Millionaires on Food Stamps?

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A new GOP-backed bill would prevent super-rich people from getting food stamps, even though they already can't, The New York Times reports.

Republicans want to renew the payroll-tax holiday.

Part of their bill requires that Americans who rake in more than $1 million cannot get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, the paper notes. If made into law, the proposed legislation would also keep top earners from getting unemployment benefits.

But there aren't really any millionaires on food stamps.

"As it turns out, millionaires on food stamps are about as rare as petunias in January, even if you count a lottery winner in Michigan who managed to collect the benefit until chagrined officials in the state put an end to it," the reporter writes.

In fact, you can't earn more than 130 percent above poverty level to acquire SNAP: "For a family of three that would be a gross monthly income of $2,008."

It is possible that some low earners might be wealthy in other ways -- such as owning a fancy car -- since a lot of the states and territories don't ask SNAP applicants to claim other assets. This is pretty rare, though.

Food stamps, deeply polemic and highly politicized, have recently come under fire.

Newt Gingrich, who wants to run on the Republican ticket in the 2012 presidential election, criticized the program, incorrectly saying that you can pay for Hawaii vacations with SNAP credits. He also called President Barack Obama the "finest food-stamp president."

On December 6, a mother killed herself and shot her two children in a Texas welfare office, and reports indicate that she was upset over being denied SNAP.

Recent analyses have suggested that food stamps might boost the economy. About one in seven Americans receives SNAP, the Times says.


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1 comments
Mak
Mak

The lack of millionaires on food stamps is really a straw-man argument that in no way proves that the current food stamp system is a good one, any more than the reverse would be true.  It should be recognized though that the US Food Stamp program has become much less about hunger prevention than it has about corporate welfare for agribusiness and the packaged food industry, which have fought to allow the food stamp program to subsidize their profits and inflate demand for their high margin name brand products. One could do much more to sustain and supplement the nutrition of poor people, with far less money, through much more sucessful and rational programs like those which exist elsewhere -- for example the "cesta básica" in Brazil in which poor households are given a basket of wholesome staples (rice, beans, eggs, butter, meat, oil, fruit, veg., etc.), rather than the brand name agri-industrial products that the food companies would prefer them to buy.  The reform or replacement of the food stamp program could be a step toward a system focussed on people, and not corporations -- as so many government programs are allowed to become in the US. 

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