On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted in favor of sweeping reforms to the nation’s food stamp program that would cut spending by $40 billion over a period of ten years. The party-line vote comes in response to the recent surge in enrollment and its attendant burden on taxpayers. Republican proponents believe that the bill will galvanize the job market and help enrollees find employment. Democrats, on the other hand, indicate nonpartisan estimates that the cuts will withhold benefits from 4 million needy people in its first year.
Labeling the bill as an effort to “promote work,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor argued that the reforms would help people find jobs and end the perceived abuse of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
"This bill is designed to give people a hand when they need it most. Most people don't chose to be on food stamps. Most people want a job," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) "Most people want to go out and be productive so that they can earn a living, so that they can support a family, so that they can have hope for a more prosperous future. They want what we want."
Similarly, other representative cited the widespread belief that SNAP currently offers a loophole for freeloaders. Rather than ending benefits for those in need, the proposed reforms would target work-shy enrollees who rely on federal aid, they said.
"If you're a healthy adult and don't have someone relying on you to care for them, you ought to earn the benefits you receive," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.). "Look for work. Start job training to improve your skills or do community service. But you can no longer sit on your couch or ride a surfboard like Jason in California and expect the federal taxpayer to feed you."
“Jason in California” refers to SNAP recipient Jason Greenslate – a “California surfer” who reportedly buys lobster and sushi with the $2 he receives per meal. Since his “food stamp binging” was covered by Fox News last month, Greenslate has rapidly become a provoking synecdoche for SNAP abusers in right-wing media. According to The Huffington Post, the conservative network promptly distributed the news segment to House members.
While Republican proponents are confident that the bill will be a success, opponents view it as a “monumental waste of time.” Speaking to Reuters, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee said the proposal would never become law.
She said, “We have never before seen this kind of partisanship injected into a farm bill.”