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: 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
EDITORIAL: New attention on sex assaults
Youth sexual assault in Indiana is a troubling issue that has not received the attention it deserves.
KELLY HAWES: It’s time to take politics out of redistricting
A bill to form a bipartisan redistricting commission apparently died in the Indiana Senate last week.
Readers’ Forum: March 3, 2014
Social workers honor profession
FLASHPOINT: Restoring trust, respect in schools rests in fundamentals
A recent Harris poll of 2,250 adults reveals a troubling educational trend.
EDITORIAL: Voters don’t have to stand for entrenched partisanship
Realistic Hoosiers understand members of Congress will typically follow their political party line.
MARK BENNETT: People spaces
Demolition machinery chipped away at the buildings on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. I stood and watched awhile, last week. By July 2015, a new $18.7-million structure will replace those relics.
THOMAS L. STEIGER: Creativity requires freedom from the risks of failure
Last week I wrote about the themes that emerged from the panel discussion by five Wabash Valley members of the “creative class.”
Flashpoint: Everyone would benefit from responsibly expanding health coverage for Hoosiers
A medical epidemic is one of the worst scenarios a hospital can face — when a significant portion of the population is suddenly struck with a life-threatening illness.
Readers’ Forum: March 2, 2014
Candle still burns at St. Ann’s Clinic
Thanks to all at Sarah Scott
How should we define marriage?
An argument of science and law
Chance to expand your knowledge
Excellent service from paper carrier
Central time zone makes more sense
Summer adult baseball league for all ages
Recognizing that all people matter
More selfish opposition to Common Core
EDITORIAL: Noteworthy in the news
Cheers, Jeers and Tears
You can say that again
Reader Poll results
RONN MOTT: Independent thinking in a rapidly changing world
I am a rather independent person. Oh, I don’t belong to any radical, political organization.
Editorial: Toward a better Lifeline Law
In a perfect world, no college or high school student under 21 would drink alcohol, especially to excess. No student would be sexually assaulted. And no student would experience a drug overdose. There is no perfect world.
- Readers’ Forum: Feb. 28, 2014
RONN MOTT: Ukraine
It’s quiet in Ukraine as I write this but, trust me, it won’t be quiet very long.
EDITORIAL: More welcome news for downtown
An average game of dominoes lasts about a half-hour.
READERS' FORUM: Feb. 27, 2014
• Unfair criticism of electric utility
Editorial: A display of confidence
Successful organizations and institutions have stable and effective leadership at the top. Those who don’t suffer the consequences. So it’s no surprise that Indiana State University’s board of trustees is offering a three-year contract extension to President Dan Bradley to run through mid 2019.
- Readers' Forum: Feb. 26, 2014
RONN MOTT: The Olympics
In the medal count in the Olympics, we ended in second place. In times past, without infusion of money, training, etc., second place might have been OK. For this sports-crazy nation, it is not OK.
LIZ CIANCONE: Preference wins over etiquette every time
It’s a source of amusement to me when I read about the trivia which concerns some folks.
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- EDITORIAL: What do Sony cutbacks mean?