This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Say No to SNAP Cuts.

The following is a letter I wrote today to the editor of the Star-Ledger.  Writing to a general audience, I used mainly economic arguments.  But I am mainly motivated to do so as a person of faith and a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Jesus devoted much of his ministry to healing the sick, freeing those in bondage, and feeding the hungry.  He clearly said that he is himself present wherever we find people in need.  

There are those who claim that "he meant this for individuals, not the government."  I remind these folks that we live in a democracy where we are responsible for the government.  Our responsibilities as Christians do not end when we go into the voting booth or seek to influence government policy.  We cannot claim to follow Jesus everywhere else, but decide his teachings are irrelevant when it comes to political decisions.  As a Christian citizen I hope to see the people I elect make decisions on my behalf that represent God's values of justice, peace, love, and equality.

Dear Editor,

The Congress may vote as early as this week on a program vital to the lives of many Americans: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as “Food Stamps.”  Due to SNAP, 4.7 million Americans were lifted above the poverty line in 2011, including over 2 million children.  It is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs we have and without it the recent recession would have been much worse.  I urge citizens of New Jersey to contact our Senators and Representatives in support of SNAP.

SNAP also has broader economic benefits to our communities, since money received is immediately spent in local businesses.  Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.80 in economic growth.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that between 8,900 and 17,900 full time jobs are created for every $1 billion spent on SNAP.  New Jersey alone is receiving around $1 billion from the SNAP program this year.   Clearly these resources are essential in sustaining our recovery and creating jobs in our State.

Over 900,000 residents of New Jersey received benefits from SNAP in 2012 (that’s about 10% of the population).  It is estimated that even in our most affluent Congressional District (the 7th), there could be 50,000 recipients. 

To cut this program harms those among us least able to put food on the table.  Those receiving SNAP benefits are children (47%), the disabled, the elderly, and the working poor.  The consequences of inadequate nutrition on children are well documented to include a decrease in mental and physical health and reduced socialization skills, leading to more expensive problems as these children get older.

The impact of the SNAP program on the Federal Budget fluctuates with the state of the economy, as it is supposed to.  Participation rose significantly in 2008 and 2009.  But as the economy improves and people find work, the expenditures will continue to decrease, as they have for the last few years.  But to cut these essential benefits will be to slow the recovery, and keep more people mired in poverty. 

Contrary to the misinformation currently being disseminated about, SNAP is one of the most effective and efficient of all Federal programs.  Ninety-five percent of expenditures go to needy people, and the program has an amazingly low fraud rate of under 5%.

It is not only immoral to attempt to balance the Federal Budget on the backs of those least able to pay, it hurts the whole economy too.

Rev. Paul F. Rack
Martinsville, NJ

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