Jeb Bush has some ideas about welfare reform. In a blog post on his official campaign website, Bush outlines cuts to federal welfare reform, to be replaced with grants that states can divvy up as they see fit. One of the programs that would be nixed is the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), familiar to most as food stamps.
That's not such a great idea.
In December, a report by The Council of Economic Advisers, an Executive Office advisory agency that has been used by Republican and Democrat presidents since 1946, concluded that the food stamp program is so successful that it should actually be expanded since it helps people stay out of poverty. That includes five million people (including 2.2 million children) in 2014 alone.
SNAP also helps the economy in a few ways. Farmers produce more food, jobs are added, and grocery stores see increased sales. In total every dollar in SNAP benefits generates around $1.79 in economic activity, according to a study. Even though the number of people receiving benefits has doubled to roughly 15 percent of the population while the cost has tripled over the last 10 years, it doesn't make sense for Republican lawmakers to want to keep cutting or, in Bush's case, outright abolish the program.
Bush asserts in his new outline "that a job is the best way to improve the lives of poor individuals and families." That doesn't hold much water, and it's not a novel idea. As the economy improves, the number of people receiving food stamps decreases, yes. But statistics show that nearly half of SNAP benefits recipients are the working poor. Food stamps work, for the unemployed and employed; if anything, the program doesn't go far enough, even at its high price-tag.
In his plan, Bush complains that the program is subject to fraud and abuse. That's accurate, but the fraud rate among recipients is a paltry 1 percent, according to the USDA. That's hardly a reason to destroy a largely successful program that helps eliminate poverty, increase opportunity, and improve the economy, as well as help the people receiving it by providing them food they otherwise might not be able to purchase.
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