With President Donald Trump quickly fulfilling promises made on his campaign trail (from cutting down a number of federal regulations present today to ordering a withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership), we can expect fast changes to be made to inefficient welfare programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). SNAP has been called out multiple times by President Trump and other well-known conservatives for reform.
The House Agriculture Committee comes together this Thursday to debate placing food restrictions onto the program.
The Need to Downsize SNAP
Almost 44 million Americans are currently on SNAP, according to the Department of Agriculture. While this number is currently declining, the system we have today is still in need of heavy improvement.
Under the Obama Administration, the program rapidly expanded to the point that today, taxpayers are spending more than $78 billion on it per year. The Congressional Budget Office states that a large amount of this increase was due to policy changes, rather than more people needing to be put on the program for economic reasons; in most states, there is little correlation between unemployment rates and a number of people on SNAP. The heavy increase in the SNAP program is something that needs to be rectified as soon as possible.
One of President Trump’s goals in this area has been to restore the requirements to be eligible for the program that Obama took down while in office—such as those restricting able-bodied adults from taking advantage of SNAP. According to the USDA, about 44% of able-bodied adults receiving SNAP benefits were neither employed nor looking for work. To any rational individual, these facts show a need for change.
Restrictions on SNAP Benefits
However, proposed changes to the program have historically been difficult to make. Liberals are known for favoring government regulations, but they tend to disagree with any restrictions being put on this program. This includes the idea that unhealthy foods should not be covered by SNAP. The USDA has come forward to announce that the number 1 product that food stamps go towards is soda, and beyond the fact that the average taxpayer does not want their dollars to be spent on unhealthy products, this trend will lead to more government spending down the road.
Unhealthy dietary habits often lead to health complications down the road such as obesity and diabetes, and it’s no secret that our country has a problem with both. These complications, coupled with taxpayer funded healthcare, lead to an added strain on our nation’s resources. Our government programs should not encourage unhealthy habits or the diseases linked to it.
The House Agriculture Committee’s meeting on February 16th marks the start of a serious reform of the program. Future questions will focus on downsizing the program and shifting power from the federal government to the states. Notably, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has spoken in favor of block grant funding. With a Republican president and Congress working together, our public assistance programs will see a definite improvement.
If all goes well in the coming months, we will see a more efficient, downsized welfare program. If all goes well Thursday, we will see one that at least won’t encourage obesity in its participants.