Last week I wrote a post asking whether we were playing effective defense in our advocacy of SNAP, specifically when it applied to criticism of fraud and abuse in the system, and claims government safety net programs create dependency. One prominent hunger relief advocate, for whom I have an enormous amount of respect, replied that responding directly to the claim that government programs promote dependency is like answering the question, “When did you stop beating your wife.”
I might respectfully disasgree. I believe there are just too many people whose opinions matter, who are influenced by these claims. As SNAP is debated in the 2012 Farm Bill, we’ll need these people. We’ll need elected officials from both sides of the aisle, with strong support from their constituents. Americans are a compassionate people. We want to help those who need help. But as the revenue pie continues to shrink, we also want to make sure every dollar is being used effectively. When critics of the SNAP program claim they aren’t, we need to be able to counter every assertion. And I do believe that positioning as though the system is without flaws compromises our own credibility as advocates.
What do you think of these messages?
- Yes, there are some examples of fraud and abuse of the SNAP system, BUT–
- The occurence of abuse in the system is infinitesimal, especially considering the good being done. Here are the facts, chapter and verse.
- Here’s what’s being done to drive fraud and abuse out of the system and ensure only qualified recipients get SNAP benefits.
- Yes, there are probably those who remain on SNAP longer than they should, BUT–
- The overwhelming majority of those who receive SNAP benefits are temporary recipients, looking only for a hand up until their situation improves, not longterm handouts.
- There are many socio-economic factors contributing to dependency. The critics are correct in that we should be looking for ways those who are able can return to the workforce. However we can’t imagine the solution to getting them back to work lies in starving people and their kids. Making people hungry only invites more societal problems.
The New York City Coalition Against Hunger has a very good piece online in its Top 10 Myths About Food Stamps.
Are there other places of which you’re aware where people can become informed about this very important issue?