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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Cutting Efficiency - Congress Must Have Important Things to Do!

Our US Congress needs to deal with real problems, which is precisely why it's plain wrong for their efforts to waste time cutting efficient programs.

In the link to the Politico op-ed,  Kevin Concannon* described the positive impact of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), our nation's successful food stamp program. He explains how working people who largely live on minimum wage jobs, or less, are helped by food assistance.  What's more, the SNAP program is efficient.

Concannon described meeting a lady working in a hotel gift shop who explained how her family relied on food stamps assistance, because so much of her working class salary was needed to pay bills.

Moreover, SNAP is a well managed program with 96 percent of the resources efficiently utilized. In other words, very little goes to waste when money is invested in food security for people living in poverty or just one paycheck removed from being destitute.

Yet, the US Congress used valuable tax payer paid for time to cut funding for SNAP.  I dare to speculate, some of the deliberation about the cuts were done while Congress and staffers were eating.

"That’s why it’s so puzzling that the House Agriculture Committee passed more than $33 billion in additional cuts to SNAP — at a time when the program has never been more urgently needed by Americans, and its operation is highly efficient," writes Concannon.
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Among the wasteful programs that could, instead, be cut is the elimination of completely unnecessary American military installations in Japan. In fact, Japan doesn't even want the US military to be in their country, at all.  There are already US military bases in Korea, where our security presence is necessary for national defense.

Cutting just one US military base in Japan would likely pay for the entire SNAP program with money left over to improve compliance surveillance.  One could easily make the case that US tax money does a lot to help food security in Japan, because funding one base certainly provides millions of dollars in salaries for everyone working in the facilities.

Food security is never an issue with the US Congress, who enjoy salaries well above the national average- and certainly substantially higher than minimum wage.  Money to support SNAP, to help the working poor, comes from the same tax source as Congressional salaries.

One reason social programs and food security programs like SNAP are considered by Congress is because the beneficiaries are completely terrified to write as advocates for their own needs.  I've seen this desperate recoil response time and again while working with Maine Care beneficiaries. For the poor to say anything to advocate for their needs puts them "on the radar screen", so to speak, and a target for cuts to medical care or housing subsidies.

It's time American tax payers stop paying high salaries to Congress while the elected officials, who we pay for, waste time cutting programs for the poor.

*Kevin Concannon is the undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services at the Department of Agriculture.

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