07/18/2013 04:41 pm ET Updated Jul 18, 2013

Do We Spend More To Feed Americans Or Lock Them Up?


Budgets are about priorities and moral choices: What does a society value most? The growth of the country's food stamps rolls recently prompted Republicans in Congress to try to reduce spending on the program. But some of the same lawmakers who want to cut the food stamp program remain steadfast in their conviction that the country should not reduce spending on the country's prison system -- which costs about as much as making sure that the country's poorest people can eat.

Republicans like Rand Paul have led a bipartisan effort to reform the country's sentencing laws, partly in an attempt to cut down on government spending. Others, however, have led the charge in the opposite direction. Lamar Smith of Texas, for example, opposed a 2010 law that aimed to reduce the sentencing disparities between black and white drug offenders.

In 2010, the latest year for which data is available for corrections spending, taxpayers spent about 80 billion dollars on prisons, parole and probation -- about 12 billion more than they spent on food stamps that year and a billion more than they spent on food stamps in 2012.

Here's a breakdown of the relative costs of corrections and food stamps in 2010:



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