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Editorial: Targeting SNAP

What is it about federal assistance for food that brings out the worst in some politicians?

The answer may be it’s an easy target — the low-hanging fruit — for those in Congress seeking to trim the federal government no matter what the consequences.

Some Americans, therefore, hear that food stamp use is ballooning and conclude that waste and fraud must be rampant.

What they fail to see is what this aid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), means to so many people who struggle economically and, therefore, having enough to eat.

“All of a sudden it’s become a popular thing to go after SNAP. Some members want to eliminate it entirely,” Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., said in a recent news story. “Balancing the budget by making it harder for poor people to get food is a rotten thing to do.”

Rotten, indeed.

Nonetheless, both chambers of Congress are currently interested in cuts to SNAP, with the House of Representatives taking a more Draconian path by proposing to slash $20 billion from SNAP over the next decade. The Senate wants a $4 billion over the same time period.

Those seeking such reduction want taxpayers to see this as part of the effort to cut dollars and cents out of the budget — as pure dollars and sense . We think that Americans should be seeing it in numbers as well — but in terms of the millions of men, women and children who find themselves living on a financial edge, whether they are working or not.

The planned cuts would also be seen in our schools, where SNAP provides free school lunches.

Here’s a number to contemplate: One in five SNAP households lives on cash income of less than $2 per person a day, according to research done through the Congressional Budget Office’s Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Since 2008, when the economy was getting entrenched in the Great Recession, enrollment in SNAP has surged 70 percent — reaching a record 47.8 million Americans in December. If Congress is interested in seeing the number drop, then it should be making decisions that will aid in the economic recovery, particularly in restoring Americans’ confidence in their lawmakers.

Reliance on SNAP would be reduced as the economy climbs, according to Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

But building the economy is harder than tearing down SNAP, and easy pickings, shamefully for Congress, is what it’s about.

This move by the House should be rejected.

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