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Republicans’ Cruel Plan For Food Stamps Ignores Basic Math

September 24, 2012

Math is hard.Those clever House Republicans! They’re like a dog with a bone when they find an idea they love. You’re probably familiar with some of these ideas, like tax cuts, vouchers, private accounts, and block grants. For those unfamiliar with block grants, they are the GOP’s favorite means of watering down the effectiveness of Federal safety net programs. Back in the 90’s, they used block grants to “reform” welfare. It is their preferred fix for Medicaid, and now they’re also advocating block grants as a way to “improve” the food stamp program.

Basically, block grants replace current funding which is tied to the number of  individual recipients with lump sum payments to states. (In exchange, states get ‘flexibility’ over how to distribute these funds.) When times are bad and the number of people in need increases, the lump sums are still the same. (Unless Congress were to act.) So anyone should be able to see the problem here, right? Block grants would mean that as the number of people in need of nutritional assistance increases, those block grants either exclude more people from eligibility or everyone gets a much smaller piece of the pie.

It’s the same problem when they talk about block grants for Medicaid or for food programs. Sure, it may lessen the financial burden for the Federal government — but just like Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan it does so by shifting costs and/or causing people to go without. In this case, states would have to choose to either pick up the tab when times get tough or restrict the number of people admitted to the program.

It’s also worth remembering that, just like with Medicaid, the majority of recipients are the elderly and families with children.

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