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Congress finds another way to not punish children

By Sarah Coppola
web posted November 19, 2018

Food stamps, otherwise known as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Association Program, are a government issued well-fare program that provides very low-income families a free or low-priced way of getting food. This sounds like an amazing thing! People who cannot afford food do not have to starve, kids can eat full meals year round without relying on meals provided by their school, and there is ultimately much less stress involved with food stamps.

Samantha Wymann certainly agrees with this in her Socialist Worker article titled "Congress finds another way to punish children". In fact, in response to Trump’s new laws on food stamp requirements she states that it is yet "another display of federal government cruelty toward poor families" and that "the food stamp provisions of the House farm bill would make these already harsh conditions even worse." She states the problem that many kids in school rely on free or low-priced meals given out by their school, but over the summer they have no way of getting meals, which is why these new requirements are harming American families in poverty. They are allowing fewer families to use food stamps, endangering the health of children and, of course, everybody else who will be affected by these new laws.

However, Wymann does not understand the power the food stamps, however great they may seem from a superficial point of view, inflict upon these families using this welfare system (or any welfare system for that matter). Thomas Sowell points out that when families begin to rely on systems where the government pays for most of their necessities, there is hardly any way to get out of that welfare system. They are stuck relying on it for if "they have the potential to become productive members of society, the loss of welfare state benefits if they try to do so is an implicit “tax” on what they would earn." And really, families in poverty in America could be counted as rich in a less-developed country. Sowell also points out that impoverished families in America still have luxuries such as "air-conditioning, television, own a motor vehicle and, far from being hungry, are more likely than other Americans to be overweight." Because of food stamps, American families are stuck using this well-fare system.

Using Martin Friedman’s way of thinking, Diana Whitman proposes an alternative solution to "poverty" that will not cause Americans to become dependent upon the government. Instead of continually handing out what impoverished Americans need, he first believes that this well-fare assistance should "operate through the market without distorting or impeding it", it should not discriminate and prioritize the elderly and disabled, and above all, it should encourage Americans to work while "establishing a floor below which no individual’s income would fall."

One example organization that follows Friedman and Whitman’s ways of thinking is the EITC, which is the biggest cash transfer program, and it "lifts over 4.7 million children out of poverty each year." Basically, the EITC provides a low-income worker with extra money for every dollar they make so that they receive more income. This gives workers throughout America an incentive to work while also eventually giving them an easy way out of the program, instead of forcing them to keep their low-income job and rely on welfare to take care of them. If, for whatever reason, EITC is no longer able to provide subsidies, food vouchers (food stamps, or "consumption-distorting food stamps," as Whitman calls them) can be used instead, though cash, according to Friedman, is preferred in order to retain a natural level of consumption.

Basically, food stamps are very close to the solution to poverty, but they are not the answer as they suck low-income families into using them, and then those families cannot escape. Trump is on the right track; he is raising the standards used to qualify for food stamps so that fewer families are able to slack off and rely on the government for their food. Congress is not finding another way to punish children; congress is on the right track to helping children and impoverished families throughout America. ESR

Sarah Coppola is a high school student studying AP Macroeconomics. © 2018 Sarah Coppola

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