attack anyone that disagrees with you. different point of you. no discussion.... gets a lot accomplished. there is a lot of fault to be passed around in this country and there is plenty for the left and plenty for the right.

Killary Klinton

Johnny Cakes needs to go on the local Craig's list and see how many EBT cards are up for sale. Those people must be doing well enough to be selling them? I guess his love affair with King Obama blinds his common sense.

About the only thing J Cakes got right was the lack of jobs under this Progressive President's socialist agenda has caused a dramatic rise in EBT users. Better known as slaves to the company store!


Remember Benghazi 2012 when Barack Obama lied to the American people, claiming a YouTube video was the reason for the deaths of four American heroes.

Johnny cakes

I went to Craigslist-RI and searched “EBT cards” for sale. There was not one solicitation.
Why do you feel you need to lie in order to make a point? Most people are not going to sell their EBT card and pin number to a perfect stranger. If they needed cash that would not be the way they would do it.
What did I say that makes you think I have a love affair with “King Obama”? People who narrowly see the world in terms of Democrats and Republicans are, in my estimation, are not particularly bright or well-informed.
“Remember Benghazi 2012……….. for the deaths of four American heroes.” Since when is it heroic for American troops to attack, kill and occupy a Third World country, whose people or government have done absolutely nothing to the American people to warrant an invasion. You have the mindset and morals of a schoolyard bully.

Killary Klinton

Being a black woman, I do not appreciate your "KKK" comment but I have to believe you are just another left-wing, liberal hiding your racism behind your love of King Obama.

Check your Email - Podesta is sending you more ignorant talking points.


Remember Benghazi 2012 when Hillary Clinton told congress - What difference does it make?

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