The Trump administration, no stranger to public controversy, just released its contentious Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget proposal, aimed at reducing certain aspects of the federal budget.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more colloquially known as the food stamp program, is one of the programs listed on the administration’s chopping block, with a proposed $17.2 billion slash proposed for 2019.
The Trump administration plans on actualizing this budget cut by changing how SNAP recipients receive assistance.
Under the current system, the USDA grants money to individual states, which in turn disburse this money to recipients in the form of an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. Barring prepared foods, alcohol and tobacco, the card allows each recipient to buy any
groceries needed with this money.
President Donald Trump’s new plan fundamentally changes how recipients are to
receive this assistance: instead of receiving it in the form of money on a debit card, the
new plan suggests that recipients be shipped canned items and food staples directly by mail each month. As a result, the SNAP recipients would no longer be able to spend their
aid how they wish.
While Trump’s FY 2019 proposal is dead on arrival, it raises questions about both the morality and practicality of such a system.
With respect to human dignity in Catholic social teaching, the argument could be made that disallowing choice regarding how people nourish themselves would diminish their inherent dignity; however, this is a moral grey area, as the people receiving assistance under the proposed change would still be receiving the nutrition required by their bodies. Essentially this conversation becomes a “people deserve choice” vs. “beggars can’t be choosers” debate, a discussion that often leads nowhere.
What is more concerning from a fiscal perspective is the fact that the Trump administration proposes a plan that would supposedly reduce the SNAP budget, but would no doubt actually end up costing more. Just considering the logistics of monthly food shipments to millions of households around the country, one can see how the cost-benefit ratio would be adversely affected.
This plan also does not consider the homeless status of some SNAP recipients, which of course creates problems for a system that relies entirely on home delivery.
Even if there were some way to deliver the packages to their intended homeless recipients, this also assumes that they have a means to cook the food they have received. And if the means by which all the recipients obtain their foodstuffs become more expensive, what does this say about the quality of the food they will be receiving?
Trump’s plan for the future of the SNAP program is debatable from a moral perspective, but deserves a fat “no” with respect to practicality.