Dramatic Trump Changes to Food Stamps Have Good and Bad on the Menu

P. Gardner Goldsmith | February 13, 2018
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President Trump yesterday proposed a massive change in the federal “Food Stamp” program that is just getting attention, and lots of praise. It’s being heralded as a long-due adjustment that will eliminate misuse, and bring a semblance of common sense to the system – the kind of thing “only a business owner could do in Washington”. But it is also open to some justified criticism for its lack of constitutional adherence, and for the economic fallacy it supports.

Mr. Trump’s idea is to cut “Food Stamp” payments by half for most recipients, and to convert the other half of that aid into a system of, well, literal food aid.

As Alan Bjerga reports for Bloomberg:

Under the plan, the amount of food a household receives would be scaled to the size of the allotment, with about half of the assistance coming as food instead of cash. The USDA already buys commodities for other programs, such as the National School Lunch Program, and states would largely be in charge of distribution, the department said.

And the proposal would tighten eligibility for the recipients as well.

Sounds great right? After all, since the feds instituted the modern version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with the Food Stamp Act in 1964, trillions of taxpayer dollars have been taken by generational enslavement through a federal government run on debt to supposedly help feed the future generations it needed to enslave through further taxation and borrowing.

See how helpful it is?

And lots of people have proposed changes to the system, but nothing ever seems to really happen. It just grows, even as politicians say they are cutting it by increasing it at a lower rate than predicted. Those are “cuts” in the eyes of the folks in DC.

Trump’s idea would focus more on the actual food in an attempt to lower expenses, according to some theorists, but it remains to be seen whether overall spending would decrease. If the population increases, even tighter eligibility requirements would not decrease overall spending.

But the idea is receiving praise from many folks who see how SNAP payments are used on things other than necessary foodstuffs, how the cash is traded, used on the black market for drugs, and finds its way in myriad areas that have little to do with supplementing family dinners.

Mr. Trump has gotten a lot of attention for this new approach.

But he is also stressing something else as part of his plan that is problematic.

As Bjerga notes:

In what would be one of the biggest shakeups of the U.S. food-stamp program in its five-decade history, President Donald Trump is proposing to slash cash payments and substitute them with "100 percent American grown food" given to recipients.

That’s right. It will be food. But it will be “American” food.


It's possible that Mr. Trump is trying to win over Congressional votes from politicians who "represent" various US farm areas. But I doubt it. Positive as the changes might be, at its heart, the idea is another example of an economic fallacy in action. His plan is to “buy American”, which, many people think, would help the “American economy”. But the truth is that many “Americans” buy foreign-grown and imported food stuffs because they are less expensive than those grown in the US. This is often the case for seasonal fruits, or products that could be grown in the US, but have been pushed off US fields due to the already larger-looming federal dictates for corn to be grown and turned into the inefficient ethanol the feds force into our gas tanks. Often, it’s simply more cost-effective to not buy “American”. 

The federal food program could spend a lot less if it bought most efficiently, not if it bought from just Americans. But Mr. Trump appears to believe the idea that an economy is helped when people buy “local” or “American”. What is missed here is the fact that by buying at lower costs that might be provided by non-American suppliers – of anything – US consumers save money that is then left over to spend on new items and new ventures, allowing the economy to expand and not keeping that money flowing to inefficient industries favored by the government.

It would be nice if Mr. Trump acknowledged this economic truth when engaging in what are seen as needed changes in a welfare system that has been misused for decades.

What would be gravy on the whole meal would be if Mr. Trump also acknowledged that there is no specific power granted to Congress to do any of this in the first place.

After all, he did swear an oath to protect and defend it, and the Constitution has not been amended to give the feds the power to hand out food, cash, or anything like that, no matter how noble the intent.