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On our Nov. 4 program on food stamps, we spoke with U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon's Fourth District. DeFazio, a Democrat, has taken a strong stance against cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Program, or SNAP benefits. He explained why he's spoken out against the Nov. 1 reduction in benefits, and the possibility of further reductions pending in the new farm bill, which is set to go into a House - Senate conference committee this week.
No look I'm for reducing the federal deficit. How 'bout cutting the subsidies to agribusiness that are in this bill. They have five new program, they're pretending to do away with paying people not to grow things, but actually according to Heritage and American Enterprise Institute these programs are gonna explode and cost much more. We have the supplemental coverage option, the shallow loss coverage option which is free, both those things are free; agricultural risk coverage, farmers have to pay 35 percent of the cost. And then the state income protection plan,which is gonna guarantee peanut growers a profit, and rice growers a profit, and cotton growers a profit every year.
If you wanna make cuts in the ag budget, let's not take food out of the mouths of hungry seniors and kids. Let's cut the subsidies to big agriculture.
Rep. DeFazio also pointed out how difficult some of the requirements can be to some residents of his hard-hit Oregonian district.
I voted for the welfare reform in the Clinton Era, which did put in place work training plans, but if there isn't work available, that's a pretty tough requirement. I'll give you an example: Josephine County in my district, highest number of people on food stamps in my district. Thirty percent. The last saw mill closed. Okay guys, sorry, you went from $700, $800 bucks a week to $200 on unemployement. And oh, by the way, you cant have food stamps unless you're working. Except you were working, and you wanna work
The Portland Oregonian featured a woman whose in her 30s, she's been struggling, she's got a disabled child, single parent, she finally got a college degree but found out it didn't get her a job. She's now working on a master's in a profession that probably will get her a job. she's working as an intern to try and get experience, taking care as a single mom of her child and she says the food stamps are critical for their monthly budget.
Or the seniors. Remember, 22 percent of the program are seniors or on disability. So when you say, get off you're rtired butt, or disabled, and go back to work. I mean come on, that's an overally broad attack on the program.
Rep. DeFazio also expressed concern on the changing economic tides of the U.S. economy.
Well that is a commentary on what's happening in America with income disparities, money being up-streamed to the top and opportunities for middle class and average kind of jobs are disappearing there, they are more and more in the service sector. I agree we need to create more better paying jobs, but that's a bigger subject than for today, goes to trade policy and a host of other things in America, lack of investment in infrastructure. Let's go back to the facts here. Twenty-two percent of the people on food stamps are on social security, retirement or disability. I don't think anybody gonna say, Let's push 'em off retirement. They are people living on ten, 12 thousand bucks [a year]. They need this. Forty-one percent have one working person in the family, but the wages are inadequate. You can't get by on one, if it's a two parent family you can't get by on one salary anymore given the decline in wages, particularly in the hard hit areas of my district and elsewhere. And finally half of them are kids. Yeah, get get a paper route. At some point I don't begrudge giving people who are hungry something to eat.
I went shopping on this budget before it was reduced and it was absurd, what I was contemplating for a week of sustenance. For your average lobbyist, it's a heck of lot more than they spend on lunch.
What do you make of cuts to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program? Is it the right thing to do to balance our budget, or a wrong direction for an increasingly hungry nation? Leave us your thoughts below, or on Facebook, Tumblr and @OnPointRadio.
This program aired on November 4, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.
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