How many decision makers passing the bill to cut $40 billion from food stamps over the next decade actually know someone on food stamps? Debate rages in Washington among lawmakers on whether or not the bill would impact only those trying to milk the system. I know people on food stamps—hard-working people, people in difficult situations, people who need food stamps to survive. They are fearful that they will not be able to obtain basic food necessities to stay afloat in the system if the bill that passed in the House of Representatives makes it past the Senate.
Someone close to me wrote that many people in his community depend on food stamps to cover a large percentage of their basic subsistence needs on a monthly basis. In his region, it is extremely difficult to find consistent and stable work. My friend finds it difficult to believe that in spite of his spouse’s and his education, work experience and positive work history, they can’t find employment. He finds even more difficult to believe that some conservatives in government tell people that the solution is to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. His response is that it’s great to pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps if one has bootstraps! Not only do many people around my friend not have bootstraps; many of them don’t even have boots. As my friend remarks, “What is the government to do with educated people like him and his spouse, who are willing to work, but are unable to find jobs? It seems to me that underfunding these programs that provide basic essentials to struggling families is not the starting point for economic growth.”
The situation gets worse for my friend and his family. His mother-in-law had a major surgery a few years ago that left her body in a compromised position. She now needs regular doses of oxygen to stabilize her condition. Her oxygen provider has provided oxygen services to the poorest of the poor at no cost because of the lack of income. Recently, the oxygen provider slid the scale down further so that his mother-in-law, who barely makes minimum wage, is now required to pay a monthly charge for her oxygen. Unfortunately, this charge is out of her price range. Depending on how everything works out, she may have to choose between her oxygen (which is an issue of life and death) and some other necessity.
A New York Times article claims, “The budget office said that, left unchanged, the number of food stamp recipients would decline by about 14 million people — or 30 percent — over the next 10 years as the economy improves. A Census Bureau report released on Tuesday found that the program had kept about four million people above the poverty level and had prevented millions more from sinking further into poverty. The census data also showed nearly 47 million people living in poverty — close to the highest level in two decades.”
My fear is that politicians will point their fingers at one another rather than make sure the poor don’t come under anyone’s thumb or foot. It will not do to point fingers at those across the aisle and say their economic policies force the poor to bear the burden of our financial challenges as a country. Why should the poor, especially those who try but who can’t get by, bear the brunt of governmental policies, whatever they may be? The day may come when those in power will slide down the social ladder and into poverty. Who will pick them up then if they fail to pick up the poor now? Even more disturbing, perhaps the poor who are trampled upon now will eventually get so fed up with the feds that they will pull themselves up by our bootstraps to bring us down. It is better that we work to pull one another up rather than tear one another down or let one another fall through the cracks. We can start by stamping out budgets that fail to provide food stamps for the poor.
This piece is cross-posted at Patheos and at The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins. Comments made here are not monitored. To join the conversation, please comment on this post at Patheos.
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths and Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church. These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.