The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities have calculated how many people are lifted above the poverty line thanks to the SNAP program. Their finding: a bit over four million.
It is not just lifting out of poverty - it also makes the poor less poor:
In addition to keeping some people out of poverty, SNAP also made tens of millions of people less poor in 2012. For these individuals, the program reduced the gap between their income and the poverty line and made them better able to afford a basic diet.
Even thought SNAP works, the main issue remains: a lot of Americans still struggle to bring food to the table every month.
Data released earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that 17.6 million American households lacked access to adequate food at some point in 2012 because they didn’t have enough money or other resources to meet their basic food needs.
With these data points in mind, it would be ludicrous for a political party to cut a program so essential for so many Americans. Unfortunately, that is what the House Republicans plan on doing just this week, cutting $40 Billion from the program. Cutting SNAP is a terrible idea - it is a very effective program that really helps those in need. It needs to be preserved, not cut; doing so will only hurt working families that can ill afford another hit.
A big headline fronts a great article on the Connecticut Healty-I-Team website today : "Childhood Hunger Rises Even In Wealthy, Rural Towns".
This is the sad reality in many communities in Connecticut in the past few years. The long recession, followed by years of sluggish, anemic growth, has dramatically increased the number of kids that go to bed hungry every day in the state. The numbers are downright shocking:
Thirty-four percent of all students in Connecticut’s public school districts were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch during the 2010-11 school year, up from 26.4 percent during the 2004-05 school year, according to Connecticut Department of Education statistics.
Urban areas account for a large proportion of those in need. In Bridgeport, for example, 98.8 percent of the student body is eligible for free and reduced-priced meals. But rural and suburban communities are impacted, too. The number of eligible students from affluent towns such as Glastonbury (498) and Westport (173), for instance, has more than doubled. Other towns, such as Avon (190), have seen a threefold increase, the state numbers show.
Where we Live, on WNPR, talked with Magaly Olivero, the author of the article, extensively today, as well as with Lucy Nollan, Susan Maffee and Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba. Subsidized lunch and free school breakfast programs have proven effective to at least partially address childhood hunger in the state, but they are only a partial solution. Only families below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level ( less than $34,350 a year for a family of three) are eligible for this programs.
Childhood poverty is getting worse in Connecticut. Although our safety net has been effective protecting those in need, we need to do more to avoid having more and more people fall through the cracks.
Jonathan Cohn, in the New Republic, has a fascinating article comparing how states compare regarding anti-poverty programs and its results. On one side, Cohn puts all "blue states" the ones that have voted reliably democrat since 2000. On the other column he has the red states, those than went for Bush and McCain in the past three election cycles. The results are not surprising, but still worth looking at:
No surprise here: blue states offer better coverage on all their anti-poverty programs, offering a more generous safety nets than red states. Some Federal programs have fairly strict guidelines (SNAP, S-CHIP), so the difference is fairly minor in those cases. In others, like unemployment insurance, coverage is up to 50% more generous (unemployment).
So far, so good - democrats spend much more. The important question, however, is how big a program is, but how well does it work for poverty reduction. Luckily, Cohn also has some interesting numbers there:
By nearly every measure, people who live in the blue states are healthier, wealthier, and generally better off than people in the red states. It’s impossible to prove that this is the direct result of government spending. But the correlation is hard to dismiss. The four states with the highest poverty rates are all red: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. (The fifth is New Mexico, which has turned blue.) And the five states with the lowest poverty rates are all blue: New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Minnesota, and Hawaii. The numbers on infant mortality, life expectancy, teen pregnancy, and obesity break down in similar ways. A recent study by researchers at the American Institute for Physics evaluated how well-prepared high schoolers were for careers in math and science. Massachusetts was best, followed closely by Minnesota and New Jersey. Mississippi was worst, along with Louisiana and West Virginia. In fact, it is difficult to find any indicator of well-being in which red states consistently do better than blue states.
Mr. Cohn is wrong about one specific point: we do know that government spending can and does reduce poverty when done right. Ezra Klein points out that looking at total spending, blue and red states are not that far off. Blue state benefits, however, are far more generous than red state ones. As a result, they are also more effective reducing poverty, and in turn probably reducing the total cost in the medium term. A less generous, cheaper welfare state is much less effective moving people out of poverty, so it really never comes down.
Maybe the best way to reduce dependency on government is by making government work well.