TERRE HAUTE —
Waste and fraud in government programs should be rooted out vigilantly.
Legislation should fix a problem with a fitting solution, not punish the needy.
Those two objectives must guide an Indiana General Assembly committee studying a proposal to require food stamp recipients to show a photo ID when they go to the grocery store. The idea, pushed by Republican state legislators, will be reviewed this summer and fall by a committee of lawmakers and could wind up as a bill during the Legislature’s 2014 session. In their offseason study, Hoosier legislators should focus on facts, not exaggeration.
The commonly used term “food stamps” refers to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, created to keep poor people from going hungry. Today, a SNAP recipient is issued an electronic benefits card, similar to a bank debit card, and slides it through the checkout machine at a store. U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines currently require stores to treat SNAP recipients no differently than anyone else.
One of the primary reasons SNAP cardholders are handled equally goes to the heart of the program’s intent — feeding kids. Food-stamp benefits are assigned to families, not individuals. Requiring a photo ID could prevent children in a SNAP family from buying needed groceries. Also, the head of their household — as is the case with many low-income folks — may not possess a state-issued photo ID.
So, why would Indiana legislators try to impose a photo-ID requirement for food stamps after fellow Republicans in a dozen other states failed to enact similar measures? Reports of fraud incidents in a vast federal program understandably aggravate taxpayers. Those illegalities include SNAP cards being trafficked for cash, drugs and guns. The government has a responsibility to track down and prosecute those offenders.
But the vast majority of families receiving SNAP assistance are not scamming the system; the fraudulent use of food stamps is rare and decreasing, according to the USDA, from 4 percent in 1998 to 1 percent today. The ranks of the recipients have indeed grown, from 28 million Americans five years ago to 48 million now. The numbers are up in Indiana, too, from 100,000 recipients 15 years ago to 925,000 in 2013, or 14 percent of Hoosers.
There’s a valid reason for that growth — the recession. Fifteen years ago, the U.S. economy was surging. By contrast, more people lost jobs after the recession hit in 2007 than at any time since the 1930s. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office affirmed the key cause of the increase in SNAP participants was the recession of 2007-09 and the economy’s subsequent slow recovery. Twenty percent of the increase reflects a temporary rise in benefits triggered by the 2009 Recovery Act, which expires later this year. CBO projections call for SNAP’s growth to slow in coming years.
A photo-ID-for-food-stamps law would certainly carry a “hell-yeah” appeal at election time, characterized as an appropriate crackdown on what some believe is a growing legion of Americans expecting “something for nothing.”
That picture is inaccurate. Most households with kids receiving the average $130 monthly SNAP benefit (62 percent) included a working-age adult employed that month, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. More than 90 percent of federal food and health care assistance programs benefit the elderly, the center reported.
In other states, retail merchants (who also benefit from SNAP purchases) opposed photo ID laws because of the extra work their employees would incur. Indiana stores undoubtedly would share those concerns. Beyond that logistical worry, the greater fear is that Indiana could impose a law — under the guise of fraud prevention — that would have the unintended consequence of making it harder for needy families to buy food.
Photo IDs for food stamps a bad idea
TERRE HAUTE —
Waste and fraud in government programs should be rooted out vigilantly.
Editorial: Our children in poverty
An important gauge for measuring the long-term prospects of a community is the well-being of its children. For all the effort and progress Vigo County has made in rebuilding the economy and improving its quality of life, chronic problems with the welfare of its children still exist.
- Readers' Forum: March 14, 2014
RONN MOTT: Ukraine 2
The situation in the Ukraine should let us know plainly, and openly, the old saying about a leopard never changing its spots is true. Vladimir Putin is a KGB officer, grew up a communist and, from all appearances, still believes like a communist.
EDITORIAL: Meth battle never ends
It’s been more than a decade since local police officials declared methamphetamine as “public enemy No. 1.”
