Tukwila, WA, Food Bank

Is Grinch Cutting SNAP or Promoting Work?

Just in time for Christmas, the Trump administration has new rules for food assistance. They’ll tighten work requirements for single adults getting food stamps. The effect? Most likely, says USDA, they’ll be cutting SNAP benefits for 688,000 adults. According to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, however, this is not about cutting benefits. Rather, it’s about promoting work. He told reporters yesterday:

Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch. This is about restoring the original intent of food stamps. Moving more able-bodied Americans to self sufficiency.

Cartoonish Villainy?

Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge is not amused. Writing in the Washington Post, she condemned the move:

There is a horrible irony in taking food from the tables of hungry Americans during the holidays, but that’s the latest act of cartoonish villainy by the Trump administration.

But here’s the thing. SNAP has always been a popular subject for bipartisan agreement. The Bipartisan Policy Center explains:

Access to nutritious food is critical for Americans to reach their full potential and be productive members of our society. This is a principle that nearly everyone can get behind. And Congress did just that when they passed the bipartisan Farm Bill of 2018 reauthorizing SNAP, without any changes to eligibility for the program.

So this move is a little odd. Typically both Republicans and Democrats can find good reasons for keeping the SNAP program strong.


These rule changes will appeal to a certain human emotion. People hate seeing undeserving people get just about any benefits. The notion of cutting off people from food stamps if they’re not working plays well in politics. If you’re willing to appeal to the dark impulse of schadenfreude.

Other folks want to go in a different direction. With initiatives like SNAP-Ed, they see an opportunity for the program to reduce disparities and lift people up. They see a way to fight food insecurity and prevent obesity. Data from demonstration projects are encouraging, but not yet definitive.

Unfortunately, it looks like more fighting about SNAP lies ahead. This is an age of polarization. Facts and reason fall to the wayside.

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Tukwila, WA, Food Bank, USDA photograph by Lance Cheung / flickr

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December 5, 2019

3 Responses to “Is Grinch Cutting SNAP or Promoting Work?”

  1. December 05, 2019 at 12:25 pm, Patricia Gardner said:

    Thank you for highlighting the new SNAP rules with your deeper reflections of motivations and affects.

  2. December 05, 2019 at 1:29 pm, Mary-Jo said:

    SNAP most likely needed a good hard rethInk and review to ascertain that the people who need it the most are being helped and those who are abusing these benefits are reigned in. BUT, the optics of changing it, now, right before Christmas, completely undermines any real legitimate actions that need to be implemented. Especially during this time of impeachment hoopla and further polarization. It comes off as cruel and vindictive. On the other hand, if it walks like a duck….

  3. December 06, 2019 at 7:14 pm, Valerie Lawrence said:

    With this administration, the cruelty is often the point.