The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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September 24, 2013

Food stamp debate should be about jobs

Republicans in Congress want to cut food stamps, eliciting the usual uproar from the left about callous conservatives who hate the poor. Their anger is misplaced.

It should be aimed at the government whose policies have resulted in the slowest recovery in 70 years, forcing many out of the labor market and onto various types of government aid. But they are often too blinded by ideology to see the big picture.

The Guardian, for example, the British paper that broke the Edward Snowden spy scandal, ran a column by intern Andy Fitzgerald who said he had to go on food stamps to survive before landing his job at the paper. Fitzgerald, a college graduate, said, “For nearly 8 months, I was unable to secure opportunities that weren’t sporadic or temporary, making it difficult to pay rent and buy food.” He used the article to harangue the GOP about how not just freeloaders use the help, but “many hardworking people from a variety of backgrounds.”

No one is disputing that. There have always been people who can’t find work, like Fitzgerald, and those who won’t work, who are on public assistance. The ratio varies depending on the state of the economy. The real issue is the one he brought up first – jobs, which are so hard to come by that many people have stopped looking for one. As James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation wrote earlier this month, “In addition to persistently high unemployment, labor force participation has fallen sharply since the recession began in December 2007. Today, 5.7 million fewer Americans are working or looking for work. This drop accounts for virtually the entire reduction of the unemployment rate since 2009 — those not looking for work do not count as unemployed.”

If there aren’t jobs, more people will need government assistance in an ever-growing unvirtuous cycle that makes government bigger specifically because of its incompetence.

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