BUZ LIVINGSTON: Can’t you see? Dispelling SNAP’s bad rap

Published: Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 15:48 PM.

Last Monday we celebrated Veteran’s Day and closed the 2013 military holiday trifecta. For most people, other than a vehicle flag decal, waving the flag on Memorial Day, Veterans Day and July 4th winds it up.  But that’s where I’m starting today.

In the early ’70s The Marshall Tucker Band exploded Southern Rock and Roll guided primarily by the late Caldwell brothers, Toy and Tommy. Their debut album featured a six-minute long “Can’t You See” with a haunting flute lead. Few at the time realized the Caldwell brothers served in Vietnam. After earning a Purple Heart, Toy returned to his unit because he was their sergeant. The Spartanburg chapter of the Marine Corps League is named the Hutchings-Caldwells Detachment in honor of Toy, Tommy and Spartanburg-area Marine, Ryan Hutchings, who was killed in Iraq.

A few days before Veterans Day a boost in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) expired. For the first time in our nation’s history the United States enacted an across the board food stamp benefit cut, woo hoo. SNAP critics cited the program’s rising expenses but conveniently ignored the positive effects generated. Money doesn’t trickle down; rather it trickles up as Will Rogers noted many years ago. Sliding upward, the multiplier effect kicks in and economic activity grows. A government should be fiscally responsible but food stamps are one of the most efficient ways to stimulate an economy. 

More germane to Veterans Day, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates 900,000 veterans lived in homes relying on SNAP in any given month in 2011. While veterans as a group have a lower unemployment rate than the national average, post 9/11 vets have a 10.1 percent unemployment rate (September 2013).

Service-related disabilities can affect a veteran’s ability to provide for their family.  Around a quarter of recent, 2001-present, vets report some type of service-connected disability. Households with a veteran who can’t work because of a service-related disability are roughly twice as likely to lack access to adequate food as a household without a disabled member.

Most vets participating in SNAP are young, almost 60 percent are under 30 but 9 percent are over 60.  Conservatives justify benefit cuts by labeling recipients as lazy and chiding them to embrace a work ethic. While most SNAP recipients are not veterans, taking food assistance from a sizable number of veterans is callous and unacceptable. Ted Cruz said, “Our veterans should be above political games” and I agree. But thousands of veterans found their wallets a tad bit lighter, Senator.

General William Tecumseh Sherman did set fire to military supplies and cotton in Atlanta and made Carolina howl. Sherman knew war was hell and wreaking the South’s economy would end the War (of Northern Aggression) sooner. After retiring Sherman kept in touch with veterans and due to his lucrative speaking engagements he was able to assist many of his former troops financially.  SNAP reductions cut benefits to hundreds of thousands of vets; if alive today Sherman would staunchly oppose. After 12 years of war we should bend over backwards to help. Can’t you see?



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