A few days ago the Republican House voted to cut off $40 billion from the food stamp program. If they had it their way they would totally cut off all subsidy programs for the needy from the Federal budget.
As it turns out more than half the recipients of food stamps are children under the age of 18 (around 55%) and another 10-15% are seniors and disabled people including veterans unable to work. The Republican’s theory is that if the poor are given much fewer food stamps subsidies then they will be forced to go to work. It may be true that perhaps 15-20% are employable, including some very highly educated professionals who want to continue looking for jobs instead of flipping hamburgers and others who are employed flipping hamburgers but are on food stamps because they cannot earn enough to pay for the food their families need. Of course a small percentage are lazy and are just taking advantage of the system, but must everyone else suffer including children, the elderly, and the disabled because of them?
Not only will they suffer but so will all the businesses that provide products and services to them as the poor will now have less money to spend on these products and services. And what little money they have to spend on their family’s food will lack the health benefits of more wholesomely nutritious foods resulting in more medical problems. However this will save about 5% of the budget that can go back to paying the national debt according to the wishes of Republicans. But subsidy programs to big farmers is good business for big business so will continue.
Let us imagine our country without any subsidies to the less fortunate people and consequently there will be slightly less national debt. What are some of the consequences? Let us consider its effects on crime. If those in poverty are starving and there is no help from the government what is there for them to do? Jobs for them that pay a living wage are very hard to find. So they will likely rob, steal, plunder and indulge in other crimes to get the money they need. They really have little to lose. Even prison may be better than starving in the streets since prisons at least provide food and medical care. So expect crimes, many of them violent, to significantly increase. This will put even more strain on law enforcement, the legal system, and prisons which will need more money to deal with increased crime.
Businesses will suffer more thefts and robberies as will as fewer paying poor customers and need to increase security and insurance to compensate for their losses. This will increase their operating expenses which they will pass on to their customers making goods and service that much more expensive and less affordable. This will have much further devastating effects upon small businesses in poor areas as their poor customers are less able to afford their higher prices.
Then there will be more general unrest. People will be unhappy and often desperate where there is poverty and the more poverty the greater will be the unrest. No government subsidies means more extreme poverty. Riots will increase in frequency and severity. They will destroy business. Rioters will vandalize and steel goods and do much damage to their and other communities. People will get hurt and more law enforcement will need to be hired to deal with this increased mob violence. Insurance companies will have to pay businesses and residents for damage done to their property since the government will have no emergency relief programs to help. Injured persons in riots will have to be treated in hospitals. Since hospitals will not receive any government subsidies it is questionable how they will absorb the cost of treating injured patients that cannot pay. More people will be arrested further putting financial strains upon law enforcement, the justice system and prisons. Where is all this money going to come from? Insurance rates will rise so high that business in affected areas can no longer stay open. So where will residents in these areas get food, goods, and services? They will have to shop in the more affluent areas. They will consequently commit more crime there. Riots may then spread to these areas as well.
Many people on food stamps are poor migrant farmer workers. If Republicans have there way illegal migrant workers will no longer be working on farms. If migrant farmers can no longer get subsidies they will stop working on farm. Where will our farmers then get cheap labor? Food prices will increase because they will have to hire more expensive labor or more likely they will go out of business and we will be forced to buy our fruits and vegetable outside this country. So we become more dependent upon foreign goods.
Due to the increased cost of goods and services even the middle class will be affected. They will become the victims of more crime and their daily expenses in good, services and homeowner and health insurance will increase. Their streets and neighborhood will be less safe and secure. They will have less to spend due to increased expenses. Because the middle class and poor have less to spend businesses will have fewer customers to buy their goods and services so they will need fewer employees resulting in fewer jobs for the middle class. This will force unemployed people in the middle class to join the ranks of the poor since they will not receive unemployment checks or food stamps.
There are many more scenarios. Yes we will pay back the national debt a little faster but at what cost? We will also reduce taxes but the cost of goods and services will significantly increase to pay for all the added overhead associated with increase insurance, security, crime, and other unintended consequences.
There are benefits for being compassionate to the poor. A question for the moral right Republicans: What would Jesus have done? Abandon all the poor because they didn’t try hard enough to find jobs that paid enough to feed and cloth their families?
Then there is Social Security and Medicare. I’ll leave these two for another time.
What about the national debt? The government must and is finding ways to cut down on spending. The country has got to stop getting involved in wars abroad. Reducing our military expenses which is about a fourth of our budget will help pay for most subsidies for the poor and do some good instead of killing others. Subsidies to farms and oil and other commercial interests could be reduced (note I did not say eliminated). These are only a few of the things that government could do to reduce expenses rather than cut subsidies that help those in need. People need compassion, not business and special interests.
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