A Reminder: Military Families Use Food Stamps

Let's start with a simple word association game. I'll write something, you spend a few moments and consider whatever image comes to mind. The phrase is "food stamp recipient."

Close your eyes, clear your mind, and think about it.

Now, maybe the image that came was something like the homeless guy on the street corner offering to wipe down your car for some change. Or maybe the pothead surfer in Venice just trolling the boardwalk and living life, brah. Or maybe that loner addict living under the bridge who doesn't have the gumption or tenacity to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and cash in on the American Dream.

Each one of these thoughts are understandable, in their own way. But odds are, not a single person reading conjured up a scene of a military family sitting around the table eating dinner. And that's a problem that needs to be fixed.

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If any of that first grouping of thoughts entered your mind, you can thank GOP propaganda for that. That's the mental picture that's been painted by the Republican side of the aisle through their constant demonization of those who are forced to rely on SNAP to survive, a purposeful presentation in order to make it easier to continue their assault on America's poor. (Their latest foray into that arena being an attempt to force SNAP recipients to show ID at the point of sale.)

See, if voters start thinking something other than that all SNAP recipients are ex-cons living on Skid Row -- that, instead, the "drains on society" are actually neighbors and/or family members -- they may not be so apt to look the other way when the GOP proposes cutting vast amounts of funds. Which is why it's important to reiterate that military families are among the groups of Americans that rely on food stamps to eat.

And last year, more military families used SNAP than ever before.

CNN breaks down the numbers, showing that a whopping $103 million was spent by the military on food stamps in 2013. That's up from $98.8 million in 2012, which is up from $87.8 million in 2011, which is up from $72.8 million in 2010, and... well, you get the picture. (This kind of thing, it's worth noting, is tracked by how many food stamps are redeemed at military commissaries, which means the percentage that can be written off due to fraud is virtually nonexistent.) In all, the usage of food stamps by the military has quadrupled since 2006.

A lot of this can directly be linked to how low the standard pay for a new soldier is:

Base pay for a new soldier with a spouse and kid is around $20,000, just above the poverty line. Although that doesn't include housing or food allowances.

Now, the right wingers will scoff at these numbers by suggesting they represent an extremely small percentage of Americans on food stamps, and they'll somewhat be correct to do so. While the number of military families who used food stamps in 2013 isn't entirely clear, doing some dirty math -- showing my work: 47,636,084 total individuals were on SNAP in 2013; 5,000 members of the military used them in 2011, a number that, using the shift upwards in total spending over the past two years, you can reasonably assume is near 6,000 in 2013 -- you can figure that military members account for a tad over one-tenth of one percent of all SNAP users in the country. Not a very large percentage, indeed.

But that argument drastically misses the point.

The fact is, for years the GOP's been selling themselves as the political party that is "more for the troops" than the Democrats. In reality, they're just "more for" the companies that manufacture flag pins.

With every attack on the food stamp program, they're actually waging a war on America's troops. You can try to diminish it by delving into the percentages, but if you're simply comparing the two political parties, one party comes out way ahead in the "keeping some of America's soldiers from eating" category. Hint: It's the one trying consistently to cut food stamps.

So, maybe it's time for another word association game. The phrase this time is "Republican congressman." Close your eyes, clear your mind, and think about it. What do you see?

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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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