Millions of Americans get food by stamps. Trump will make it worse

The White House disclosed the draft budget for the next year. The document proposes to increase military spending, spending on building a wall on the border with Mexico and space programs, and in parallel to strike at ordinary Americans by "import substitution." The administration of Donald Trump intends to reduce the financing of the program of preferential purchase of products - it is known as food stamps for the poor. The program for its more than half a century of history has changed many times, but the changes proposed by Trump
already called as the most ambitious reform of the system in its entire history. "" tells how the president of the United States decided to get to the plates of millions of Americans and save on the poor.

Depressive coupon

The program, reformed by the American leader, exists since the 1930s. It involves receiving monthly subsidies by low-income residents of the country, which can be spent on food. In this case, there are a number of restrictions - for example, with these funds can not buy alcohol and cigarettes. The program has been formally counting since 1939, but in reality it began to form at the height of the Great Depression (1929-1939) in 1933. In the late 30's the program was interrupted for almost 20 years, but then it was reanimated and continues to operate to this day. Originally it was called the Food Stamps Program, its current name (SNAP) project was received in 2008 under the presidency of Barack Obama.

The massive economic crisis of the 1930s led the United States to a surplus of food products: food prices plummeted and farmers struggled to realize their own surpluses. On the other hand, there were a lot of people in America who were undernourished. The government began to buy basic products from farmers at preferential prices and transferred them to regional organizations that were engaged in fighting hunger among the unemployed. Food cards were introduced in 1939. Orange coupons allowed to buy food and basic necessities, for example, soap and matches. On such coupons, as now, it was impossible to buy alcohol and tobacco. For each purchased orange coupon, an additional blue mark was added - it could buy products that the government defined as surpluses. The program in this form lasted until 1943 - by the time of its closure, about 20 million people used it. During the Second World War, the American economy experienced a recovery, the number of poor decreased, and the system of coupons ceased to exist until the 1960s.

The idea of its revival belongs to John Kennedy, who in 1960 during the presidential campaign in the US visited West Virginia and was struck by the poverty of Americans in this state. After Kennedy's victory, the program was launched in a pilot mode, by 1964 - already under President Lyndon Johnson - it had acquired a permanent character. Food coupons were gaining popularity at a rapid pace that exceeded government expectations: by April 1965, its participants were more than half a million Americans, by the beginning of 1970, five million people, by the end of 1974, 15 million, by the end of the 1970s, 20 million. In 1974, the program became a nationwide one. However, the expansion of the system has led to an increase in cases of fraud with coupons. People tricked into receiving cards for their relatives, without the right to do so, illegally cashed them to buy illegal goods, for example, alcohol, forged information about their own incomes to continue receiving state aid. On the streets for such food stamps anyone could buy weapons, drugs or even take off a prostitute.

Annual spending combined with fraudulent schemes turned the card system for the US authorities into a real burden. As a result, in the early 80's, President Ronald Reagan cut it down as part of a cutback in government spending. In the late 80's - early 90's, the restoration of the financing of the system began - in order to combat fraud, the state introduced debit plastic cards EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer), which allowed transferring money directly to each participant of the program and excluding cashing out of funds. Measures have led to a reduction in the number of fraud cases, the modernized EBT system is still in use.

Not the American Dream

Currently, participants in the state food aid program can be legally working Americans (not only US citizens) with incomes not exceeding 130 percent of the subsistence minimum ($ 16.7 per hour for a family of two adults and two children in 2017), recipients social benefits, the homeless, the elderly and the disabled with low income, as well as the unemployed. As of the end of 2017, SNAP participants were more than 42 million Americans (almost half of them are children) - this is every eighth resident of the country. The amount of subsidies received by the inhabitants of America as part of the food aid program is formed in each state separately, based on many factors, for example, mandatory expenses (rent and utility payments), the number of family members. In 2017, the average subsidy for each participant in the program was about $ 126, for one household - $ 254. In general, the federal authorities paid the Americans 63.7 billion dollars, the total cost of the program is estimated at 68 billion.

The current rules leave the choice of food for the holder of the EBT card: a member of the food aid system has the right to buy any products in stores that serve such cards. Studies show that Americans participating in the program prefer cheap and unhealthy foods, which the authorities consider a big problem. To improve the quality of food, Washington during the Obama presidency began popularizing SNAP participants healthy eating, buying fruits and vegetables.

The issue of proper nutrition is one of the topics about which the Trump administration says when planning to reform the system. The White House proposes to reduce the cash payments by one third, compensating it with a real grocery basket: every month, targeted distribution of packages with products between program participants is expected. Such food baskets will include milk with a long shelf life, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish.

According to the president, this will allow not only to supply the inhabitants of the country with only American products, but also to impose a healthy diet for people. In parallel, Trump hopes to reduce the level of fraud and save taxpayers money by their innovations - $ 214 billion over 10 years. The administration assures that it is more effective and simpler to give out part of the subsidy as a natural product, since the authorities already purchase products under other programs (for example, under the school feeding program), and the infrastructure that will allow distributing food baskets has already been adjusted.

Large NO

Trump's proposal, despite the US administration's statements about the benefits of the program for both the public pocket and for the health of Americans, was at least surprising. Experts pointed out that many of the points in Trump's proposal are completely unclear: for example, it is unclear whether the food baskets will be delivered directly to the threshold of SNAP participants, and whether it is taken into account that potential innovations will affect local farmers and producers of goods that, with the advent of grocery baskets will lose customers.

Also, doubts aroused the US President's statements that the introduction of the food basket would reduce the number of fraud cases. Critics drew attention to the fact that the fate of the food basket, which can be resold for cash, is much more difficult to track than the transfer of funds within the already streamlined ETB system. In addition, the use of debit cards over the past 25 years has shown its effectiveness in the fight against fraud: the number of fraud cases decreased from a level of four cents for every dollar to one cent in 2013. Experts note that the appearance of the food basket also can not guarantee that the recipient will not try to get a second food basket, saying that his food aid did not reach the addressee and was lost along the way.

Experts say that food baskets will significantly complicate the system - for example, the authorities will have to bear the costs of transporting and selling baskets, although now the role of "courier" and distributor is performed by retailers. However, despite the existence of the infrastructure used to deliver food in the framework of other projects of the US authorities, according to experts, its capacity is still not enough to carry out the uninterrupted delivery of baskets within the framework of SNAP throughout the country - in case of system reform, The new rules will affect more than 80 percent of program participants.

The publication of the draft budget by the US administration does not necessarily lead to its implementation in practice, since the document is only a request to Congress, which lists the priorities of the White House - the decision on government spending should be made by US lawmakers, after which the document must be signed (or not signed) by the president.

Arthur Swan
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