By Nicholas Sones
One of the more interesting ideas in the Trump administration’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year is to reform the Supplemental Nutrient Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps. They are attempting to sell the plan by referencing boxed meal companies like Blue Apron.
The Trump plan stated a “bold new approach to administering SNAP that combines traditional SNAP benefits with nutritious and 100 percent American grown food provided directly to households.”
Under the proposal, households receiving $90 or more per month in SNAP benefits will receive a portion of their benefits in the form of a USDA food package, which would include items such as shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit, vegetables and meat, poultry or fish.
The remainder of their benefit would go on the SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card for use at approved grocery retailers. This cost-effective approach will generate significant savings to the taxpayers with no loss in food benefits to participants. It will also improve the nutritional value of the benefit provided and reduce the potential for EBT fraud. States will have substantial flexibility in designing the food box delivery system through existing infrastructure, partnerships, or commercial/retail delivery services.
SNAP affects 45.4 million Americans. In 2015, the average SNAP recipient received a monthly benefit of $126.39, as the average American family received $256.11 monthly. Of those on the program, over 96 percent of them actually are actually eligible. Trump apparently wants to overhaul a program that is working rather flawlessly because almost 4 percent of SNAP’s participants fraudulently use the program.
The plan puts the health of Americans last because, unlike how the current program works where American families who need a helping hand can go to the store and purchase fresh food, the food American families will receive will be “canned fruit, vegetables, and meat, poultry and fish,” according to the budget proposal.
This means that families would be getting worse food and they will also have no choice in the type of foods their family can receive. The plan is chock full of alternative facts take, for example, how the plan claims “it will also improve the nutritional value of the benefit provided and reduce the potential for EBT fraud.”
When it comes to the implementation of the program this administration is one taking a back seat to leadership. What if a state refused to implement the reforms? Should anyone believe that Trump who has very little clout with states considering his polling would pick up the phone? Would he tweet about the issue?
For a political party that believes the government should get out of the way in people lives, Donald Trump certainly is an anomaly. Is the Republican Party doing a much larger reversal here on a policy that was at one point the bedrock of Republicanism?
The entire program boils down to the following: Do poor people get to choose the food they eat? Do those on government assistance get to make decisions for their own lives about what they put into their bodies and what they cannot? It appears Trump wants to reform this idea as well, which was once a clarion call for Republicans.
When it comes to reforming a government program that works, Trump should stay away allow the bureaucrats to detect fraud and ensuring those American families who need it continue to receive it.