Falling Off the Hunger Cliff

The October edition of Smithsonian magazine tells us that “With five simple words in the Declaration of Independence – ‘all men are created equal’ – Thomas Jefferson undid Aristotle’s ancient formula, which had governed human affairs until 1776: ‘From the hour of their birth, some men are marked out for subjection, others for rule.’”

Aristotle’s sentiments are obviously nonsense.  However, if you’ve ever reported to jury duty, and sat in a courthouse selection room all day among peers, you know that Jefferson got it wrong too.  For all men are not created equal…there’s a vast spectrum of people ranging from idiot to genius.

According to Thomas A. Patterson, in The American Democracy – Alternate Edition, what Jefferson – a slave owner – meant when he said “all men are created equal” is that all Americans are entitled to equal justice under the law.  The Smithsonian article attempts to reconcile the conflict between Jefferson’s words and actions as follows: “The very existence of slavery in the era of the American Revolution presents a paradox, and we have largely been content to leave it at that, since a paradox can offer a comforting state of moral suspended animation.”

We’ll leave malarkey like “moral suspended animation” up to our readers for interpretation.  What we are interested in is Jefferson’s idea that all men, and women, are entitled to equal justice under the law.  This seems like an idea bearing merit.  But, unfortunately, like the money supply, it’s an idea that’s been watered down over the years.

What we mean is, somehow, since Jefferson’s day, this has transformed to the notion that all men are entitled to equal spoils…whether they deserve them or not.  In this regard, despite Jefferson’s moral shortcomings, we doubt he thought government entitled equality under the law meant feeding 46 million people, both American and non-American citizens, on a daily basis…

Subject to Extreme Abuse

If you didn’t know it, there are currently 46.6 million people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  That amounts to about one in seven Americans who are dependent on the benevolent hand of government food stamps for their daily bread.  Moreover, by 2013, SNAP spending will have quadrupled over the last 12 years.

“So, what’s going on?” asks Kate Havard at the Weekly Standard.

“Although many people are poorer now than they were 10 years ago, the growth of the food stamp rolls can’t just be chalked up to an abysmal economy.  Ten years ago, close to 12 percent of Americans lived below the official poverty line; in June, that number was 15 percent.  While the share of the population in poverty increased only 25 percent, spending on food assistance grew 400 percent.”

But those aren’t the only numbers that have parted ways.  The United States lost a net 1.3 million jobs between January 2009 and June 2012.  Yet, over this same period, 15.1 million people were added to SNAP.  For the life of us, we couldn’t figure out how so many people had joined the SNAP rolls…until we discovered that SNAP has been subject to extreme abuse…

Since 2004, for example, “USDA has partnered with the Mexican government to increase SNAP enrollment among ‘Mexican nationals, migrant workers, and non-citizen immigrants’ in the United States.”  Apparently, Mexican consulates in the United States even distribute brochures and literature about SNAP.

In addition to Mexican migrant workers, college kids are also lining up and feeding off the government trough.  “Last summer, the Michigan Department of Human Services discovered that 30,000 college students, many of them middle class, were enrolled in the state’s food stamp debit card system.  Students received up to $200 a month, costing the state $75 million a year.”

Falling Off the Hunger Cliff

Yet with so many turkeys being fattened up by their dependence on government Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card feed, could it be they are now being led to slaughter?

By this time next week we’ll know…

Right now, as we write this, Congress is messing its pants over the imminent hunger cliff the turkeys will walk off if they fail to pass the 2012 farm bill before the current legislation expires on September 30.  Typically a farm bill passes through Congress without much debate because it bundles together agricultural subsidies and food stamps into a bill that politicians of all stripes can cheer.  But with spending on SNAP quadrupling over the last twelve years, there are some juniors in Congress who are taking issue with the fact that “nearly 80 percent of the $1 trillion the 2012 bill would spend over the next 10 years would go to the food stamp program.”

“This isn’t a farm bill.  This is a welfare bill,” said Republican Senator Ron Johnson.

“This bill is a great example of what’s wrong in Washington,” the freshman senator continued.  “Decades ago someone realized that combining food stamps and agriculture programs together in one bill is a great way to pass both with a minimum of debate and controversy.”

Johnson’s motion to sever the food stamps section from the rest of the farm bill lost; the Senate later passed a bill that includes $1 trillion over 10 years, with $800 billion going to food stamps.  But now the farm bill has stalled out in the House of Representatives.

Congress is running out of time.  Hence, at this point, an extension of the current farm bill may be all that can happen before the end of the month so that EBT cards don’t run out of money.  Just think, if that doesn’t happen, 46 million people will fall off the hunger cliff.

MN Gordon
for Economic Prism

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