The Harsh Reality of Food Stamp Cuts

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While the biggest scares of the autumn season are generally reserved for the final day of October, this year's true fright fest took place at 12:01 a.m. on November 1 when $5 billion in food stamps were cut across the country, affecting more than 47 million Americans. And when you're dealing with that massive a hit to people's finances, you better believe the move will be examined from every possible angle.

The results are not pretty.

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(Before we begin: Technically, the cuts that took place on November 1 weren't officially "cuts" so much as the expiration of a temporary addition to benefits that were part of the economic stimulus package from four years ago. But, try making that distinction to families already surviving on scant resources who now have to make do with even less. They're cuts to a family's current food budget, so they're "cuts.")

PBS reported on the SNAP cuts with their signature, even-handed take on who this move is affecting most, paying particular attention to how lives have changed from October 31 to November 1:



The L.A. Times took a look at what these cuts mean to the retail side of the economy:



And USA Today focused on how the cuts affect the already extremely taxed realm of food banks, who will now have more needy mouths to feed with the same amount of donations:



Fox News put their own specific little spin on the story, of course, by steering the conversation away from heart-breaking tales of distraught Americans and into the realm of sordid scammers greedily gaming the system:



Which, certainly, is a conversation to have. Food stamp fraud costs the system money, and therefore needs to be guarded against. But to focus on the few bad eggs out there versus the millions of hard workers who need assistance to get by shows a lack of understanding of how these cuts hurt. This story out of North Carolina, where a single mother of four had her benefits cut from $500 a month to a mere $16, might be a dramatic outlier, but the sentiment is more in line with what most SNAP recipients are currently going through:



And lest you believe that's simply some anomaly happening in a podunk town across the country, here's a look at how the cuts will affect your fellow Californians:












But the most frightening part of this news is that this will most certainly not be the last round of cuts. House Republicans have been beating their drum for the past year, trying to push through even more massive food stamp cuts than this. Their excuse as to why this is necessary is an old one, full of phrases like "fiscal responsibility" and "economic stability." The November 1 cuts, then, are a legitimate test run for that philosophy. If people get through the tough times unscathed and the economy continues to recover, maybe they have a point. But, as the L.A. Times in an op-ed piece points out, recovery efforts tend to stall when you take away a person's ability to eat:



In other words: These cuts are lose-lose all around.

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