READERS' FORUM: March 13, 2014
• Celebrating the Girl Scouts
• Challenging the politicians
EDITORIAL: Warm thoughts on a cool day (Part III)
• Resolving to praise ISU
• Right down our alley
- READERS' FORUM: March 12, 2014
RONN MOTT: SAWS
A few days ago we talked to John Anderson of the Greencastle Presbyterian Church. He’s the coordinator for a mission of the church that builds ramps and stairs for those who are physically handicapped in Putnam County.
EDITORIAL: Thinking warm thoughts (Part II of III)
• Renewing a local library commitment
LIZ CIANCONE: We’re not only ones ready for springtime
During the most recent of our numerous descents into polar temperatures, I was astounded to see a dozen or more robins up to their ankles in snow. They were fluffed out to about twice their normal size. I suppose that was an effort to provide a bit of feathered insulation against the cold.
READERS' FORUM: March 11, 2014
• Meat-free path to the fountain of youth
• Faulty point?
EDITORIAL: Warm thoughts on cool days (Part I of III)
• Something good’s brewing
• Y we can’t take it for granted
FLASHPOINT: Where Congress falls short, and where it doesn’t
At a public gathering the other day, someone asked me how I’d sum up my views on Congress. It was a good question because it forced me to step back from worrying about the current politics of Capitol Hill and take a longer view.
READERS' FORUM: March 10, 2014
• Our government’s heart and soul
• A plea for more give and take
MARK BENNETT: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river
Fairness holds no power over the Wabash River.
EDITORIAL: Ads on the sides of school buses? What have we come to?
Ads on the sides of school buses do not constitute a sign of the apocalypse. Western civilization will survive.
Flashpoint: President should stop Medicare Advantage cuts
Virtually all elected officials — Republicans and Democrats — share the goal of increasing access to affordable health insurance and helping families receive the best coverage to meet their specific needs.
Readers’ Forum: March 9, 2014
Mardi Gras great event for Swope
EPA regs will cause energy bills to soar
Please pray for Ukraine innocents
Sinful thinking on road to hell
Liberty — or licentiousness
People will not always agree
Botched chance at leadership
RONN MOTT: Radio now a long lost love
I fell in love with radio when I was 16, just a few short weeks before my 17th birthday. The man who did the deed and hired me was Adlai Ferguson.
EDITORIAL: Noteworthy in the news
Welcome to girls teams, fans
You can say that again
Reader Poll results
EDITORIAL: What do Sony cutbacks mean?
It is easy to understand why shivers run down local people’s spines whenever rumors hit the streets about Sony DADC’s plant on Terre Haute’s east side. With more than 1,400 people currently employed in Sony’s production and distribution facilities, the community has grown somewhat dependent on the economic stability Sony provides.
- Readers’ Forum: March 7, 2014
RONN MOTT: Knicks
The big noise in the NBA is whether Carmelo Anthony will stay with the New York Knicks or go elsewhere.
If my memory serves, and it doesn’t always, Carmelo left the Denver Nuggets, the team that drafted him, to play in the bright lights of the Big Apple. It was loudly proclaimed at the time that Carmelo wanted to play for a championship team. The Knicks’ ownership bought a bunch of players and spent a whole bunch of money to aid Carmelo in helping the Knicks to get to a championship.
EDITORIAL: More ill will against gays
If you’re a feral cat wandering freely through a trailer park in Indiana, the General Assembly has taken action to make your life better.
Readers’ Forum: March 6, 2014
Utilities do need tighter regulation
Great work by TV sports staff
Editorial: A good place for persistence
The topic of Gov. Mike Pence’s effectiveness as the state’s top governmental leader during this year’s General Assembly will be hashed and rehashed after the session closes down in the next couple of weeks. At best, the first-term governor will get mixed marks.
- Readers’ Forum: March 5, 2014
RONN MOTT: Abraham Lincoln and George Washington
I remember when by edict the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington were lumped into a single celebration called “Presidents Day.” I thought it was stupid then, and I still do.
LIZ CIANCONE: Antiques show better than any modern programs
I’m not a big fan of television.
Readers’ Forum: March 4, 2014
Lunatic ravings of the far right
Let IRS take the bullying pledge
- More Opinion Headlines
- Editorial: Our children in poverty