On Friday, unless Congress acts (which would be an exception, not a norm), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or food stamps, will be cut for as many as 900,000 veterans and their families, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. As the boost to the program under the 2009 American Recovery Act sunsets, many of those who served this nation in uniform, but are facing tough economic times, will find it that much harder to feed their families.
When VoteVets.org asked our veterans if they have ever used food stamps, and to urge Congress to maintain the program, over 600 of them wrote back within 24 hours. All of them who are still on the program are now going to face tougher times.
I don't mean "why" in terms of what technically will happen. We know the facts. If the boost to the program isn't maintained, benefits will be about $1.40 per meal, per person. Veterans and their families will be forced to forgo whole meals, or feed their kids not-fully-nutritious meals, all because Republicans in Congress are hell-bent on making their lives miserable.
House Republicans have proposed cutting food stamps by an additional $40 billion over the next 10 years. And if their bullheadedness during the shutdown is any indication, they will be less than eager to come to an agreement with the Senate that could preserve most of the program. And so, the 2009 boost to the program heads to the dustbin, and veterans and their families go that much more hungry.
I mean "why" in terms of why do we even accept this as a debate in this nation, when we don't have to?
If Republicans were truly concerned about busting the budget, and tightening our belts, we wouldn't need to target those veterans who need help just to afford food. Like I said, Republicans propose cutting the program by about $4 billion, on average, a year for the next 10 years.
Just this year, Lockheed Martin received a $6.9 billion contract for "modernization" of the F-22 -- a fighter jet that the Pentagon has said it doesn't want, but keeps getting money to buy. This, on top of $7.4 billion contract just a couple of years ago for similar "system upgrades" to the F-22. Over $14 billion in just a couple of years to "modernize" and "upgrade" a jet fighter that just rolled off the assembly lines 8 years ago.
One jet fighter program that the Pentagon is ready to end, could erase the SNAP program cuts for a few years. That's just one example of fat and waste that could be cut, so we don't take food out of the mouths of our veterans and their families. There are plenty more, which could save a ton of desperately needed programs that are being hatcheted to death, in the name of sequestration and austerity.
How is this even a debate? How is it that men and women who served in uniform get smeared as lazy and unmotivated to work, as soon as they need help feeding their families by using food stamps? How is it that they get targeted, when we clearly have the money to give them the aid they've earned, and desperately need?
It's way past time to say "enough" to these proposals being floated falsely under the flag of "fiscal responsibility." Real fiscal responsibility goes after those who least need help first -- not those who need help the most.
This is about priorities, and unfortunately, as a nation, we aren't really showing any. That has to change.