The Consequences of Nothing: Oh SNAP!

C. Wright Mills said that sometimes it’s not what the politicians do, but sometimes it’s what they DON’T do that matters. A couple of Harvard Economists have published a paper (PDF), detangling SNAP (food stamp) policy from the business cycle; meaning that they’ve proven mathematically that rises in SNAP rates are a result of the economy.

Now that may seem kind of stupidly obvious, but the fact remains that the GOP is linking the rise of SNAP rates directly to Obama, accusing him of creating more poor people (food stamps for everyone!). That would assume that the President is actively engaging in a SNAP policy. He’s not (more on that in a minute).

Here’s a chart that Paul Krugman put together showing the inverse income levels to the rate of SNAP enrollment. He was using it to make a larger point (and a good one too), but Krugman never touches on the more shocking part:

092013krugman1-blog480

We know (from the Harvard paper, and others) that most of the people receiving SNAP are parents with children. In Krugman’s chart, he shows SNAP levels raising the most when incomes fall below $22,500. Consider this: The Federal Poverty Line for a family of 4, a line in which we all know probably came from a Harry Potter book, is $23,500. Yet families are waiting until it hurts too bad to apply for SNAP. I suspect there’s a stigma attached.

So while the GOP likes to think of all of those children as large masses of munching moochers, the fact is that their parents won’t even apply for SNAP (in large part) until they hit below $22,500.

Which brings me to Obama’s do-nothing policy. I like the President for a lot of things, but the biggest thing that I have buyer’s remorse over is that he has not created one single policy (other than ACA) that deals with poverty in America. Not one single monetary policy, not one single tax policy, not one single stimulus policy, not one single labor policy – nothing to address the growing social problem of poverty. It’s not that Congress has blocked his bills – he never put anything before congress to block or get outraged about (the inverse is certainly true though).

So doing nothing really does have its consequences.

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