Food stamps will go to a record 40 million Americans this year. That translates into one in every eight Americans now rely on the federal anti-hunger program to supplement or provide for their meals.
Of course the headline in this story deals with the record number. But the real story concerns why this massive segment of our population cannot provide for their own food needs.
It's easy to point to the current downturn in the economy but, in fact, that is somewhat misleading. Sure the food stamp numbers are spiking and expected to get worse. But even in better times, 35 million or so Americans received food stamps. So it's not just a current issue.
The reality is that the food stamp numbers will never fall to any great extent. The program is not designed that way. Because of income guidelines, there are limited incentives to fall off of the program.
I am a supporter of the food stamp program because to oppose it is un-Christian and simply wrong. Millions of Americans - because of countless circumstances - cannot find resources needed to provide for their needs. Charitable organizations fill much of the gap but without the food stamp program, far too many people would go hungry.
In this great nation, that is simply wrong.
But that returns us to the basic question. Are there simply not enough jobs available to allow people to earn their way out of poverty? Or are our financial guidelines skewed so that it is easier and much more practical to accept government assistance instead of finding an entry level job paying entry level wages?
I can argue that the jobs are available in most locations. But the pay scale is too low to encourage anyone to abandon government assistance for a dead-end job.
As a result, food stamp rolls will continue to expand year after year.
In typical federal government fashion, food stamps will soon abandon that name to be now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The feds believe that a name change somehow magically transforms public opinion.
The feds say that next year, 43 million Americans will rely on food stamps. Soon that number will top 50 million and, in all honesty, there is no real end in sight.
Food stamps are an essential element for the needs of our society. And though I may argue with some of the eligibility requirements, food stamps are not one of the programs to target for reduction.
Someday however the American public needs to look carefully at the more that a trillion dollars spent on the War on Poverty and ask why more progress has not been made.