While Boehner & Company continue to fiddle. . .

. . . the Economist reports that individuals are threatened with hunger and important counter cyclical programs are being damaged when America needs them most:

Take food stamps, a programme designed to ensure that poor Americans have enough to eat, which is seen by many Republicans as unsustainable and by many Democrats as untouchable. Participation has soared since the recession began . . . By April it had reached almost 45m, or one in seven Americans. The cost, naturally, has soared too, from $35 billion in 2008 to $65 billion last year. And the Department of Agriculture, which administers the scheme, reckons only two-thirds of those who are eligible have signed up. . . .

It is also hard to argue that food-stamp recipients are undeserving. About half of them are children, and another 8% are elderly. Only 14% of food-stamp households have incomes above the poverty line; 41% have incomes of half that level or less, and 18% have no income at all. The average participating family has only $101 in savings or valuables. Less than a tenth of recipients also receive cash payments from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programme (TANF), the reformed version of welfare; roughly a third get at least some income from wages.

The other critical point raised by the Economist article is the value of food stamps in particular as an economic stimulus program:

When Moody’s Analytics assessed different forms of stimulus, it found that food stamps were the most effective, increasing economic activity by $1.73 for every dollar spent. Unemployment insurance came in second, at $1.62, whereas most tax cuts yielded a dollar or less. All the talk in Washington these days, however, is of cutbacks—even for the hungry.

The US used to be a country of moderation and compromise.  From Social Security to Medicare, we always “muddled” our way to moderate, successful approaches to social policy.  Can we really afford to engage in this Tea party foolishness when our entire economy is at risk?  You can read the Economist‘s article here.

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